Humming Along

Hummingbirds are one of the smallest aves in America. These dainty birds lack the sense of smell; essentially they rely on their fast pace and keen eyesight to find vibrant flowers that are filled with nectar. Hummingbirds primary nourishment is nectar from flowers and sweet drink from feeders, in addition they eat bugs for protein. Aphids and other small insects are a delicacy, but swiping a bigger bug from a spiders web is an option too. The rapid flap of their wings makes the familiar hum we associate with, the light buzz and dance that amazes us. They hover, dart and fly backwards with these wings of tempo and beauty, but like every creature on earth they need rest. 

Hummingbirds are drawn to rich, radiant colored flowers that are trumpet-shaped (a flower that is formed like a tube with flaring ends). The design of these blooms are great for the hummingbird’s long bill and tong to dip and take a sip. Trumpet-shaped flowers make the perfect little cup for the nectar to pool in. Deep pink fuchsia and brightly colored honeysuckle attract the hummingbird into the garden for drink. Sweet nectar allows the hummingbird maintain their rapid metabolism. This delicate specie must eat their body weight in order to sustain their strength, nectar is the fuel that keeps these energetic birds going. According to Cisco Morris, a well known garden expert in the Seattle area, the hummingbird can visit over a 1,000 flowers on a daily basis. 

Hummingbirds unique coloration, acrobatic aerodynamics and sound are attractions for humans. There are two Northwest hummingbirds that we can observe here in Washington State, the Anna and the Rufous. The Anna is a yearlong resident, while the Rufous comes and goes. “The Rufous travels to Mexico and returns in March when the native Red-Flowering Current blooms, followed by the Salmonberry,” according to Jeannnie Brown a retired naturalist who lives in my neighborhood. She explained that the Anna has the ability to feed and remain active year round, unless our winter is unusually colder. She showed me a wintery picture of an Anna sipping from her garden feeder covered in snow. The Anna is adaptive and knows how to maintain strength and find food in her northwest habitat unless there is a major freeze or extreme weather. In those instances the Anna will go into torpor, which is a state of inactivity where the bird reduces it’s heart rate, metabolism and body temperature. 

I first remember seeing hummingbird feeders in Leavenworth, Washington. My husband’s grandmother had a feeder hanging from a tree in her backyard. It was located right outside her sewing room window, so she could observe their beauty in flight and feeding. As you sat in her grassy garden area you would feel the gentle presence of the hummingbirds whipping in and out, taking a sip from the feeder and dancing among garden flowers. 

Erik’s grandfather had a green thumb and he worked hard to keep his grounds pleasant for all. It was refreshing to sit on a blanket and just watch the squirrels and birds- best of all was when the gentle breeze would come to cool you off on a hot day. The tiny hum would flit in and out, to and fro looking for its next sip of nectar. Splashes of color would bounce from one bright flower to the next and then off it would go- enjoying the sweet life.

Many people find joy in hummingbirds, my dear friend Aly who lives across the street is one of them. Despite the fact that we have curious bears in our neighborhood, she faithfully keeps her hummingbird feeders clean and full of the perfect blend of eau sucrée (sugary water). Aly has her feeders carefully placed so she can watch them as she washes the dishes or dines on the deck.  She is one of the few people that I know that keeps her hummingbird feeder’s going year round- she has a true appreciation for these darling creatures. Perhaps it is because she can relate to the Hummingbirds. Aly herself is fast moving – dancing and singing through life with ease. Moving, doing, working- she is always going, focused on a big project in her home & garden or heading a work task with a quick deadline. She is upbeat and busy- never perched in one place for long.

Aly’s hummingbirds generally come to her deck area where she has feeders and flower pots. Birds & Blooms  suggest you use moving water and specific flowers to attract the hummingbirds to your garden, deck or small patio area.  In the July 2017 edition, they reported that hummingbirds cannot resist Petunia, Lantana, Salvia, Verbena and Impatiens. These are flowers that can be planted in containers and placed on your deck or patio (if you do not have a garden). They also encourage you to attract hummingbirds with moving water- misters, fountains or rippling bird baths will do the trick. Another tip is to have a perch. Although it looks like the hummingbirds never slow down, they do like to rest on a perch that is high up.

It is hard to catch a picture of these dynamic creatures as their movement is so lively and quick. However, Hummingbirds need both nectar and rest to fuel their flight and the rapid beating of their wings. This picture is compliments of Michael Brown, he captured this hummingbird visiting his backyard feeder on a sunny day. The rim on this feeder provides a nice resting place for the birds.

I went to our local nursery called the Gray Barn. They provided me with an informative handout on blooms that attract hummingbirds. Fuchsia, Foxglove and Gloxinia are just a few plants that are common in Pacific Northwest gardens, you can plant them in your yard or set up a container garden to entice these beautiful birds. The local gardeners at the Gray Barn can recommend specific flowers to plant in each season to keep the hummingbirds visiting your garden throughout the year. If you are local – go for a visit, even if you don’t want to buy plants you can walk through the nursery and garden shop. 

This is a picture of how Aly uses rot iron hangers to create a feeding and resting area for the hummers.  She suggests that you use four cups of water to one cup of sugar to make the hummingbird juice, this is the basic recipe that almost all gardners use.

Here is the another feeder, if you look close you can see that bottom part of the feeder and rim are plastic (but they appear metal). Aly suggests that you buy feeders with those details, if the whole base is metal, rusting occurs and that is “No Bueno!”

Nectar is simple to make, all you need is two ingredients sugar and water. Don’t forget your pot, a measuring cup, wooden spoon and funnel. Pictured are two of Aly’s feeders, notice they are brightly colored – hummers like bold colors. 

Boil 4 cups of water on the stove top. If you use an extra large pot you can double or triple your recipe depending on how many feeders you need to fill. 

Once the water comes to a boil, turn off the heat and add 1 cup of sugar.

Stir immediately, until all the sugar is dissolved. Remove the pot from the stove top, allowing the nectar to fully cool. Use the funnel to fill your feeders. 

As we are making our way through summer I started think about what I need to keep myself energized. Just like the hummingbird, I also enjoy a sweet energy boost throughout my day. I use a Young Living product called Ningxia. This super juice and essential oil blend was introduced to me by Jen after I did a 24 hour (fully awake) sick/hospital shift with my youngest this winter. Truly, this is my go to since Jen introduced it to me. I use it consistently when kids are sick or when life is busy and my days are too long. It tastes great out of the refrigerator and it is refreshing in the morning and post lunch. Now that Summer is in full swing and the three kids are at home every day, all day – I am taking it twice daily.

Another thing that Jen introduced me to was her HAPPY blend. She made me a roll on essential oil blend that boosts my wakefulness in the morning. I put it on after I get out of the shower and it invigorates me. After I apply it, I feel just a bit brighter – I think the various citrus essential oils give me that happy energy I need. Happy roller ball recipe: Put in a roller ball container 10 drops Lemon, 10 drops Orange, 10 Drops Grapefruit, Bergamont and then fill with carrier oil like fractionated coconut oil.

I am going to end on this note. Every day I try to make space to stop and be still (that means to not move or make a sound), just like this butterfly. All things in nature, the butterfly, the hummingbird and humans need rest. All living things need to pause, to perch, to relax and recover one’s strength. With that, comes being still and quiet. The summer is naturally filled with many exciting activities and longer days which often over extend our natural daily output of energy. Finding time to pause, sit quietly, pray, read a book, listen to music, reflect on the beauty of the earth or just be – quiet moments are essential for summer time peace. To live a balanced life we must make time for rest and refreshment. This time allows us to recover our strength and peace of mind in order to live each day with pleasure. As humans we cannot take on the speed and intensity of the hummingbird life (remember they only live 3 -5 years). We need to make space for breathing deep, being calm and finding our tranquility.

Peace and Love!  Heather

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