Exuberant hummingbirds are a garden highlight


There isn’t much to look at in our garden unless our beat-up asters and anemones produce an autumn show, so right now we’re spending our time watching the birds. That’s actually hummingbirds since they’re zooming around everywhere, sometimes at break-neck speeds.

These aren’t the resident hummingbirds that raised families here this year. Those took off a couple of weeks ago, and hummingbird sightings dropped off for a while. But at the beginning of the month, it was hard to not see hummingbirds in yards all over the neighborhood. These birds are juveniles making their way south for the first time. They aren’t looking for breeding territories yet. But like many teens, they’re easily distracted, so while they’re stopped to refuel they’re also interested in impressing their peers, and that makes quite a show for us.

Lunch on the patio puts us in the middle of the aerial acrobatics.

The show starts when a little male stops for a snack at the feeder pinned to our table umbrella.

He’s so close to us we can see the tiny ruby flicks of his first throat feathers — my husband calls them “five o’clock shadows.”

After a couple of fast flicks of the tongue to sip sugar water, the little bird is off.

Minutes later, two hummers shoot under the umbrella within inches of my nose, pull up to avoid the cannas by the pond and disappear into the neighbor’s yard.

Hummingbirds perch in the potted fig trees, the nearby lilacs and sometimes right on the back of the empty chair next to us.

We can spot a half dozen of them at a glance.

There are a couple of mature hummers around, too.

They methodically work the white hosta flowers and the fuchsia blossoms around the patio.

If wasps are on the feeders, they chase them off and return for a leisurely sip before winging away.

The boys, however, are obsessed with a bunch of ‘Black and Blue’ salvias.

Most of the aerial dogfights are sparked by battles over the dark blue blossoms. One hummer sips a few flowers and is immediately dive-bombed by a second bird.

They also squabble over the blue passion flowers covering the vegetable garden arch.

The aggression level is low this time of year.

There’s something playful about all the uproar, so maybe that’s why the blue flowers are the favorites.

A couple of boys practice their mating flights, swinging in front of the lilacs.

And even the attackers in the salvia battles let the other birds snack for awhile.

Real territorial behavior means a lost rufous hummingbird is visiting.

I usually worry about these strays since many of them are lost and head north, fatally confused. But the last time we had a guest Rufous, ours disappeared the same day a Rufous turned up in a garden in Mequon.

I think it was the same little bird, finally getting the message to move south.

After refueling and resting, the hummers now in the yard will leave on the northeast wind, making room for others in need of food and rest.

This is the best time to observe hummingbirds, and this year there are a lot of them putting on a show in Port.

With my perennials in tatters, the tiny birds are, by far, the most beautiful sight in the garden.



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Ozaukee Press

Wisconsin’s largest paid circulation community weekly newspaper. Serving Port Washington, Saukville, Grafton, Fredonia, Belgium, as well as Ozaukee County government. Locally owned and printed in Port Washington, Wisconsin.

125 E. Main St.
Port Washington, WI 53074
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