Saturday, December 10, 2016 Hummers, and Feeder Birds

Seward, Alaska

Sunrise 9:50 am, sunset 3:51 pm for a total day light of 6 hours flat. Tomorrow will be 1 minute and 48 seconds shorter. It's a long, 18-hour night.

Sun, sun, sun! The low-angled, warm winter light is a delight for photography during its cameo appearance. The temperature is not warm however, ranging from mid-teens to mid 20s. I am grateful that the northerly winds moderated somewhat down to a stiff breeze at 10 to 15 mph with occasional gusts to 33 mph.

Yesterday, in the pre-dawn twilight, I spotted the ’hood ANNA’S HUMMER at my neighbor’s heat-taped feeder. What a great way to start the day! Later on, I also found Ava’s hummer. Two, on a cold winter day!

I have a new hummer feeder heater set-up that so far is working very well at keeping the sugar solution liquid, though I haven’t seen the hummer using it yet. I took the original hard plastic outside faucet protector lined with Styrofoam and caulked its attachment ring to an all-plastic feeder. It’s easy to screw the base with the 7-watt night light bulb on and off the feeder.

The new16 oz feeder is short and round and much easier to keep warm than the tall cylindrical feeder. An additional benefit is that the whole feeder glows red in the dark. Pretty neat! I made two and set one inside the Super Deluxe Windbreak, and the other on an adjacent shelf. I’m ready whenever that little guy needs a sugar hit!

Ava’s Place was hopping with hungry birds. Flighty groups of tropical-hued PINE GROSBEAKS flew in to perch cautiously in the front yard trees, then down to the porch feeders or to the scattered seeds on the ground, then, without any seeming provocation, off in a flurry of wing whistles to the tall cottonwoods across the driveway. And back. Repeat all day. Ava thinks there is still a predator around to make them so spooky.

Female and male DOWNY WOODPECKERS, and a huge, handsome male HAIRY WOODPECKER dominated the suet feeders. When they left, the tiny CHESTNUT-BACKED and BLACK-CAPPED CHICKADEES, including the one with a deformed bill, swooped in for a single sunflower seed or a scoop of suet. The RED-BREASTED NUTHATCH family stopped by as well, vocalizing loudly. GOLDEN-CROWNED, SONG, and WHITE-CROWNED SPARROWS scavenged for suet bits and sunflower seeds on the ground. Ava reported Tree Sparrows as well, but I haven't seen any yet.

The ANNA’S HUMMINGBIRD finally buzzed into the front yard like a large green bee. He seemed so out of place here with the usual winter feeder birds and the snow. Yet he didn’t seem to care as he homed in on his special feeders. He sought out the frozen sugar water stuck to the bottom of one feeder and hovered underneath to eat it. After tanking up at the lamp-warmed feeder, he sat comfortably in a sunny spot on a cold branch, observing his wintery Alaska home, that long, thin bill following his gaze from side to side.

Check out Bob Armstrong’s excellent video of an Anna’s Hummingbird in Juneau, Alaska in winter at <>. It gives me hope for our Seward Anna’s.

Also note the link to an article on why this species is moving north and perhaps why they are overwintering. There are some innovative ideas in the comments on how to keep the sugar water from freezing: put the sugar solution in a glass pie pan with a heated brick underneath; drill a hole in the bottom of a soup can to hold a lamp socket with a 10 watt appliance bulb and secure it under the feeder with two wires; get up early and swap out the cold/frozen feeder for a room temperature feeder; string up Christmas lights around the feeders. It’s nice to know others have this tricky but rewarding problem to solve.

Happy Birding!
Carol Griswold
Seward Sporadic Bird Report Reporter

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