Feeding Hummingbirds in Winter

by Rausa McManus, EMGV

If you’ve heard that you need to take your hummingbird feeders down in October to let hummingbirds know when to migrate, read further for another viewpoint. The idea that the availability of nectar in man-made feeders will keep hummingbirds from migrating south is a myth.  Birds are genetically programmed to migrate due to their hormones, circannual rhythms, triggered by the length of the days and the changing angle of the sun. Leaving your feeders up with fresh nectar will help the late-migrating stragglers as they travel through North Carolina and also feed some winter-hardy hummingbirds who may live here year-round. 

It can be difficult to identify hummingbirds by sight in the winter.  However, banders have helped confirm the identification of certain species. The most common hummingbird species seen here in the Piedmont is the ruby-throated hummingbird (Archilochus colubris) (left photo). In recent years, however, volunteer banders have recorded rufous (Selasphorus rufus) (right photo), black-chinned (Archiloches alexander), and calliope (Selasphorus calliope) hummingbirds in the Carolinas during winter migration.

In order to keep the nectar edible for these winter feeders, the water to sugar ratio should be 4:1, with no food coloring. The nectar also needs to be changed every three to five days to keep it fresh. At this concentration, the liquid will not freeze unless the temperature gets below 27 degrees. Keeping your feeder full and fresh will help the late-migrators replenish their energy stores so they need to make it to their southern destination. 

There are many researchers interested in collecting data on winter-migrating hummingbirds. If you do see hummers visiting your feeders between November 1 and March 15, make a record of the type and number of the birds you see. The North Carolina Museum of Sciences is studying hummingbirds that overwinter in the Carolinas. They would like to hear from Piedmont residents who spot these little hummers and they encourage you to leave those feeders up through the cold months.

Photo Credits: Ruby-throated hummingbird (Archilochus colubris) by Bill Gordon/Great Backyard Bird Count at audobon.org. Rufous hummingbird (Selasphorus rufus) at naturalsciences.org https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/ Other photos by R. McManus.

Resources and Further Reading
naturalsciences.org
https://feederwatch.org/learn/articles/hummingbirds-in-winter
www.carolinabirdclub.org/misc/hummingbirds/winterhummingbirds.html
https://abcbirds.org
https://hgic.clemson.edu
www.audubon.org

To Do in February

by Gary Crispell, EMGV

It’s February!! Those of us who are die-hard just-can’t-help-ourselves gardeners are

bluebird and box
male eastern bluebird and bluebird box. photo credit: Patricia Pierce on Flickr

nearly beside ourselves—right? I mean, we can do stuff! We can dig in the dirt (well, at least the dirt that isn’t moisture-saturated or frozen)! YEA!! Besides, it is almost March when we really get to do stuff. In addition to breaking out the shovels, rakes and hoes the chem-heads out there can start spraying and fertilizing. So, here goes. A prelude to Spring in the key of D# major.

Lawn Care
Cool season grasses (i.e. fescue and bluegrass) should be fertilized with a slow-release fertilizer following the recommendation of your SOIL TEST.

Late February/early March is the best time to apply a pre-emergent crabgrass preventer. There are several easy to use granular products on the market. Be sure to read and follow the directions on the label for safe and proper handling and application. Calibrate your spreader to ensure accurate application amounts; Too little will not give you effective control and too much may damage the turf.

Fertilizing
See Lawn Care above and Planting below.

Planting
And so it begins: The vegetable garden. The reason for some gardeners’ existence, for frozen fingers in February, summer sunburn and the endless supply of liniment in the medicine cabinet.

It is time for root vegetables and salad (and beef Bourguignon—which you can’t grow in the garden).  Plants that can go in the ground in February include cabbage, carrots, leaf lettuce, onions, potatoes, radishes, rutabagas, spinach and turnips. Work a little fertilizer into the soil that was tested in October (while it was still free to do so) following the recommendations of said SOIL TEST.

Be cognizant of soil moisture levels. It appears that Mother Nature is going to maintain that for now, but she can be really fickle.

Pruning
If you have been ignoring previous posts, now would be a good time to prune bunch grapes and fruit trees. Also due for judicious trimming are summer flowering shrubs and small trees.  That list includes Rose of Sharon (Hibiscus seriatcus) crape myrtle (Lagerstroemia species), butterfly bush (Buddleia davidii), and hydrangeas that bloom on new wood (Hydrangea arborescens & H. paniculata).

While you’re out there, whack back the ornamental grasses, too. The new blades haven’t emerged yet and the plants are looking a bit tired anyway.

Got some overgrown shrubs that you’ve been meaning to (or reluctant to) prune heavily? Go for it now.  I understand that if you’ve never done it before it can be a bit intimidating, trust me. The plant will almost always not only survive, but thrive. I am aware of the never-more-than-a-third rule, but sometimes that is not enough. If it needs to go back to 12”-18” … go for it.  Chances are, you and the plant will be glad you did.

Spraying
The orchard needs attention. Peaches and nectarines should be sprayed with a fungicide to prevent leaf curl. Spraying a dormant oil on the fruit trees will help control several insects later in the year.

Other fun stuff to do outside in February
– Perennials can be divided if the soil ever gets dry enough.

– Many landscape plants can be propagated via hardwood cuttings this time of the year.  Some of the plants in the category are crape myrtle (Lagerstroemia sps), flowering quince (Chaenomoles sps), junipers (Juniperus sps), spiraea (Spiraea sps) and weigelia (Weigelia sps).

– Bluebirds will be most appreciative of a thorough house cleaning before the spring nesting season. Remove all the old nesting materials and let them start afresh. It’s like clean linens for them.

Oh, yeah. Lest we forget … order flowers or other living things from the plant kingdom for your significant other. Just for the record, guys like flowers and plants, too. Happy Valentine’s Day y’all! Think positive thoughts about an early Spring and no late freezes.

 

Photo credit
Creative commons, copyright Patricia Pierce,  https://www.flickr.com/photos/47602497@N06/26758856348

 

Plant List of Native Alternatives to Invasive Species

Editor’s note: This is the third and final installment in a series about creating a bird-friendly yard. In the two previous blog articles, Wendy Diaz, EMGV, wrote about pivotal moments in her life as a gardener: deciding to focus on native plants, and creating a plan based on plant recommendations from the National Audobon Society.

My plan to create a bird-friendly yard will be accomplished in two stages. Stage 1 is the removal of high-threat invasive species in the fall of this year (2018), and Stage 2 will commence in the spring of 2019 by removing non-natives that are not high threat but their native alternatives would provide more benefit for wildlife and not multiply as quickly.

My garden  plan includes the following replacements based on recommendations from the New Hope Audubon Society, NC Botanical Garden and the Going Native Website1,2,3:

 Already Removed

Invasive Plant Native Alternative Plant
Mimosa (Albizia julibrissin) Magnolia (Magnolia grandiflora)
Bradford pear (Pyrus calleryana) Eastern Redbud (Cercis canadensis)
Chinese beauty berry (Callicarpa dichotoma) native beauty berry (Callicarpa  americana)
Autumn Olive (Elaeagnus umbellata) Maidenhair fern (Adiantum pedatum)
Japanese Stiltgrass (Microstegium vimineum) Sea Oats (Chasmanthium latifolium)

Stage I Removal of High Threat Invasive Species (Fall, 2018)

Invasive Plant Native Alternative Plant
Chinese wisteria (Wisteria sinensis) crossvine (Bignonia capreolata) or trumpet vine (Campsis radicanas) or Carolina jessamine (Gelsemium sempervirens) and Dwarf fothergilla (Fothergilla gardenii)
Big Leaf Periwinkle (Vinca major) spotted wintergreen (Chimaphila maculata), Frogfruit (Phylla nodiflora), Oakleaf hydrangea (Hydrangea quercifolia), Christmas Fern (Polystichum acrostichoides), Common blue violet (Viola sororia), Crested dwarf iris (Iris cristata)
Heavenly bamboo (Nandina) Florida-hobblebush (Agarista populifolia),  Strawberrybush (Euonymous americanus)/ St. Andrew’s Cross (Hypericum hypericoides)
Japanese honeysuckle (Lonicera japonica) coral honeysuckle (Loncicera sempervirens)/Yellow Passionflower (Passiflora lutea)
English Ivy (Hedera helix) Virginia Creeper (Parthenocissus quinquefolia)
Burning bush (Euonymus alatus) Virginia sweetspire (Itea virginica)/winterberry (Ilex verticillata) /winged sumac (Rhus copallinum)

Stage II Removal (Spring, 2019)

Non-Native Plant Native Alternative Plant
Golden Rain Tree (Koelreuteria paniculata) Black Locust (Robinia pseudoacacia)
Butterfly bush Coastal sweet-pepperbush (Clethra alnifolia)
Japanese privet common wax-myrtle (Morella cerifera)
Morning glory native clematis viorna (Clematis viorna)/milkvine (Matelea carolinensis)
Chinese holly Inkberry (Ilex glabra)/Eastern redcedar (Juniperus virginiana)/ Yaupon holly (Ilex vomitoria)
Forsythia Spicebush (Lindera benzoin)/high bush blueberry (Vaccinium corymbosum)
Grass Rosy Sedge (Carex rosea) and Pink muhly (Muhlenbergia capillaris)
Siberian Iris Scarlet rose-mallow (Hibiscus coccineus)
Liriope (Liriope muscari variegated) Bee balm (Monarda didyma)

Next time you are considering an ornamental plant to add to your landscape why not try a native plant that suits your needs and helps wildlife at the same time? At the very least, don’t plant invasive species like I did. Hopefully in time, I will attract new birds, butterflies and caterpillars. Then I will need a better camera lens to zoom in on all the new flowers and animals!

DSC_8497
Scarlet Rose-Mallow Home garden Photo taken by Wendy Diaz July 25, 2018

DSC_2337
Blue bird next to white oak. Home garden Photo taken by Wendy Diaz May 10, 2017

References:

  1. https://projects.ncsu.edu/goingnative/howto/mapping/invexse/index.html
  2. https://projects.ncsu.edu/goingnative/howto/mapping/nplants/index.php
  3. http://www.newhopeaudubon.org/wp-content/themes/nhas/library/docs/native-plant-growing-guide-piedmont-nc.pdf

More Reading on Invasive Species: 

http://ncbg.unc.edu/uploads/files/PlantThisNotThat.pdf

Where to buy Native Plants:

  1. https://projects.ncsu.edu/goingnative/howto/implemen.html#where
  2. https://growingsmallfarms.ces.ncsu.edu/growingsmallfarms-pollinatorresources/