More about hummingbirds
Many readers sent me emails regarding last week’s column about hummingbirds. Obviously I’m not alone in my enthusiasm for those backyard buzz-bombers.
It doesn’t take much to feed them, and in return they entertain us all summer long with their aerial displays of zip and pluck.
It’s not too late to get into the hummingbird craze yourself. All you need is a feeder (or two) and regular white granulated sugar from the baking aisle of the local grocery store. Just mix one part sugar to four parts water until all the sugar is dissolved. It helps to heat the water on the stove to make the process go faster. But make sure the solution cools to room temperature before pouring it into your feeders.
And about the feeders: These days there are so many different kinds to choose from it can be a challenge to pick one. When buying a feeder, it’s important to read the label to know if you can just pop the parts into the top rack of your dishwasher, something that makes clean up a breeze. Any feeder that has red or painted glass will have to be cleaned by hand, and those finishes will eventually wear off from exposure to the elements and weekly washing.
I’ve had just about every kind of feeder available on the market the past 15 years. My favorite brand is Perky Pet, which has been around for decades, and for good reason because the designs are classic and built to last. You can find this ubiquitous brand in just about every large garden center with a birdfeeding section. Of course, their feeders are available online, too.
My favorite feeder is the small 3-ounce “Planter Box” feeder that comes with a hanging rod. I have about a half-dozen of these little feeders. The Perky Pet version works great and is priced at about $5 per feeder. The off-brand versions work almost as well, for a fraction of the price, but with some quirks such as it taking a little more effort to get the lid threaded on, which might be a hassle for some.
I like to put one in a hanging basket on my front porch, nestled in with the genuine flower blooms so the hummingbirds have a more natural experience sipping nectar. But the best way to use these feeders, in my opinion, is with a suction cup hook on a window. Put the feeders on the windows of the rooms you’re in the most, and you’ll be amazed at how often those tiny avian visitors frequent the feeders right in front of your nose.
I’ve tried the more expensive window feeders, but they don’t seem to reliably stay attached to the glass very long, and frankly some of the designs out there obstruct the view of the hummingbird, defeating the purpose of a window feeder. So take my advice, get yourself a couple of the small feeders with the hanging rods and put them on your windows with suction cups from the hardware store.
And while you’re at it, get
more than just one. Hummingbirds can be territorial little buggers and sometimes a particularly aggressive hummer will stake a claim on a certain feeder and chase off any other bird that tries to drink from it. Spreading out several feeders ensures there’s a place for all of them to drink.
And lastly, you’ll probably have to deal with ants at some point this summer. Once they find a source of food, it’s hard to get rid of them. For the window feeders, I just clean the window and move the feeder a few feet away from the old location. That works just fine until the ants find it again, usually after a couple days, which is about how often we should wash the feeders and change the sugar water anyway.
For the feeders hanging on the shepherd’s hooks throughout my garden, I use another Perky Pet product called an ant guard. I’ve tried different ant-aversion methods — from moats, water reservoirs, and even Vicks Vapo-Rub once in abject desperation — and nothing works as well as the ant guard.
The two pieces of plastic contain a thin layer of Permethrin (the active ingredient in the kind of shampoo that kills lice), and the ants stay away like magic. While I wouldn’t recommend using the ant guard to hold your soup or let your cat play with it, it’s safe to use for its intended purpose and really works.
Because the hooks on the ant guard are a bit too small to fit over the diameter of a shepherd’s hook, I just slip a d-ring carabiner clip over the hook and hang the ant guard and feeder from the clip. These ant guards will last multiple seasons and I’ve only had to replace them when the plastic has worn out from several summers in the hot sun.
Now is the perfect time to put up a hummingbird feeder. These tiny birds just finished migrating all the way from distant locales in Mexico or Central America. It’s a true feat of nature they can make such long trips twice a year. Celebrate their arrival by putting out a good meal for the ones that pass through your yard.
Draft Addendum V
The folks at the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Committee are gearing up for their annual meeting to be held May 8 to 11 in Alexandria, Va.
One of the items up for action is Draft Addendum V for striped bass management, a proposal to increase striped bass allotments for commercial fishermen up and down the Atlantic coast.
A couple months ago it was oyster sanctuaries. Just a few weeks ago the commercial crabbing lobby started pressuring the Maryland Department of Natural Resources to increase harvest limits and reduce the minimum size. Now we need to add striped bass to the list of natural resources that are under assault.
If you want to voice your opinion to help protect this fishery for future generations of recreational anglers, reach out to your local elected representatives.
The office of Gov. Larry Hogan (R) can be reached through the website http://governor. maryland.gov/mail/ default.asp and David Blazer, the DNR Fishing and Boating Services Director who also sits on the ASMFC board, can be contacted via his official email at david. firstname.lastname@example.org.