We have a red maple tree growing next to our deck and over the years its branches have extended towards the house creating a canopy over our patio table. We call it our treehouse because sheltered by its branches we sit and observe the world of birds as they fly into to our feeders and two little bird baths on the deck railing. There are two suet feeders hanging on the maple and two hummingbird feeders hanging under the eaves by the kitchen window.
Black-capped Chickadees and Red-breasted Nuthatches are regulars at the suet feeders and Ruby-throated Hummingbirds (the only species found in Minnesota) are buzzing around the feeders designed just for them. For all three species we are seeing the youngsters from this year’s nests. It’s non-stop entertainment.
The Chickadee’s and Nuthatches are not bothered by the fact that we are only one to three feet away as they hop from branch to branch and down to the bowls of shallow water. They’re called ‘bird baths’ and occasionally a
Chickadee will hop into the water and proceed to flutter its wings splashing water over its body, until most of its feathers are wet. Then it flies up to a branch where it flutters again and starts preening until all is in good order.
The Ruby-throated Hummingbirds are a show from morning til dusk. We have now counted somewhere around eight of these little tyrants. Their numbers grow and wane throughout the day, but the competition really heats up as the day comes to an end. They zoom, zip, and hover all around the feeders, sometimes streaking past our heads close enough to create a breeze (if they were
a little bigger, that is). There are two males guarding (one by each feeder) and they will chase any juvenile or female that attempts to get a sip. They burn from 6,600 to 12,000 calories per day simply by flying, which means they need to refuel about every 10 minutes. I don’t know how they can maintain these aerial antics without collapsing from a lack of energy. Now is when hummingbirds begin the gradual departure to points south, so some of these birds (especially the males) may be just passing through. I will miss their daily entertainment when they all finally decide they must head south.
Further out in the yard are the wild bird seed feeders, which mainly contain black sunflower seeds. Most
colorful right now are the American Goldfinches. Their brilliant yellow feathers with black accents light up the scene as they flutter in. They also seek out nyjer seeds from tube feeders. It is in August that they build their nests and raise their young – the latest nesters among songbirds. It is a last hurrah for another breeding season.
By Kate Crowley