April 26, 2012 in Washington Voices

Hummingbird takes wing after riding out Spokane winter

Pat Munts
 

Annabelle, an Anna’s hummingbird, sits in a bush in December outside Jim and Sheryl White’s home.
(Full-size photo)

Annabelle, the Anna’s hummingbird that was caught in Spokane for the winter, and had adopted Sheryl and Jim Whites’ feeder, finally took off on April 1. When she did though, she left a very big but grateful hole in their hearts.

Since I first wrote about her, she continued to come in to their feeders earlier and earlier each morning to drink and then spend the day hawking for bugs. According to Sheryl, she left on March 4 for three days after staying close to the feeder for several days prior. When she showed up again her feathers were rumpled and she was hungry. Sheryl suspects she tried to leave during our early warm spell and returned to safety when the weather changed. Hummingbirds supposedly remember where every food source is on their journeys.

But the Whites weren’t ready for her to go and were much relieved to have her back. They knew the time would come when instinct would take over and Annabelle would go but just not yet. Sure enough, on March 30, she started staying close to the feeders again; eating bugs and resting in the lilac bush so the Whites could really see her up close.

“We suspected something was up. On April 1 she came for her (morning) feeding and left,” Sheryl White wrote in an email. “This time, even though we hoped she’d stay until May, we knew it was time and we could let her go with the feeling we did our part and she was on to find a mate and build her nest.

“But I will tell you, we have learned so much from this little bird; not only about her species and habits but how you can learn to struggle through the wind, snow and temperatures (that) she pushed through and the rainbow that is at the other end,” Sheryl White wrote. “She taught our grandkids and their classmates a lot about nature and left a hole in our hearts but a smile on our faces. We would love her to show up in the fall just so we know (but) we really hope she does not as next winter may not be so kind no matter what we do to feed her.”

Annabelle’s departure from the Whites’ feeder is a reminder to the rest of us that the spring hummingbird migration is on its way. Historically this weekend is when they show up at my feeders. So it’s time to prepare for them.

To make hummingbird nectar, mix one part white sugar with four parts water. Warm it to dissolve the sugar. Don’t put any kind of food coloring in the mix; it has a detrimental effect on the birds. Instead rely on the red color that comes on most feeders. Hang the feeder out of the sun but where the birds can fly in easily and you can watch. Change the nectar every three to five days depending on the temperature. Once they find it, they will be here until early September. That is, unless Annabelle shows up at your house next fall.

Pat Munts has gardened in the Spokane Valley for more than 35 years. She can be reached at pat@inlandnwgardening.com.


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