Sunday, October 23, 2016 heated hummingbird feeder

Seward, Alaska

Sunrise 8:59 am (though the sun does not pop above the eastern mountains until around 9:30 am), sunset 6:23 pm (though the sun disappears behind the western mountains long before that) for a total presumed day light of 9 hours and 24 minutes. Tomorrow will be 5 minutes and 19 seconds shorter.
Brrrrr cold for Seward last night, with a low of 26º and howling north wind. Local ponds and wetlands froze along the margins leaving only partial open water. Monday is forecast to have a low of 26º overnight and rise to a high of 43º by 4 pm.
Just before official dawn today, the ANNA’S HUMMER quietly materialized at the feeder and began to feed. I, however, heard trumpets and a big “Ta DA!” for his surviving another cold and windy night.
A SONG SPARROW sang a sweet song, four VARIED THRUSHES hopped in the frozen grass (no snow left), and two PACIFIC WRENS scolded in their secret Morse Code. Quite a wonderful start to the new day.
While I let the sun warm the feeder today, I Googled heated hummingbird feeders. There are a zillion ideas out there; not all of them applicable to Alaska, and not all of them good. Thanks to Kate in Cordova and Keys in Anchorage, I decided to just set up the clamp lamp with a 75 watt flood lightbulb about an 1” below the feeder. This should keep the ports from freezing, keep the solution warm, and warm the esteemed guest. Plus the  hummer was already used to this, albeit with a 13-watt bulb previously. I can crank it up to 150 watts with another flood lightbulb if it gets really cold, thanks to not throwing anything away.
It was such a joy to watch this tiny wonder again today. He often sat at the very top of a nearby aspen, about the same size as a leaf, all fluffed up, his long bill pointing right and left as he surveyed his kingdom. Then, ZOOM, back to the feeder to tank up.
Ned Batchelder, a hummingbird bander in Montana, noted that the sugar water gives them quick energy to catch and eat tiny insects likely found in the spruce trees. I have not observed the Anna’s “hawking” insects, but hope that this coastal climate will provide the protein he needs all through the long winter.
I plugged in the lamp as the sun plunged behind the mountains around 4 pm and fiddled with the distance so it wouldn’t melt the feeder. I also used a GFCI for additional protection. I waited to see if he would accept this, and he did. He seemed to enjoy the added heat radiating up, and lingered on the perch.
Then, I cut the toes off two holey socks from my holey sock stash and layered them over the feeder reservoir to provide some insulation. While that conceals the level of sugar water, I will change it long before it is all gone. I was a bit worried about his reaction to this sudden new feeder wardrobe, but he soon came in and fed. The last I saw him was around 6 pm, a bit earlier than yesterday.
Now I need to buy an outdoor timer so it will automatically go off at 7 pm and on at 8 am. I don’t believe the Anna’s will feed at night as rousing from torpor at below freezing temps must be pretty hard.
Be sure to set aside an hour to watch PBS Nature “Super Hummingbirds” on-line at while the AK Public Media offer lasts. The photography is superb and the hummers are spectacular.

Also, check out this link to a rare white Anna's Hummingbird in California:
<>Happy Birding!                                                     
Carol Griswold
Seward Sporadic Bird Report Reporter

1 comment:

  1. I've been following your posts. I'm from Seattle and we have a couple of Anna's that have been overwintering for the past five years at our place. The feeders are good until it gets below 27 degrees at night thanks to the sugar concentration. I used the same set up as yours, but with a regular household 60 watt bulb and then tin foil making a "chimney" tube up to the base of the feeder. That more than did the job and the sock is a great idea too. 60 watts and keeping the cold air flow away from between the bulb and the feeder bottom is the trick.