Category Archives: Ruby-throated Hummingbird

WELCOME TO GOOD HARBOR BEACH!

A surprise meeting with a beautiful female Ruby-throated Hummingbird.

She is drinking nectar from the wildflower Saponaria officinalis. The plant’s many common names include Soapwort, Bouncing-bet, and Wild Sweet William. The name Soapwort stems from its old fashioned use in soap making. The leaves contain saponin, which was used to make a mild liquid soap, gentle enough for washing fine textiles.

Saponaria blooms during the summertime. Although introduced from Eurasia, you can find this wildflower growing in every state of the continental US.

The hummingbird in the clip is a female. She lacks the brilliant red-feathered throat patch, or gorget, of the male. Ruby-throated Hummingbirds are all around us, you just have to know what to plant to bring them to your garden. Mostly they eat tiny insects but if you plant their favorite nectar-providing plants, they will come!

If I could only grow one plant to attract the Ruby-throats, it would be honeysuckle. Not the wonderfully fragrant, but highly invasive, Japanese honeysuckle, but our beautiful native trumpet honeysuckle that flowers in an array of warm-hued shades of Spanish orange (‘John Clayton’), deep ruby red (‘Major Wheeler’), and my very favorite, the two-toned orange and red ‘Dropmore Scarlet.’

Lonicera sempervirens’ Dropmore Scarlet’

Female Ruby-throated Hummingbird drinking nectar from zinnia florets.

Hummingbirds are on the Move!

Hummingbird Feeder ©Kim Smith 2014 copyWith the unseasonably low temperatures, the hummingbird exodus from the north will soon follow. Keep your feeders full of sugar water to help sustain the southward migrants on their long journey to winter destinations.

Hummingbird Rose of Sharon ©Kim Smith 2014

Our resident female Ruby-throated Hummingbird was spotted yesterday, making her rounds nectaring at the Rose-of-Sharon, native honeysuckle, hibiscus, and jewelweed.

Hummingbird Feeder Recipe: 1 Cup water to 1/4 Cup pure granulated sugar. Do not add red food coloring or substitute honey for sugar. Replenish frequently, especially during warm weather.

Apple Street Farm

Apple Street Farm ©Kim Smith 2014Located in Essex, conveniently only a few scenic miles off Route 128, every Saturday from 10am to 2pm the farmstand at Apple Street Farm is open for business. Stopping for fabulous and fresh organically fed free-range eggs, heirloom veggies, fruits, and herbs has become a favorite Saturday morning ritual.

Apple Street Farm tomatoes ©Kim Smith 2014Frank McClelland is the owner of Apple Street Farm. Not only that, he is also the proprietor and chef of one of Boston’s most beloved and famous restaurants, L’Espalier. Apple Street Farm is the primary source of produce, poultry, pork and eggs for L’Espalier.

Apple Street Farm -2 ©Kim Smith 2014Each month throughout the summer and fall Apple Street Farm celebrates seasonal harvests with special dinners held on the farm’s spacious lawn. The five-course dinner is prepared by the L’Espalier chefs and includes cocktails, hors d’oeuvres, and wine pairings. September 5th and 6th is the Fire Pit Fiesta and October 3rd and 4th is the Essex Harvest Feast. Call L’Espalier to make a reservation at 617-262-3023.

Apple Street Farm Pick Your Own ©Kim Smith 2014Pick You Own Flowers

Apple Street Farm hummingbird ©Kim Smith 2014Female Ruby-throated Hummingbird in the Zinnia Patch

Apple Street Farm Goldfinch and Cosmos ©Kim Smith 2014American Goldfinch Eating Cosmos Seeds-A Great Reason NOT to Deadhead!

Farm and poultry shares are available from June through September. For more information about Apple Street Farm’s CSA program, visit their website here.

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Photographing the Nubian goats was a delight. The little ones are very playful and affectionate and, when first let out of their pen in the morning, are super rambunctious. Apple Street Farm’s manger Phoebe explains that Nubian goats are great milking goats and wiki informs that Nubians are known for the high butterfat content of their milk.

Apple Street Farm  Nubian Goat Eating apple©Kim Smith 2014Apples for Breakfast

Apple Street Farm  Nubian Goats ©Kim Smith 2014The Nubians climbed upon each other to reach the fruit and seeds.

Apple Street Farm Eating Catalpa Seeds ©Kim Smith 2014Nubian Goat Eating Catalpa Seedpods

Apple Street Farm Nubian Gots airborn ©Kim Smith 2014JPGSEE MOE PHOTOS HERE Continue reading

Visiting Liv in Brooklyn: Gardens at the HighLine, Battery Park, and The Bosque

Liv Hauck ©Kim Smith 2013Snapshots from a recent trip to Brooklyn and NYC to visit my darling daughter Liv.

We had a wonderful time walking everywhere and dining out. Liv always takes me to the most fun restaurants with fabulously yummy food, and they are never too pricey; the prices are comparable to our favorite Gloucester restaurants.

Native Honeysuckle Lonicera sempervirens High Line NYC ©Kim Smith 2013 copyNative Honeysuckle for the Hummingbirds at the HighLine

For our HarborWalk Gardens, I had wanted to to see what’s in bloom at the HighLine gardens during the late summer and early fall, as well as what was blooming at Piet Oudolf’s designs for the Battery Gardens of Remembrance and The Bosque.

Harlequin Glorybower Clerodendrum trichotomum  ©Kim Smith 2013At the HighLine, we paused for some length at the stunning grove of Japanese Clerodendrum (Clerodendrum trichotomum); whose one of several common names befits it’s great beauty–Harlequin Glorybower Tree. The stop-dead-in-your-tracks-deliciously-fragrant blossoms float atop a canopy of  fluttering leaves. The blooms are similar looking to jasmine flowers, but are even more sweetly scented. A magnet for butterflies and hummingbirds, the tree blooms at a time of year when much of the rest of the garden is winding down. The glorious glorybower is on my wish list for next year and, as it is just barely hardy through zone 6, I’ll find a sheltered and protected spot in which to experiment.

The Bosque Spiral Fountain ©KIm Smith 2013The Spiral Fountain at The Bosque (Spanish for a “grove of trees”), with the Statue of Liberty in the background, Battery Park Park, New York City.

Liv Hauck -1©Kim Smith 2013jpg copy

A grove of Magnolia viginiana at the HighLine

A Hummingbird’s Perspective

Hummingbirds can easily distinguish red contrasted against green.

Trumpeting the Trumpet

Early blooms are an important feature for the vine planted to lure hummingbirds. You want to provide tubular-shaped flowers in shades of red and orange and have your hummingbird feeders hung and ready for the earliest of the northward-migrating scouts. If nothing is available, they will pass by your garden and none will take residence. Hummingbirds can easily distinguish red contrasted against green. We go so far as to plant vivid Red Riding Hood tulips beneath our hummingbird feeders, which hang from the bows of the flowering fruit trees. Although hummingbirds do not nectar from the tulips, the color red draws them into the garden and the flowering fruit trees and sugar water provide sustenance for travel-weary migrants.

Lonicera sempervirens, also called Trumpet and Coral Honeysuckle, is a twining or trailing woody vine native to New England. Trumpet Honeysuckle is not at all fussy about soil and is drought tolerant. Plant in full sun to part shade. If Trumpet Honeysuckle becomes large and ungainly, prune hard to the ground—it grows rapidly and a vigorous pruning will only encourage more flowers.

Lonicera sempervirens John Clayton

‘Major Wheeler’ flowers in a deeper red than that of the carmine of ‘Dropmore Scarlet.’ ‘John Clayton’ is a cheery, cadmium yellow, a naturally occurring variant of Lonicera sempervirens, and was originally discovered growing wild in Virginia. The blossoms of ‘Mandarin’ are a lovely shade of Spanish orange.

Trumpet Honeysuckle has myriad uses in the landscape. Cultivate to create vertical layers, in a small garden especially. Plant Lonicera sempervirens to cover an arbor, alongside a porch pillar or to weave through trelliage. Allow it clamber over an eyesore or down an embankment. Plant at least one near the primary paths of the garden so that you can enjoy the hummingbirds that are drawn to the nectar-rich blossoms. I practically bump into the hummingbirds as they are making their daily rounds through the garden flora. Did you know they make a funny squeaky sound? I began to take notice of their presence in our garden, when at my office desk one afternoon in late summer, with windows open wide, I heard very faint, mouse-like squeaks. I glanced up from my work, fully expecting to see a mouse, and was instead delighted to discover a female Ruby-throat outside my office window, nectaring at the vines. Trumpet Honeysuckle not only provides nectar for the hummingbirds, it also offers shelter and succulent berries for a host of birds.

While planting the summer gardens at Willowdale this past week we observed dozens of Ruby-throated Hummingbirds nectaring at the Trumpet Honeysuckle embowering the courtyard doors.

Lonicera sempervirens is a caterpillar food plant for the Snowberry Clearwing moth.

Rare Albino Ruby-throated Hummingbird

Many thanks to Caroline Haines, the director of Pathways for Children, for forwarding the photos of the rare albino Ruby-throated Hummingbird (Archilochus colubris). The photos were shot by Kevin Shank and four of his sons over a several day period in late August. Caroline has a love for butterflies and birds, and nature in general, and brings her passion to the programing provided for the children at Pathways.

The above photos were taken in Virginia at the beginning of the hummingbird’s annual southward migration; it wouldn’t be unreasonable to think that we may see an albino hummingbird visiting our Cape Ann feeders and flowers as we are in the same migratory corridor.

A true albino hummingbird, as is the above bird, has snowy white plumage and it’s eyes, legs, and bill are pink. True albinos are extraordinarily rare. Leucistic hummingbirds are still rare but are seen more often than true albions. Like the common Ruby-throated Hummingbird, leucistic forms have black, feet, bills, and eyes, but their feathers are some version of white, gray, buffy, and tan; not the typical shades of green.

Leucistic form and common Ruby-throated Hummingbirds

Image courtesy Hilton Pond Center.

Where to Place Your Hummingbird Feeders

Another great hummingbird question from my friend Kate:

Where do you place the feeders? Are they okay out in the open and, if so, do the hummingbirds become too nervous to feed if they can be seen by birds of prey?

Ruby-throated Hummingbirds prefer feeding at a station where they perch and observe the landscape, and then zoom in. Typically, I recommend hanging the feeders on the lower limbs of trees and on shepherd’s hooks close to shrubs and above perennial wildflowers, about four to five feet off the ground.  I haven’t read or heard too much about birds of prey in regard to hummingbirds; they move too fast, however, bluejays are said to attack nestlings. House cats and praying mantis pose a more serious threat to hummingbirds.
Native Honeysuckle Lonicera 'Dromore Scarlet'Native Honeysuckle Lonicera ‘Dropmore Scarlet’
The greatest threat to hummingbirds is development resulting in loss of habitat and nectar-rich wetland plants. By placing hummingbird feeders in the garden during the months when little nectar is available (April, May, and October), creating habitats in our backyards, and planting their preferred nectar-rich wildflowers help mitigate the loss of hummingbird habitat, and greatly increases their chance of survival.