It's a miracle. Sorry if I'm being dramatic, but it's how I feel. I can't watch hummingbirds without feeling happy, awed and optimistic, all at the same time. Especially in December.
|Tanking up on a cold December morning. The light was poor for photography.|
How they survive Puget Sound winters is a mystery that involves periods of torpor, when they lower their metabolic rate to "near death" to get through nights that can dip to the teens and 20s, followed by bleak days with almost no nourishment.
Have you seen any flowering plants in your yard lately? Hummingbirds also eat protein -- insects. Have you seen many of those, either?
We still had a few sad blooms on our fuchsias till several weeks ago, when the first real frost hit. I was shocked that a lone Anna's Hummingbird was going from blossom-to-blossom on a cold, gray morning. Prospects looked hopeless for a bird that thrives on nectar.
I had taken down our hummingbird feeder months earlier, not wanting to encourage dependency by any summer stragglers that really should have left. But it was clear the Anna's Hummingbirds were not going anywhere. They would winter in our forest no matter what.
|One of our "regulars" waits its turn on the magnolia tree.|
A couple others will be perched on the topmost, bare branches of nearby deciduous trees, making the Anna's characteristic "chipping" call.
Sometimes when I walk outside, one will get in my face and put on a little demonstration of eye-level hovering that seems designed to intimidate. They do this, too, at my office window.
Unless our little flock knows of a nearby deck-garden where plants are still blooming, their last lifeline must be the generosity of good Samaritans like me who keep clean, fresh, sugar-water in our hummingbird feeders all winter.
On Whidbey Island when we think of hummingbirds, usually it's the little Rufous variety that come blasting into our lives each spring. That species comes and goes each year. By late summer they've headed south.
A few years ago this other species, the Anna's Hummingbird, decided to winter here. Don't be expecting a lot of aerobatics in the wintertime by these Anna's. They must ration every bit of energy they have just to stay alive.
|The CD sells for $10. Click here to order.|
My friends Craig and Joy Johnson spent hundreds of hours photographing and recording a remarkable CD about hummingbirds you can download to your desktop and watch on your computer. The CD uses Craig's close-up photography, video clips, animation, illustration and narration to convey a wealth of insight and education about both Rufous and Anna's hummingbirds.
Craig and Joy simply love birds. The video was a labor of love, an insanely time-consuming project that will never pay for itself. They produced it primarily as an educational tool for schools, churches and other nonprofit groups. They offer it free to those groups.
The general public also may purchase it for $10 directly from their website. It's a terrific gift for anyone who loves birds, well worth the $10.
If you are interested in obtaining a copy, click here for more information.
|To read about Red Rufous - click here.|
If you have children or grandchildren, this book is a wonderful way to introduce them to hummingbirds. It features Craig's own watercolor paintings throughout.
And I have some other news if you're looking for a sensational gift idea for someone who loves birds. Just in time for the holidays, Craig and Joy reprinted their gorgeous coffee-table book, Our Pacific Northwest Birds & Habitat. I call it a coffee table book, but if you're like me it's more of a constant reference.
|To order from Craig and Joy, click here.|
It was an expensive book to print. Retail shops rightly keep a healthy cut of the sales price, so Craig and Joy don't clear many dollars on the books they sell in stores. If you order it directly from their website, they get to keep a little more of the sales price.
Karen Mueller at Wind & Tide Bookshop in Oak Harbor says this book is a "sleeper" because it is not just for birders. Artists love it, too, because Craig's close-up photography provides such great images for them to paint.
Hey, my wife is an artist.