Things that make you go HUMMMMMMM

~Ruby Throated Hummingbird~

“Hummingbirds are uniquely an American bird. They are found only in the Western Hemisphere, in North and South America. There are between 325 and 340 species of hummingbirds in the world, depending on how the birds are classified.”

Most of these nearly 340 species live in the tropics. Seventeen species regularly nest in the United States. Near the border of the United States and Mexico, there may be a few additional species that visit the United States but do not nest. Most regions of the United States have only one or two nesting species. East of the Mississippi River it has been observed that the ruby-throated hummingbird is the only nesting species.

“In addition to sightings of the ruby-throated hummingbird, there have been confirmed sightings of other species, such as Rufous, broad-billed, and Allen’s hummingbird,” she noted.

The ruby-throated hummingbird has a green back and light belly. The male has a bright red patch on his neck and throat called the gorget. These stiff feathers are highly reflective and typically bright in color. They will look dark and dull until they catch the light and their metallic beauty is revealed.

“Scientists are concerned about increased sightings of hummingbirds outside of their normal range,” she said. “Are changes in weather altering their typical migration paths and winter or summer homes? This remains to be seen.

“If you see a hummingbird hanging around your garden that does not look like our familiar resident the ruby-throated hummingbird, please contact your local Extension office or Audubon Society so that the bird can be properly identified.”

Hummingbirds have extremely fast metabolisms, necessary to power the rapid beating of their wings. Combined with their tiny size, this means they must eat nearly constantly.

“They consume most of their calories with their specialized beaks from sugary nectar produced in flowers,” she said. “Their beaks are narrow enough to get to the bottom of flowers where nectar is produced, and their grooved tongue laps up the nectar.

“A hummingbird will typically consume more than their body’s weight in nectar each day. They will also eat an occasional insect or spider for additional nutrients, especially when feeding young.”

It has been said that hummingbirds are always within a few hours of starving to death. They typically have only enough energy stored in their body to get them through the night. If the temperature dips unexpectedly at night or there is some other demand on their energy at night, hummingbirds may slip into ‘torpor’. Torpor is a very deep sleep-like state in which the bird’s metabolism slows down and their body temperature drops. If this state lasts longer than one night, it could be called hibernation.

The one time of year that hummingbirds do store up more than a night’s worth of energy is migration. When the ruby-throated hummingbird migrates to Mexico each fall, it crosses the Gulf of Mexico on a non-stop flight lasting 18 to 20 hours.

Flowers which attract hummingbirds tend to be red or orange in color and tubular shaped. They may also point downward, making it easy for a hovering hummingbird to gain access. To attract hummingbirds, try planting bee balm (Monarda didyma), cardinal flower (Lobelia cardinalis), trumpet creeper (Campsis radicans), cypress vine (Ipomoea quamoclit), or sage (Salvia splendens).

Another option for attracting hummingbirds is to use a feeder filled with sugar water to mimic nectar. There are many styles available, made of glass or plastic. Invest in one that is easy to fill and clean. Keeping feeders clean is essential to prevent mold from growing, which can sicken or even kill hummingbirds. Change the nectar solution every three to five days to prevent mold growth and fermentation.

“There are lots of instant nectar products available for use in hummingbird feeders,” she said. “But many bird experts would argue that the best ingredients are probably in your kitchen right now: sugar and water.”

To make nectar, add one cup of sugar to four cups of boiling water. Stir until sugar dissolves, cool the solution, and fill your feeders. Refrigerate any leftovers for up to one week. Red food coloring is not necessary and may harm hummingbirds.

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Young Raccoons

Young Racoon (7 of 11) by .

Young Racoon (3 of 11) by . Young Racoon (10 of 11) by . Young Racoon (1 of 11) by .

Young Racoon (5 of 11) by .

I had just gotten to the place I like to go take pictures early this morning when a rustling in some nearby tall grass near the water caught my attention.  To my surprise two little heads popped out of the grass peering up at me.  Thinking they would probably do an about face and run for cover, I waited, not so much as twitching an eyebrow.  Slowly they crept out of the grass and walked along the waters edge sniffing the air and keeping a close eye on me.  They stayed in the open long enough for me to get about 10-15 shots until the sound of my shutter was to much to take, then scurried back to the security of the tall grass. It was awesome!

Did You Know?

  • Raccoons belong to the order Carnivora along with bears, cats, dogs, badgers, and other carnivores.
  • When raccoons are calling to each other, they often use a vocalization that sounds similar to the whistle of a screech owl.

Habitat

The raccoon is a generalist species and can be found nearly wherever food, water, and shelter are available. Historically raccoons lived in wooded river bottoms and were less abundant in the uplands. Today raccoons can be found living in urban and suburban areas and in areas with a mixture of farmland and woodland. Raccoons are less common in grasslands or in agricultural areas with few trees since these areas provide fewer sources of shelter. Raccoons normally den in hollow trees or abandoned woodchuck or fox burrows. However, they will readily use barns, chimneys, attics, or the space under decks and porches for shelter if they can gain access. They have several den sites in their home range.

Home ranges of urban and suburban raccoons are typically smaller than those of rural raccoons because of the concentration of available water, food and shelter in many urban areas. Researchers have documented raccoon home ranges of 53 to 92 acres in suburban areas of northern Illinois. The size of a home range varies based on habitat quality, season, population density, and the sex and age of the raccoon. Males typically have larger home ranges than females since they often travel during the breeding season to search for mates.