Thursday, January 19, 2017 Hummer Feeder Failure

Seward, Alaska

The fierce north wind howled and roared all last night, and finally diminished to a low rumble by mid morning. I was so confident in the new super-insulated feeders that I only took a short piece of electrical wire in case I needed to poke out a little ice in some of the feeder ports.

What I found was complete failure of the feeders, thanks to the snarling wind. The new foam box was nowhere to be seen, blown to oblivion. The little nightlight that was nestled inside dangled from its electric cord, swinging in the wind, shining brightly. The caulk had failed on the bottom of the feeder still wearing its cheery pink sock cap, allowing the wind to separate the feeder from the box. I should have tied the feeder to the box for backup. The 75-watt lamp dangled in the breeze by its cord, luckily also unbroken.

I was disappointed to find the heat-taped feeder was frozen though it was still on top of the 7-watt nightlight in the super-insulated box. I unhooked it and tied it to the stepladder top platform as best I could with increasingly colder fingers. Then I aimed the 75-watt lamp close to it and tied it down, in hopes of melting the sugar solution and keeping it liquid.

I gathered up the remaining components of my feeder to fix at home. On a whim, I drove around the neighborhood, looking for the wayward foam box. What luck! It had blown over the cliff and was trapped by some alders near the road, looking none the worse for its flight. Maybe I’ll put my name and address on it!

After that big disappointment, I headed to Ava’s for a boost. I didn’t have long to wait. There he was, the little jewel, flashing the magenta, metallic sequins on his head and throat in the sun. He was more active today, taking short flights, always in the sun.

While hoards of PINE GROSBEAKS surged from the carport to the trees, whistling and mewing, he sat calmly on the various accidental perches under the carport, watching. Nothing seemed to bother him, this little sparky speck. I was tickled he perched facing out today so I could see him flashing now and then. Be still, my beating heart!

And now, back to the feeder repair. The cold and wind are forecast to stick with us for several more days, providing a perfect, if frustrating environment to figure out how to keep a hummingbird feeder from freezing.

In other Anna’s news, Kate reported both the banded male and female Anna’s at her feeder in Cordova yesterday:
Gwen in Juneau reported a female and young banded male in Auke Bay on January 11th. Tough birds all!

Happy Birding!
Carol Griswold
Seward Sporadic Bird Report Reporter

Wednesday, January 18, 2017 Hummer survives the night!

Seward, Alaska

Another bright sunny day, but continued cold and windy. The NNE wind raged across the mountains, flinging any remaining loose snow into streamers and swirls off the tops, leaving burnished and exposed rock. White caps rolled down the bay, their tops nipped off, merging with the gray sea smoke streams. 

The wind speed ranged from 23-36 mph with gusts to 47. The wind chill correspondingly ranged from minus 18 to minus 4. Brrrr!

After an overnight low of 3º the temp rose to a remarkable 19º by 8 am, then fell steadily, heading back down to 4º.  Tomorrow is forecast to be cooler than today with continued strong winds.

Last night, I dreamed about hummers, two Anna’s at one feeder. It had to be a dream because they are too territorial to share, but it was a hopeful thought.

This morning, I checked on the remaining 7-watt nightlight feeder in the super-insulated foam box tied to the stepladder top platform. The wind was howling here as the site faces north. Brrr! It still had some liquid sugar solution available in a few ports after last night’s frigid temperatures, but most of it was slushy or frozen. I swapped it out for a fresh feeder topped by a couple pink fuzzy socks to help retain the heat, and clamped a lamp with a 75-watt bulb quite close for good measure.

Then I hung the heat-taped feeder back in its spot. It was almost unrecognizable except for the red rim and bright yellow plastic flowers peeking out.  It sat on top of a super-insulated box made of 2” R-Tech foam and 1 ½” pink foam with a outdoor faucet frost cap and 7 watt nightlight inside, tied together with cord through the handy hummer perches.

I had pre-wrapped the glass portion, heat tape and all, with a piece of a repurposed neoprene vest of some sort, folded to fit around it. I stuffed polyester fiber insulation into the gaps and pushed an old clamp lamp reflector over the top to hold it all together. The heat tape electric cord and hook fit through the handy opening. I hope it will stay liquid through this coming frigid night and week.

I did not see the hummer while I was changing out the feeders in the morning, and did not see him when I checked later in the afternoon around 2:30 pm. Town had plunged into the shadow of the nearby mountains but Ava’s Place was still in the sun so I headed over there to check on her hummer, reported to have survived the coldest night of the season so far.

Even in the lee of the north wind, Ava’s carport was blustery. PINE GROSBEAKS flowed in and out of the porch feeders, BLACK-CAPPED CHICKADEES ate one sunflower seed at a time, and a male DOWNY WOODPECKER enjoyed fresh peanut butter in the log feeder.

Then, a green blur! Yay! I waited in eager anticipation, and he returned to feed at the carport feeder for just a minute. Then he left the heat of the 100-watt lamp and sat on an upside down chair next to the cedar siding in the sun, just soaking it up. It must have felt so good on his tiny green back. He reminded me of a butterfly basking, except his long, thin bill swiveled back and forth as he surveyed his kingdom. Occasionally, his extraordinarily long tongue flashed out as if remembering the tasty sugar water.

Every once in a while, a gust of wind blasted through, swirling the snow, and made the little guy leap up, spin around, and then land again. Most of the time he was just fluffed up, slightly disheveled, resting. Once again, he flew over to the feeder and drank for a short minute, then sat back on his favorite upside down chair leg in the sun.

I could see the sun cruising towards the mountains, and sure enough, 20 minutes after I first started watching him, it seemed like someone closed the curtains. The sunny spot no longer, he flew over towards the feeder but chose to sit on the metal rim of a bucket in the metal shelving unit, perhaps slightly protected from the wind but not much. The 100-watt lamp blazed away on the next shelf up, but he was not tempted.

I left him sitting quietly in the shade, a little green stoic bump full of courage and determination, waiting to face the formidable foe of darkness, cold, and wind. What a champ!

Happy Birding!
Carol Griswold
Seward Sporadic Bird Report Reporter

Tuesday, January 17, 2017 Hummer in the deep freeze!

Seward, Alaska

Sunrise 9:41 am, sunset 4:34 pm for a total day light of 6 hours and 37 minutes. Tomorrow will be 4 minutes and 7 seconds longer.

BRRRRRR! I know Fairbanks is enduring minus 40, but 8 above is cold for Seward. The cold was balanced psychologically with a gorgeous blue sky and brilliant sunshine, but the poser sun did not provide any apparent heat. Resurrection Bay released its heat in ghostly, swirling streams of steam, blown down the bay by the north wind: 17-28 mph with gusts to 39 mph. Brrrr!!

By 6 pm, the thermometer dropped to 4º. There it will remain, hovering just barely above ZERO until Friday when it is forecast to warm to 17º. By Monday, it may warm to freezing with snow.

Yesterday, I moved the heat tape on a town hummingbird feeder from the middle of the glass to the bottom just above the feeding ports in hopes that would help keep the ports from freezing. I also added a 7-watt bottom heated feeder with the nightlight encased in an insulated box with 2” thick foam walls and bottom.

This noon, I checked on the set-up and found the heat-taped portion liquid, but everything below it frozen including the yellow plastic flower feeding ports. The 7-watter was also frozen with barely any liquid.  As I replaced the 7-watter with a fresh, warm feeder, I just about fell over. The ANNA’S HUMMINGBIRD suddenly appeared and flew from one nearby spruce to another, watching me.

What??? I was just doing this on a merest thread of hope, not really believing he was still here as I haven’t seen him for six days. How did he survive this dreadfully cold and long night and morning?

I removed the hanging heat taped feeder to work on later. As I backed away, he moved in, hovering where his feeder should be. “Go down! Down!” I urged him, sending telepathic pleas. After a long minute of hovering all around the missing feeder location, he did go down where the 7-watter was sitting on the top platform of a stepladder, much lower than he expected.

Granted, it had an old wool sock covering the top of feeder, over a neoprene cover for insulation, and it was sitting in a colorfully taped insulated foam box. Very strange, I’m sure. But the perky yellow plastic flowers in the red rim convinced him to check it out. As my fingers froze, even though back in my mittens, he settled down to drink. What a relief!

My next solution is to combine the heat-taped feeder with an insulated cover on top of a 7-watter base, with a clamp lamp over the whole shebang. Unfortunately, I will have several days of cold to experiment with this before it “warms up” to freezing.

I called Ava to see if her Anna’s was there at the same time. She said she hadn’t seen him since about 10 this morning. According to my calculations, it’s a good 2.3 miles direct line between Ava’s and this feeder. Anna’s, like the Rufous and other migratory hummers, are extraordinary fliers, so it is possible that this is also Ava’s hummer.

Why would he fly from Ava’s paradise featuring three liquid hummingbird feeders with windbreaks, fresh flowers offering pollen, and crushed insect-rich chicken feed embedded in the frozen sugar water beneath the feeders? Why take the risk of flying in single digit temperatures to a location over 2 miles away that might, nor might not, have unfrozen sugar solution?

It’s possible as well, that there are indeed two Anna’s, and the town Anna’s is just incredibly tough to survive without much support. You can bet that I will be extra vigilant to attend to the feeders and at least give him a fighting chance to survive this brutal cold snap.

Happy Birding!
Carol Griswold
Seward Sporadic Bird Report Reporter