Spring and Little Brown Birds
My friend Sean loves to garden and planting Marigolds by seed was one of his rituals every year. Also a ritual is the pillaging of Sean’s marigold seedling garden by the ’Little Brown Birds” that fly through Kamloops each spring.
The Sparrow family is a large group of relatively small birds that include Towhees, Juncos and Longspurs. All of them have short conical bills for cracking seeds and many can be seen foraging by scratching the ground for food. Many of these little brown birds are making their way to the North Country but we get to enjoy the activity in the yard and the beautiful song during their journey. We have the Dark Eyed Junco all year but there are a number of sparrows that we only see in the spring/summer; Fox Sparrow, Song Sparrow, and the White Crowned Sparrow to name a few. Ground tray feeders are best but they are also happy to pick up leavings from feeders hanging in the trees. Sunflower chips are popular as well as Nyjer seed; both will be completely eaten leaving no spoilage or sprouting seeds. At Art Knapp’s we carry feeders and seed specific to many of the birds here in Kamloops so drop by and check out our expanded bird section.
Hummingbirds in the Garden
Spring is a wonderful time of year not only because of the flowers but all our winged friends return from the south. The most fascinating of the returnees is the hummingbird. I remember having a friend from Australia visiting and the exclamation “what is that!” upon seeing the bird at the deck feeder. Hummingbirds are totally American in distribution (North and South) so it is a real treat for our international visitors to see them in action. And action they do in spades for its ability to hover, fly backward and forward is unique in the bird kingdom.
Attracting hummingbirds to the backyard can be as simple as hanging a sugar- water feeder with a red lure. The sugar water mixture is 1 part sugar to 4 parts water and boiled for 5 minutes with the excess solution being stored in the fridge for future use. Art Knapp’s carries a number of feeders from the utilitarian to the bejeweled, those that are dishwasher safe, ant-proof and spill-proof. Nesting materials will also draw in the birds, cattail fluff, dog hair and cotton batting are favourites. One side advantage of the hummingbird feeder is the attraction of house finches to the sugar water. By removing the yellow wasp guard the house finches will empty a feeder in days and we can observe the male finch feeder the female in spring courtship (the equivalent of a flower bouquet!)
Gardeners may want to plant the flowers that hummingbirds find attractive, usually red or orange in colour and/or tubular in shape. In my yard the big hits are agastache, bee balm, coral bells, hostas, catmints and foxgloves. The Shubert chokecherry tree vibrates with the sound of hummingbirds and the fragrance is one I look forward to every year. Honeysuckles (vining and bushes), currants and Saskatoons will do double duty for the bird and for the kitchen counter.
Keep an eye open, clean out the feeders and get the nesting material out in the yard and the hummingbirds will return year after year to amuse and entertain. Can’t find your old feeder? Visit our expanded bird department for all your birding needs.
A rare Albino Hummingbird