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Monthly Archives: May 2013

Learning to Use a Feeder

A young rufuous hummingbird (left) learned to drink from our feeder today and lucky me got to witness it. This morning while making tea I noticed a hummer fly in and sit right next to another hummer who was feeding.

“Hmmm,” I thought. “Hummingbirds generally fight each other, not sit together.”

Then the one who flew in began to beg for food from the other. It put its little beak up in the air and opened it, hoping for breakfast. The mother completely ignored its young offspring and kept drinking. The message was clear. It’s time for you to learn how to do this.

After several attempts at begging, the little bird started jabbing its bill into the red plastic. “Dang,” I could almost hear it thinking. “This is not getting me any food.”

Then the little hummer flew underneath the feeder and tried jabbing at it. Still nothing. Back it flew to the top of the feeder and began begging again. Mom was not impressed. She kept feeding. The little hummer started jabbing its bill at the feeder again and BINGO in went its beak. The little guy got excited and started flapping madly with its beak in the hole.

“Uh oh,” I thought. “Its beak is shorter than its mothers and the feeder is only about a third full. I am not sure it’s getting any sugar water.” The two hummers flew off. I made more sugar water and filled the feeder. They were back in minutes.

Once again the whole scene repeated itself—begging, ignoring behavior, more begging, more ignoring behavior, finally success at sticking its beak in the hole and resting on the perch drinking.

Such a miracle to see one of nature’s vulnerable moments!

The bird on the left is the young. The bird on the right is the mother. The photo below shows the characteristic rufous hummingbird reddish tail.
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Snow in May?

Snow in May?

At first glance, it looks like we got a light dusting of snow here on Whidbey Island in May. Unlike my disgruntled friends and family members in Minnesota who DID get snow on May 2, this white substance by the side of the road is white flowers from our beautiful madrone trees.

madrone flowers on the road

madrone flowers on the road


The madrone tree, Arbutus menziesii, is found all along the west coast of North America. In spring it creates these white flowers and in the fall it bears red berries that are much loved by local birds.
It is an evergreen tree with rich, orange-red bark that peels in thin sheets, not unlike birch trees. It is very dense and therefore good for firewood. I love the curved, sensuous beauty of its twisting trunks. One of its challenges is that the heavily populated west coast no longer allows fires, which it readily survives and thrives on.
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