We opened the doors of the car, got out and stretched, inhaled the fresh country air, and were alerted to the melody of the song Sparrow. We both looked at each other with smiles on our faces as we simultaneously recognized one of the most beautiful sounds of Spring. This time of year is so precious and so short, that every second must be appreciated. The sights, sounds and smells of Spring are intoxicating, and there's nothing that seems to match it's effect.
Still a few weeks away from the arrival of the Ruby throat, we soak up everything in nature that builds up excitement until that very time. Life emerges from the ground, green starts to appear on the trees, and song fills the sky. It's these free things in life that are so fulfilling. It's not the things we buy or the things we want, but merely that which exists around us year after year. It's the countless miracles that brighten our days, including the tiniest little bundle wrapped in feathers. It never gets old. It always provides excitement and it never escapes our memory.
This is Ziggy. I believe it's the last image I captured of him. He had quite a legacy, before another stepped in to fill his role. August 2018, Northeast of Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.
People are either receiving their first hummingbirds or about to, so feeders should be going up in many places, if they're not already up. Here's a general rule we should remember every year. Place your feeders out 10 days before the expected date of arrival for hummingbirds in your area. Hummingbirds can be very accurate with their timing, but there are far too many variables to rely solely on them showing up on one specific day. The fact is that the bird that showed up the previous years may not be the one that shows up this year. There are many young males and females from last summer that will be breeding for the first time, so many of them will be looking for new breeding grounds, and their times are very difficult to determine. Weather can play a huge factor in when they show up. Not only bad weather can affect their time, but the arrival of Spring can vary greatly from one year to the next. If flowers are not blooming yet in your region, it's less likely the hummingbirds will be in your region. Hummingbirds are very dependent on the blooming of flowers, and the hatching of insects. Cold weather delays both of these and therefore delays the hummingbirds. Don't wait to see your first hummingbird before you place out feeders. By the time you get your feeders out they could be miles away. Watch the hummingbird maps, or take a look at previous year's sighting maps to see when they were in your region. This year, and in future years, place your feeders out 10 days prior to that. You have nothing to lose but a small amount of nectar costing pennies, but you don't want to miss out on attracting additional hummingbirds, some of which may be earlier. So keep that 10 day rule in mind. Be prepared, and be ahead of the migration. It's better to lose a batch of nectar, than to miss out on a few males looking for a new breeding ground. The most consistent times for hummingbird arrivals would be in the prairie provinces of Canada, where hummingbirds have about a 7 to 10 day variance from the earliest year to the latest. Many regions across Eastern Canada can be a 15 to 30 day variance. The Eastern United States can also have a three week variance from one year to another in certain regions. In my garden I've seen a seven day variance from the earliest to the latest first arrival, and this is tracking them over the past 16 years. So follow the maps, and place feeders out before their expected time. Who knows, you may have an early bird or two. You may also be very surprised at how many birds pass through before your resident bird shows up.
In some cases it can be just a matter of coincidence that a hummingbird shows up in your garden. Many hummingbirds just wander about through the skies following a pattern of colors below that just happen to lead to you, but there are so many things we can do to provide greater possibilities, and not depend on the luck factor. The book I've written, Jewel of the North", goes into far greater detail about how to attract hummingbirds in far greater numbers, but here is a much shorter version to get you started.
1. Feeders are essential! Yes, hummingbirds love flowers and will continue to feed from them, but feeders allow them to get far more nectar, while using up far less energy. Hummingbirds are like just about any other living thing alive, they are opportunistic. They will choose the food source that requires less energy. Place multiple feeders out, spreading them apart so that one dominant bird won't protect them all. In Spring time male hummingbirds are fiercely competitive, and if all your feeders are within his view, he will protect them all and chase everything else away. Place feeders on all sides of your home. This allows hummingbirds passing through to spot a feeder from any side of your house, increasing your chance of attracting them by a huge margin. Personally, I would never go without feeders. Hummingbirds LOVE them once they figure them out.
2. Flowers are important, but good flowers are vital! Not all flowers contain sweet nectar. If you go to the "flower" page on my website, you will see a list of them near the bottom of the page. I like to have variety in my hummingbird garden, but don't overdo it on just any flowers. Go crazy on the essential ones. Give hummingbirds far more reasons to return to your garden over everyone else's. It's not worth it for a hummingbird to travel half a mile or more to your place, only to find a few sprigs with limited nectar. Plant many of the good ones, and they will stick around longer, and show up more frequently. Once again, if you plant clusters of flowers on all four sides of your home, it greatly increases your chances of them seeing your place over the rest.
3. The extras! Feeders and flowers are a must, but it's the extras that turn their stay into a five star review. Hummingbirds love to bathe, so water features with perches or swings nearby are very important. Red is one of the greatest colors to attract hummingbirds, so if there's a feature you are trying to attract them to, then add something like the sparkly red jewels that you can find at Dollarama. They shine, sparkle and reflect light in all directions, almost like red laser beams.
The most important thing I always suggest to people is to make your place more attractive to hummingbirds than anyone else's. When hummingbirds have multiple options of food and water sources, they've got little reason to go elsewhere.
Image is Gunner, our dominant male, who frequented the Salvia several times a day. May 2020, N.E. of Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.
Just like the excitement and anticipation when you're sitting out on the water waiting for that first strike of a fish, that same excitement applies to those of us waiting on our first hummingbird. It can be hours, or even days before that slight movement catches your eye, and the heart begins to race rapidly after a long wait of anticipation.
Every season is unique in its own way. Every year brings new stories and events through our gardens, while our hopes are always for a better year than the past. As the snow melts in my own garden much further north, I read of my friends receiving their first hummingbirds all across the South, and it does nothing but add additional excitement to what's to come.
It's the time of year to be most appreciated as we are welcomed with new life, song and color throughout our gardens. The smell of fresh soil and Spring air fills our senses, as our gardens once again come to life.
In 2020, we didn't know who would show up, but Gunner, our newest Male Ruby-throat arrived to start his own legacy. May 2020, N.E. of Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.