Anna’s Hummingbird and First Ice Storm

The first ice storm of the season brings an inch or two of cold glass wrapping around every exposed surface making road travel and walking conditions treacherous to impossible. And the birds have a hard time reaching food as they struggle to remove seeds encased in ice.

This morning's ice drip.
This morning’s ice drip.

 

At first light I strap on my Alaskan ice cleats, spin the lids on the birdseed bins, plunge the plastic scoop into the dry, slippery bits, and pour millet, nyjer, peanuts, and sunflower chips onto four platform feeders hanging in the Elderberry shrub. The Stellar’s Jays are first to arrive. I presume it’s the same pair that visits every day shortly after daybreak. They take as much seed as they can hold in their gular pouch, and then fly off, and I won’t see them again until the next morning.

Heavy duty Alaska cleats.

Medium duty cleats; I hike with these and muck the stall and paddock wearing the black boots with the big cleats.

 

Though ice-fog surrounds the farmhouse creating poor visibility, festive activity springs from the shrub outside the kitchen window as over one hundred songbirds pounce on the feed covering the platforms and on the ground.

 

But, it’s an Anna’s Hummingbird’s arrival that truly makes the show for me. This bird comes every morning after it has stirred from its torpor (a strategy hummingbirds use to slow their body processes by 95% to survive cold nights), and it drinks some warm nectar in a red feeder I’ve hung from a branch. The Anna’s stays around the feeder for thirty minutes and then zooms off, and I don’t see it again until just before dark when it returns and takes several long sips to fortify itself before the long-cold hours ahead.

Anna's Hummingbird resting on an Elderberry branch just shortly after daybreak.
Anna’s Hummingbird resting on an Elderberry branch just shortly after daybreak.
Anna's Hummingbird coming in for nectar after surviving the cold night.
Anna’s Hummingbird coming in for nectar after surviving the cold night.

 

I was worried that by keeping nectar available I might be preventing the hummer from migrating, but this is not the case according to the Seattle Audubon Society. The Anna’s Hummingbird in the Pacific Northwest often does not migrate, but chooses instead to overwinter. It survives by lapsing into torpor and also by having a diverse diet. Anna’s eat insects and spiders in addition to flower nectar. According to Gregory Green a wildlife ecologist who writes for BirdWatching Magazine, these wintering hummingbirds seize flying insects from the air, “steal captured insects from spider webs, and pluck trapped insects from tree sap.” Wow, they are quite clever, so it’s no wonder a smile rises when I see an Anna’s busily drinking nectar from my feeder, because I know this tiny creature has just survived another night where the temperature dropped below 30 degrees.

Author’s Note:

I bring my hummingbird feeder inside at night, and then put it back outside just after dawn. I found a link on the Seattle Audubon Society’s website  for heated hummingbird feeders — here is the link, if you are interested.  Hummers Heated Delight

Here is the link to both types of ice cleats —Medium duty Stabilicer cleats

Stabilicer Heavy Duty Traction Cleats

Which cleats should you get? It depends on what type of shoes or boots you will ear them with and also what you will be doing. if you are just going to the grocery store, then you may be able to make do with light duty cleats that pull on over loafers. But, if you are working around the yard , barn , or even walking to the mailbox, and it super icy– you need the orange or black cleats that you pull on  or strap onto boots. The orange cleats are probably best for most unless you work outside a lot like I do, and you want to hike in icy, snowy conditions.

12 thoughts on “Anna’s Hummingbird and First Ice Storm

  1. So good to have you back with your rich words, Sher! I’ve been worrying about people who feed hummingbirds through the winter, so this was really good info for me. I’m way milder here in Puget Sound and have been seeing a hummingbird in my abelia bush in the mornings–it still has some blossoms.

    1. So good to have you back with your rich words, Sher! I’ve been worrying about people who feed hummingbirds through the winter, so this was really good info for me. I’m way milder here in Puget Sound and have been seeing a hummingbird in my abelia bush in the mornings–it still has some blossoms. Mary — thank you! I just heard today that my neighbor is bringing in his hummingbird feeder at night and putting it out early the next day just like I am doing. And he has Anna’s Hummingbirds too! I think we are both going to look into that heated hummingbird feeder. For me , I need a lower maintenance feeder for when my farm sitter is here. You might want to consider feeding in the winter. 🙂

    1. Wow, I never knew about Anna’s Hummingbirds. Amazing little creatures to slow their body down so much. Thanks for the lovely post. Hi Dagny:
      This has been something new for me to learn also as I have never had an Anna’s this late at our farm. But, as I mentioned to another commenter– my neighbor has Anna’s also this year, and he is bringing in his feeders at night too. 🙂 So, I am not the only one in this area seeing wintering hummingbirds.

    1. Thank you for the cold weather hummer information. May you be blessed this holiday season. Yes, and thank you for taking the time to read the entry. Happy Holidays and may you and Ted be well.

    1. Fun reading, Sher. I especially liked reading about the donkey’s first night. Hi Debby– thank you for reading my blog, and I appreciate your comments too. Happy Holidays to you! Someday you may want to meet those donkeys!!!

  2. It seems a number of us are feeding the Anna’s. We have at least two here and they just about spend more time chasing each other away than they do drinking the nectar. I find that the more nectar in the feeder, the lower the temperature can be before it freezes. It has not frozen yet even with temps down to 19 degrees. I also bring it in at night as I don’t have an electric outlet nearby. I do appreciate your link to the heaters.

    1. It seems a number of us are feeding the Anna’s. We have at least two here and they just about spend more time chasing each other away than they do drinking the nectar. I find that the more nectar in the feeder, the lower the temperature can be before it freezes. It has not frozen yet even with temps down to 19 degrees. I also bring it in at night as I don’t have an electric outlet nearby. I do appreciate your link to the heaters. Great story Paula- I am so glad to know about your hummingbirds! It’s neat to know we are all doing this, and I bet there are others in The Dalles who are the feeding the Anna’s too. Or maybe my little Anna’s is making some big rounds during the day and visiting you all. That’s what Bruce said. 🙂

    1. Great info and wonderful to hear about the activities your spending time on. I know you’re also reading a lot! Thanks Karen! It’s nice to be connected through books too! Thanks for reading my post and checking in. Sher

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