Tiny creatures create lasting memories

Contributing writerJuly 21, 2013 

Anna's hummingbird

Anna's hummingbird

U.S. FISH AND WILDLIFE SERVICE — THE NEWS TRIBUNE (TACOMA)

Combine one butterfly bush with one birdbath. Add one Anna’s hummingbird and you have your morning entertainment.

There are those moments when a yard’s ingredients create some winning combinations. It all began when a hummingbird began hovering close to the birdbath. At the time, the bath was being dominated by a possessive chestnut-backed chickadee. When the chickadee finally finished its ablutions, the hummer continued to hold back. An American goldfinch wanted a drink of water fresh from the dripper on the bath’s edge.

Once the coast was clear, the hummer began flirting with the water. Much the way many hummers sip frantically at a feeder, this one made quick short feints toward the water. It wanted so much to take a bath, but to a hummingbird this was a huge bathtub. He eventually settled down with both tiny, tiny feet firmly planted on the bath’s rim. Then he proceeded to drink and drink for an extended period of time. His thirst quenched, he began to bathe.

His actions were similar to those of baby bushtits when they take their first bath. A lot of wiggling and wing-waving takes place, but almost no water flies. Just getting his feet wet was all it took to bring on action resembling a bathing frenzy. Then he “stepped” into the water. It was exciting to watch this little mite bathing like one of the big guys. Compared with the nonstop dunking robin when it bathes, this bath was short. Just the same, it was a real bath in a bird bath. At this point, I am convinced this hummer felt it owned the yard.

Our butterfly bush didn’t get cut back this year. The reason was procrastination and curiosity. It is a variety that is supposed to grow very tall, but annual pruning appeared to inhibit its height. It did eventually get tall – about 15 feet and almost as wide. The other question concerned the profusion or lack of blooms. Old wood, new wood – I never remember the correct combination. It is covered with the large, pink blossoms that first attracted me to it. In short, this bush looks the best it has ever looked in at least 10 years. Of course the butterflies love it, but so do the hummers.

Happily, it is large enough to produce enough blossoms to keep everyone happy. When more than one hummingbird will feed in the vicinity of another, it’s special for our yard. Not only do the Anna’s feed with others of its species, but the rufous and the Anna’s can be on this bush at the same time.

There is a sense of satisfaction when watching hummingbirds feed on the flowers for nectar while knowing an abundance of tiny insects is tucked within those flowers. The birds can consume their drink of quick energy and get the much-needed protein that is the mainstay in their diet.

Thanks to the birds that frequent our yard, seedlings are always popping up in the flower beds. Even when I don’t recognize them, I can’t resist potting them up to see what they are. One seedling potted up in early spring is now about 6 feet tall. It is a butterfly bush and it is going to bloom. I am keeping my fingers crossed it is an offspring of my favorite.

If I remember correctly, the name of this butterfly bush is “Pink Delight.” When I consider the entertainment it sets the stage for and its beauty, the name seems perfect. It is a delight to enjoy my morning coffee and the antics of hummers in the bird bath and in the butterfly bush. Here’s hoping it has offspring that will do the same.

Write to Joan Carson, PO Box 217, Poulsbo, WA 98370. Include a self–addressed, stamped envelope for a reply or email joanpcarson@comcast.net.

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