Our Wonderful Daylily Mystery

My husband says I planted these and forgot that I did it. Nope. I forget some things, but I’d remember planting flowers. I think. Really, these I would remember.

Aren't they beautiful?

Aren’t they beautiful?

I’d also remember the location, right by the mailbox near the street, because when we went to Kelowna, BC, last year, I was so impressed with all the beautiful yards that it made me want to do more to mine. So far, I’ve basically pulled weeds and cut things back which is a constant thing around here. Haven’t got to the planting part yet. During one of those weed pulling sessions, I noticed some long grassy blades that looked different. When I see something coming up that I can’t identify right off, I usually leave it so that when it grows up I can see what it is and whether or not I want it to stay. I’ve regretted that a time or two, but it’s also how I got my mock orange and Turk’s cap. (Turk’s cap is a great flower for attracting hummingbirds, by the way!)

We really don’t know how these got here unless we have a neighbor or friend who is planting things surreptitiously in folks’ yards. I have some pretty cool family and friends, so that is a possibility. Actually, I think it’s probable because after reading a bit, it looks like daylilies won’t just pop up in a clump like this.  They will spread, but that’s only after being planted by a human. Another thing I learned is that hummingbirds and orioles are both attracted to daylilies. Wow! That just adds some excitement to this whole mystery!

Another good thing is that they can be expected to hang around here for a long time. I still have some yellow ones growing by the water faucet that my Aunt Myrtle planted when she lived here back in the 1960’s. My mom has always said that Aunt Myrtle could plant a dead stick and it’d come back to life and grow. I’m not like her. These babies are tough, and that’s just the kind of plant I need. The fussy ones can’t survive my sporadic care. Daylilies can handle drought and are pest resistant and they crowd out the weeds. Yea, for fewer weeds!

Well, we don’t know how these flowers ended up in our yard, but we sure are glad to have them. May God bless our mystery gardener!

I sure do wonder who…?

 

So pretty!

So pretty!

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A Homemade Bird Feeder

Goodness, gracious! I finally finished this bird feeder. What held me up? Fear. I was afraid I’d mess up the hardware part. Painting is easy; carpentry is not my thing.  I made this out of a picture frame that I bought second-hand after seeing the idea in a Birds and Blooms magazine. I used outdoor paint so it ought to look pretty decent for a few years.

This is my fourth feeder. When I was doing the third one, my son said I ought to use a drill to get the holes started for the eye screws. So, today I learned how to use one. And did it! And here it is.

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Finches and Hummers and More

How pretty! I look out at the bird feeders and see goldfinches and house finches, too. The goldfinches are getting their yellow on and they are just gorgeous. And if the feed runs out, as it did this morning, a goldfinch will fly up to the window to let me know.

I’ve been asked what I feed the birds. I’ve used different things, but I always have black oil sunflower seed. Some folks think you have to buy thistle seed for the goldfinches, but I’ve run out and they are happy with the sunflower seed.

I get raw peanuts for the blue jays who usually make an announcement from the sweet gum tree before swooping down to grab one. When I hear them, I tell my cat, “Incoming!” so he knows to watch for them. We call all this bird activity kitty movies. Well, I call it that; the cat is pretty quiet, but happy.

I have some safflower seed that I got for a special treat, but I probably won’t buy that again. I put it on the platform feeder. The doves didn’t read all the books that say they are ground feeders and they are up there eating safflower seed. Those silly birds even get on the hanging feeders although they’d rather eat off the platform. If they wipe it clean and all they are left with is what’s hanging, they will flutter up against the windows trying to get me to put more seed out for them.

Sometimes, I’ve bought a mix of different seed, but still it’s not necessary. I guess if a person wants to discourage certain birds, maybe that’s a good idea, but if your budget is tight, sunflower seed (black oil seems to be best) is fine for everyone, even for the buntings that come through in spring.

Speaking of migration, it’s time to brush up on those birds that we only see once or twice a year. I really like to use Cornell Lab’s site. This morning, I used this to look at hummingbirds. I like the way they have it set up so you can see birds that are similar and compare them.

Last week, I watched the male rufous hummingbird sit on a branch near the feeder. He was constantly twitching his head from side to side, watching as if there was another bird that wanted to come to the feeder.  After a few minutes, sure enough, another hummer showed up. I’m almost positive it’s a male ruby-throat.  I figured he must be a scout. I’m not sure why they send a scout to find the groceries, when all they are going to do is fight over feeders once everybody gets here. The two of them spent a few days chasing each other and then the rufous left.

Now a female ruby-throat is here.  There was some confusion when I saw streaks on her throat, but as she sat on a branch preening, I saw that she has the forked tail of a ruby-throat. Yesterday I saw three different hummers and I’m not sure I can identify all of them. I’m really having to watch this closely and not assume anything since so many others are here in the winter. I may call a lady from the Audubon Society who gave a talk on hummers, and see if she makes house calls.

I’m really new to this as far as these other species goes. We used to put up feeders in the spring and take them down in fall after everyone left. I started leaving mine up four winters ago, hoping for a rufous. The first two years there was no rufous, but there was a buff-bellied hummingbird who spent the whole winter here both years. Last winter, I may have misidentified a few birds that I thought were female ruby-throats. This winter I learned there are several hummingbirds that the books used to say didn’t come here, but they do in the winter. If you live near the Gulf of Mexico in the Southern US, don’t ever take your hummingbird feeders down. Mine are staying up all the time, unless there’s a hurricane or a freeze. No one will stay through the winter who should be leaving, and you just never know who might show up.

All Those Hummingbirds Will Come HERE?

I’m so excited about this it’s hard to get my thoughts organized (plus, it’s Monday), but I’m going to try. Saturday, I went to a talk on feeding hummingbirds through the winter. I learned that there are more different kinds of hummingbirds that come to the Texas Gulf Coast in the winter than I ever knew! And a lot of them are difficult to identify.

We’ve had a buff-bellied hummingbird spend a couple of winters here. He was easy. He’s bigger than other hummers and he has a curved orange bill. We’ve missed him the past two years. Or, her. It’s impossible to tell the male from the female.

My son saw what I thought was a female ruby-throat in January, and he said it was most likely a female black-chinned. What? That bird comes here? I had no idea. Those two females are difficult to tell apart. Plus, I didn’t look at my book; I thought only the ruby-throat and the rufous were common here.

On Saturday, I learned that there are eight different hummingbirds that have been seen in Jefferson County, Texas. Ruby-throated, black-chinned, Anna’s, rufous, Allen’s, calliope, broad-tailed, buff-bellied, broad-billed and green-breasted mango hummingbirds. That is quite a list, and as I was reading over the material we were given, I realized that I had a male black-chinned hummingbird at my feeder. He had black under the bill and purple under the black, and I thought it was the way the winter light was messing with things. Another way to distinguish the ruby-throat from the black-chinned is the black-chinned will flick it’s tail while feeding. My neighbor and I both remember seeing a hummer do that at our feeders.

So, who has identified all those birds? People from the Audubon Society, and they know their birds. The lady who was giving the talk told us that  her husband takes a photo of each bird at their feeder each morning. He takes the photos (right through the kitchen window), then puts them on the computer and enlarges them. This way they are able to tell each bird apart by little details in their markings. They can also see distinctive characteristics of each species with a photo that it’s really hard, if not impossible, to see through binoculars. Several of these birds are very similar.

And, it seems my books are really out of date as far as their range maps go. I need to get an up to date book, and you do, too, if yours are not the latest. Some birds have changed their addresses, and that, along with programs that allow any of us to report what we see, has really changed what we thought we knew.

Here is a website my son told me about so I could read up on identifying the black-chinned and the ruby-throat. I can hardly wait until next winter!

A Short Note About This Winter’s Birds

My bird feeding has been erratic the past several weeks, mostly due to my misadventures with my back. So, there has mostly not been any bird feeding. My back is fine now and the other day I put some seed out. Finally, I’ve got a goldfinch. I even saw two of them while ago. My neighbors down the street haven’t seen any yet and they have had seed out, so I guess I haven’t been missing anything and these are the first ones.  Last year we started seeing them in November. Not sure if that was unusual, or if this year is unusual.

I’ve had a few hummingbirds. There are at least two rufous hummingbirds and at least one ruby-throated. I think one of the rufous is a young male, the other is female, as is the ruby-throated.

I have no idea where the blue jays went. I haven’t seen one in months and I wish they would come back. They have attitude and they are so pretty; I love to watch them.

Mostly, there are tons of sparrows. Well, birdtons anyway. I think they are pretty; the shades of brown are nice to look at. There are doves, too, of course. I’d just like some variety. I have seen a few warblers in the vines on the fence, but I’m so out of practice identifying warblers that I can’t tell you what kind are out there.

I sure miss putting out the lard, peanut butter, flour….all that good stuff mixed up. It’s got gluten in it, so I can’t have flour and cornmeal in my kitchen. I could feed them gluten-free flour and cornmeal, but that is pretty expensive. So, I can’t. I’m keeping an eye out for substitutes though. If I find anything, I’ll try to post it here in case someone else is in the same boat.

Well, I just thought that if anyone is wondering where the goldfinches are and what else might be making an appearance on the Upper Texas Gulf Coast, I’d give y’all a little report.

Happy Birding!

ADDENDUM: Be sure to read “All Those Hummingbirds Will Come HERE?”, written on March 11, 2013. I misidentified some birds!

Hummingbird Season Won’t End at My House This Year

Oh, how exciting! This morning I was on my front porch when I looked around and saw a small brownish hummingbird in the non-bearing pomegranate shrub. At first, I wasn’t positive if it was a rufous or if it was the female ruby-throat that was here yesterday. Was I sure about that color? Is it really a rufous? Am I seeing what is really here, or just what I want to see?

I walked over closer to get a better look, and it sure looked like the rusty color on its side just in front of the wing. Just to help me out, the little bitty bird hopped around in the branches giving me a better look. Oh, my goodness! It’s a rufous! It was like God was saying, “Happy Birthday, Diane.” I certainly said, “Thank you! This is great!”

If you live on the upper Texas Gulf Coast don’t take your feeders down. Even if the last of the ruby-throats has left, you may get a rufous or even a buff-bellied hummingbird. I used to have to go about 10 or so miles north of here to see a rufous, but last year I finally had not one, but two of them. Not bad for the first time to have rufous in my yard. They are pretty aggressive and may chase Little Miss Ruby-Throat away. They may even be why I didn’t see a buff-bellied last year, whereas I had one spend two winters in a row here before last year. You may get a buff-bellied, too. They will sometimes hang out along the Gulf Coast during the winter.

I like seasons. I like the cooler temperatures, the changing leaves and even no leaves on trees, the color of the sky, and the different birds. We never had hummingbirds in winter until recently. This is the fourth year in a row for us to have a hummingbird in the yard who came specifically for this season. If you haven’t had them in the winter before, don’t give up. These little winged creatures are on the move and may show up at your house, too.

ADDENDUM: Be sure and read “All Those Hummingbirds Will Come HERE?”, written on March 11, 2013. I misidentified a few birds!

Birds This Summer

Did you get all excited about putting out hummingbird feeders this spring only to have the hummingbirds disappear in early summer? I found out where they went! According to Birds and Blooms magazine, they don’t come to our sugar-water feeders when they are busy feeding bugs to their babies. Ah,ha! I wish I had a bug feeder. (I’ve never heard of such a thing as a bug feeder, but it might be a cool way to dispose of garden pests.)

When my hummers disappeared this year I took my feeders down. Then a few weeks ago I had a male ruby-throat show up at the kitchen window. One of my feeders normally hangs near that window and he was apparently trying to convince me, by flying back and forth in front of the window and looking at me, to put the feeder back out. I did and I never saw him again.

One day last week, a female hummer did the same thing. I really didn’t want to go through the whole process again of making up the food and hanging it out for them when all I’d get to see is the food getting icky and not being eaten. So, I didn’t run to the stove with water and sugar.

Yesterday, a neighbor told me she and another neighbor are seeing hummers at feeders now, so I reckon today is the day. I’ll feed these fascinating little birds again and they and I will be happy about it.

Now about those other birds. Seems I was having chickens on my platform feeder and not so much the other birds. It happens every year. Not the chickens, but the song birds not coming to the feeder quite so often.

Yep. That’s a chicken.

The song birds like what God has provided in the woods during the summer I guess, so they don’t show up so much. Sometimes when that happens I slack off on the feeder-filling. This year the advantage of this situation is that the chickens might have forgotten there is bird seed up there? We’ll see. There were baby cardinals in the tree outside the kitchen window a couple of days ago, so I started putting seed out again.

If you wondered where your birds went, I hope this answered your question. They’ll be back, just hang in there. As for me, I hope the chickens don’t come back.