The trifoliate orange (Poncirus trifoliata) is a plant sometimes seen growing in brushy fencerows, and around older homes. It has long green thorns and bears golf ball –size, fragrant fruit. This plant is native to China.
With that in mind, you might be surprised to learn that it is a giant swallowtail host plant.
From time to time, many hummingbird fanciers face the task of trying to save the life of a hummingbird that has flown inside a garage or other structure. If you know what to do and can act quickly, you can save the life of a bird that just seems like it cannot find its way back outside.
I have found the best to be ready for such an event is to have what I call a Hummingbird Rescue kit ready at all times. My kit includes a long-handled butterfly net, telescoping window rod, or paintbrush extension pole, roll of duct tape, a brown paper bag, hummingbird feeder, and small bottle of nectar.
Late last week, I had to use my kit to rescue a hummingbird from a laundromat. It seems that one morning around 9:00 a.m. a hummingbird flew into a laundromat. When I received the call, the bird had been flying about the ceiling of the laundromat for over five hours. Knowing the bird was tired and hungry—I had to act fast.
When I arrived and walked into the establishment, I spotted the bird flying about the ceiling some 10 feet above the floor. The laundromat had two doors, one in front and one at the far end of the facility. Both of them were left open in hopes the tiny bird would flu out. However, as usual, the bird flew along the ceiling and never dropped down where it could exit either door.
It was obvious that it would be impossible to net the bird with a short-handled net. My only chance to net it was to tape my butterfly net to the end of a curtain rod. Although a net taped to the curtain rod would allow me to reach the bird flying near the ceiling, the laundromat was so large it would prove next to impossible for me to get close enough to capture the bird in a net. My best hope of saving the hapless prisoner was to coax it down low enough where it could directly fly out of a door.
With that in mind, I rolled a metal laundry basket in front to the door on the far end of the laundromat. I put a small amount of nectar in a hummingbird feeder and hung the feeder from the bar that ran across the basket. This placed the feeder about four feet above the floor.
I then walked to the far end of the building, raised my butterfly net above my head, and slowly began walking toward the bird flying high above the dryers. In response to my approach, the bird flew toward the far end of the building. When it got about 30 feet from the door and feeder it made a sharp, steady decline and landed on the one of the perches on the feeder and immediately began drinking. It drank and drank. Even when a worker raised her arms and slowly walked toward the frightened, hungry bird it never stopped feeding. I told the attendant to stop walking when she got about feet from the bird. By that time, I too was standing closely. The hummingbird continued to feed.
After allowing, the bird to feed for a while we slowly approached the hummer. Eventually it rose up, flew out the door, and vanished over the parking lot. My rescue mission took only a few minutes and was a resounding success. I wish they were that easy.
Fortunately, I did not have to use everything I carry in the kit. However, it is always to best to carry everything you might use.
In a home setting, if a bird refuses to come down and drink at a feeder placed in the opening to a garage, you may have to catch it in your net. If you do, it is important that you do not squeeze it. Gently hold it in your hand, take it to the door, open your hand and let it fly away.
However, if the bird spent a long time in the garage before it is rescued, while gently holding the bird in your hand give it a chance to feed on nectar from a hummer feeder or shallow jar lid. You will be amazed; often the bird will begin feeding while you are holding it in your hand. Don’t dip the bill into the liquid. Let me bird feed on its own volition.
If the bird that is trapped in the garage simply drops to the floor, or has a difficult time flying, place it is a brown paper bag. Fold the top of the bag over just enough to allow air to enter the bag while preventing it from flying away. Some folks even place a jar lid containing a small amount of nectar in the bag along with the exhausted bird.
Place the bag in a cool dark place for a short while. Continue to check on the hummer’s condition. When it begins to flutter about, or seems very alert, take it out of the bag. Give it a chance to feed and then let it go.
For generations, it has been an accepted practice to remove dead flowering plants before the onset of autumn. Nowadays gardeners are beginning to leave the stalks and seed heads of many flowers that have long since bloomed. They don’t refrain from removing them because they are lazy. Instead, they do it because they have come to realize that the seed heads found on these dry plants are loaded with nutritious seeds. As such, they are a source of food for a wide variety of birds throughout the fall and winter. Our native black-eyed Susan and coneflowers are examples of such plants.
Here are some of the birds that dine on seeds of these garden favorites:
Black-eyed Susan—American goldfinch, Carolina Chickadee, northern cardinal, white-breasted nuthatch, sparrows, and the eastern towhee.
Coneflowers—mourning dove, blue jay, dark-eyed junco, American goldfinch, downy woodpecker, northern cardinal Carolina chickadee, pine siskin and sparrows such as the white-throated, chipping, and song.
As we all know, the fall migration of the ruby-throated hummingbird is in full swing. In a few short weeks, most of the flying jewels will have left our yards flying toward their winter home in southern Mexico and Central America. While we do not fully understand this migration, we do know that some will fly nonstop across the Gulf of Mexico to reach the western shore of the Gulf of Mexico. With this in mind, let’s look at some of the things that involved in this amazing flight.
The birds do not migrate in flocks. Instead, each bird must make its own way over the choppy waters of the Gulf.
The shortest distance across the Gulf of Mexico is 467 miles. In order to have enough fuel to successfully make the journey they must carry at last 3/40th of an ounce of fuel shored in the form of fat.
The birds travel at an average speed of approximately 25 miles per hour. A male rubythroat can carry enough fuel to stay aloft for 26 hours and fly a distance of 645 miles. In comparison, a heavier female can stay aloft 24.3-hour flight that covers 604 miles. Biologists estimate each bird must beat its wings 2.7 million times to cross the Gulf of Mexico during the estimated 20 hours it takes them travel from shore to shore.
Rubythroats are benefitted with they are migrating with the aid of headwinds. One the other side of the coin, if the tiny migrants encounter a 20-mph headwind, they literally fly backwards.
When you consider what an amazing athletic and navigation fete this is, you cannot help but wonder how in the world they can do it.
I have long harbored the belief that listening to birds singing can have a positive impact on humans. I know whenever I am facing a problem or simply trying to wind down at end of the day, sitting on my deck listening to feathered songsters such as wood thrushes, cardinals, pine warbler, mockingbirds and summer tanagers, clears my mind and seems to leave me more relaxed.
The fact that many other folks feel the same way has prompted researchers to investigate whether or not the purported benefits of listening to birds sing are real or imagined. One such researcher is an associate professor at Cal Poly Tech University named Clinton Francis. His experiment involved exposing hikers along a trail to short periods of birds singing. When Dr. Clinton compared the impact of the birdsongs on hikers exposed to the songs with hikers that did not hear the recordings, he said, “In just seven minutes, you can see a measurable effect on people’s indirect, self-reported well-being.”
If, from time to time, you find you simply need to find a way to relax a bit, trying sitting in your backyard and listening to the birds singing. If you do, I suspect before you go back inside your home, your state of mind has improved.
Researchers have learned that bumblebees have an amazing ability to detect odors. For example, bumblebees can detect the odor left behind by the tiny feet of an insect that previously visited a flower foraging for pollen and/or nectar.
Recently a blogger responded to a blog I wrote a couple of years ago concerning American goldfinches plucking the petals off zinnia blossoms to reach the seeds found on the plant’s seed heads.
Blogger Joyce M. wrote that she has noticed that hungry goldfinches in her backyard appeared to attack the largest red and yellow blossoms.
This prompted me to go back and check the notes I made when my wife was the first to notice American goldfinches plucking the seeds from the zinnias growing in containers on our deck. In our case, although red, pink, orange, and while zinnia blossoms were all blooming at the same time, the birds seemed to prefer doing a number on the red zinnias.
Do the goldfinches that pluck petals off your zinnias seem to remove the petals of zinnias of a certain color?
If you want to find more information about American goldfinches, go to the search bubble found on the right side of the blog page and type in goldfinch and hit returned. You will find the blog’s archive contains several blogs concerning this colorful backyard visitor.
Although most backyard wildlife enthusiasts realize that wildlife needs water, far too often I find that they forget to maintain a birdbath or other water source throughout the entire year. It is especially important to provide your backyard wildlife with water during the severe heat wave that is holding Georgia in its fiery grip this summer.
Birds and other wildlife need a dependable, fresh, and clean source of water. When it is not available, some birds will travel up to two miles in search of it. However, other creatures such as many mammals, frogs, salamanders and others cannot travel long distances to reach the much-needed liquid.
With this in mind, if you have not already done so, place a container that animals can use for drinking and bathing. It can be a pedestal birdbath, or something as simple as garbage can lid, clay or plastic dish, or pie pan.
MOCKINGBIRD DRINKING WATER; Photo credit: Terry W Johnson
These artificial ponds need to be no more than 1.5 to 2 inches deep at their deepest point. It is great if the container has a sloping, rough bottom. However, if it is deeper, place a gently sloping rock in the middle of the container or cover its bottom with gravel. This will enable birds of all sizes to use it.
Then, don’t forget it; keep it full of fresh, clean water at all times.
If you already have a birdbath but have not regularly maintained it, begin doing so.
For more information dealing with providing water to backyard wildlife, type in WATER in the Search feature on the right side of the first page of the blog and hit the return button on your computer. In the blink of an eye, you will be able to access no less than seven columns dealing with this important subject.
Throughout this summer’s unprecedented heart wave, many of the plants my wife and I have planted for pollinators are requiring regular watering. Such has not been the case with a native plant named mountain-mint (Pycnanthemumssp.). We have not watered our three patches of mountain mint a single time. In spite of this, the plants in all three spots have flourished and are attracting more pollenators than other plant growing in our yard.
This was dramatically illustrated week when we participated in the Great Southeast Pollinator Count. We selected the two plants (mountain-mint and butterfly bush to survey. During the 15-minute count at the mountain mint plants, 39 individual pollinators were recorded. This list included bumblebee – 1, carpenter bee – 2, small bees – 2, wasps – 8, flies – 7, butterflies – 18, and ant -1.
We saw two juniper hairstreaks and 16 red-banded hairstreaks. To put this in perspective, the day before I surveyed butterflies on the Annual Fall Piedmont National Wildlife Refuge/Rum Creek Wildlife Management Area Butterfly Count. In spite of the fact that the team I was assigned to spent 7.5 hours in the field and walked some 2.2 while visiting a number of sites scattered across much of the eastern side of Monroe County and a small piece of Jasper County, we spotted only three red-banded hairstreaks.
The value of mountain-mint to wild pollinators has been long recognized. For example, Penn State conducted a research project to determine the value of a number of pollinator plants o wild pollinators found mountain-mint to be the plant most attractive to these special insects. In addition, it tied with stiff goldenrod (Solidago rigida) for the top spot for its ability to attract the greatest diversity of pollinators.
This fragrant plant grows up to six feet tall. The plants blooms appear in clusters of small white to lavender tubular-shaped flowers arranged on a button-like base. Each flower cluster is surrounded by a cluster of bracts (modified leaves) that appeared to be covered with flour or powdered sugar. In addition, it blooms for weeks during the summer.
Mountain-mint is easy to grow. Like most folks that have it growing in their yards, a friend gave me, a handful of plants several years ago. They did not produce any flowers the first year they were in the ground but have bloomed ever since.
Keep in mind that the plant spreads rapidly, so place put it in a spot where it has room to spread. If they do venture into areas where you don’t want them, they can be easily controlled.
Like so many plants, they seem to attract more pollinators when planted in large groupings. This is in partly because a large number of plants are more easily seen by pollinators. In addition, larger patches of plants such as mountain-mint produce scents that can be more easily detected by potential visitors. This appears to be particularly true in urban areas suffering from air pollution.
If you do not have a friend or two that is willing to give you a few mountain-mint plants, I am sure that a nursery that deals in native plants can provide you with all that you need.
Most folks that enjoy listening to birds realize that noise created by traffic, machines and other manmade sources affects our ability to hear birds. However, we have little understanding as to just how much these sounds impact our ability to hear the songs and calls of songbirds.
AMERICAN GOLDFINCH; Photo credit: Terry W Johnson
However, the recent Covid-19 pandemic provided researchers with the opportunity to study this situation. During those trying times, we were living through shutdowns that kept many Americans off the highways and homebound, consequently manmade noise levels were down. As a result, many of us noticed that the outside world seemed to be a quieter place. Fortunately, some during this time researchers were hard a work measuring these sound levels, and their impacts on birds and those of us that enjoy hearing them.
Nancy Lawson noted in her excellent book Wildscape that one of the findings David Luther and his colleagues at George Mason University made was that noise levels dropped in some locales in the San Francisco area to those typical of the 1950s. This enabled folks to hear four times more birds than they could prior to the pandemic. In addition, some species could actually be heard twice as far away.
This is a classic example how humans are affecting our world.