Keep feed­ing the birds

Maryland Independent - - Sports - Jamie Drake jamiedrake­out­doors@out­look.com

Last week­end was the St. Mary’s County Fair. I spent a good deal of time there with my fam­ily en­joy­ing the rides, sam­pling del­i­ca­cies like fun­nel cake and pe­rus­ing the ex­hibits. My kids won a few rib­bons (the high point of the week­end) and I may have ac­ci­den­tally bid on — and won — the wrong hog at the 4-H auc­tion (the low point), but even with all the rain it was still a good time.

On Satur­day night, af­ter the sun went down, there was a dis­tinct chill in the air and a slight breeze be­fore the rain clouds rolled in. A sweater or sweat­shirt wasn’t out of place at all. It felt like fall.

If you’ve been feed­ing the hum­ming­birds in your yard this sum­mer, you may be won­der­ing if now is the time to take down your feeder. No, not yet.

Leav­ing your feeder up will not en­tice these tiny vis­i­tors to over­stay their wel­come and stick around longer than they should. Hum­ming­birds have a so­phis­ti­cated bi­o­log­i­cal sys­tem that cues them to fly to warmer ter­ri­tory. As the amount of sun­light each day de­creases in fall, they know it’s time to leave.

I’ve been keep­ing a close watch on my feed­ers and there are still many hum­ming­birds drink­ing from them. In fact, they seem to be con­sum­ing sig­nif­i­cantly more nec­tar the past few weeks. Maybe they know the jour­ney ahead will re­quire lots of en­ergy. I’m re­fill­ing my feed­ers just as fre­quently as I was dur­ing the hot spells of the sum­mer.

A good rule of thumb is to leave your feed­ers up for two weeks af­ter you’ve seen the last hum­ming­bird. Some strag­glers from up north might still be com­ing through your area and ap­pre­ci­ate a fill-up from your feeder.

I keep track of when I see the first and last hum­ming­bird ev­ery year. I’ve never seen one be­fore April 15 and the lat­est I’ve ever seen one is Nov. 1. So, if you can, keep the nec­tar in your feed­ers fresh through the month of Oc­to­ber. At least the nec­tar won’t spoil quickly now that it’s cooler out­side. You’ll only need to re­fill it once a week or as needed if you get some thirsty vis­i­tors.

No-mess seeds are avail­able

This is the time of year peo­ple start to think about putting up a bird feeder. Colder months are ahead and if you put up a feeder now, you should have a steady stream of vis­i­tors all win­ter.

One of the big­gest com­plaints I hear about bird feed­ers is the mess they leave un­der­neath. It’s hard to avoid shells be­neath a feeder if you opt to feed black sun­flower seeds, ar­guably the best be­gin­ner food to at­tract the widest va­ri­ety of seed-eat­ing birds. But an­other op­tion is to pick a no-mess seed blend for your feed­ers.

These blends con­tain al­ready-hulled seeds and no fillers, so less of it ends up on the ground. They usu­ally have names like fruit and nut and there­fore at­tract some of the showiest birds like wood­peck­ers that oth­er­wise wouldn’t likely visit a feeder filled with reg­u­lar seed.

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