A relatively easy way to bring wildlife to your yard or apartment window is to get a hummingbird feeder. There are many styles of feeders available. Ours hangs from a branch in the middle of our vegetable garden, but you can hang them from plant hangers right outside your windows, as well. You can also get ones that stake into the ground or suction cup to windows if you don't have a place for a hanger. A quick Internet search will reveal the hundreds of options available, but I recommend taking a trip to your local garden center to find one. The folks who work there will likely be knowledgeable about local hummingbirds and will be able to help you choose the feeder that's best for you. If you want a fancy hand-blown glass feeder, you can also find those in local gift shops.
Most experts recommend setting feeders up by mid-May here in New England, so you may not get any visitors if you do it now. You never know, though. I only set ours up last weekend and the steady flow of hummers started a day later. If you live in another part of the country or overseas, the feeding times will likely be different than here. In tropical areas you can feed them year-round. At a year-round feeder in Ecuador, a hummer landed on my finger when I stood very still nearby.
Kids love to watch these tiny birds zip around the yard and dip into the feeders to eat. Once hummers start visiting your feeder, your kids will be able to notice patterns in their feeding times. Challenge them to predict when the birds will come. I snapped my photos yesterday by sitting very quietly around the time when I knew the Ruby Throated Hummingbirds would arrive. Sure enough, minutes later, there they were.
If your kids are also inclined, they could start keeping a nature journal in which they record how many hummers they see, when they see them, how long they stay, what flowers they visit etc. (FYI...Hummers are especially drawn to red, tube-shaped flowers. Planting those in your garden will increase your hummingbird visitors. In our yard, cleome, and later trumpet vines, are the big draw). Artistically inclined kids can do their best to draw them. If the birds move too fast to draw, ask kids to draw the hummers' flight patterns using squiggly or dotted lines. Encourage linguistic learners to write poems or descriptions of the birds. More active kids can emulate the hummers quick movements with their bodies or create a dance that represents their movements. Have a musician on your hands? Have him compose a short song that captures the feeling of the hummers' movements. The possibilities are endless. Break out of the traditional school-like kind of responses and have fun!
By watching closely over a period of time, kids can make their own inferences about hummingbird behavior and then supplement their learning with books or articles. I strongly encourage you to let your children explore, observe, and make inferences before you go to "expert" resources. I am a writer, so I value books tremendously, but this blog focuses on "mucking about" to learn things on your own, first, after all! When you are ready for more information, here are some books you might try:
Do any of you have hummingbird feeders? Where do you live? Have they been active this year? Do you know what species you've been seeing? What strategies have you found work for attracting them to your yard? Do you have a book to recommend? Please share.
Books entertain. Enlighten. Comfort. Educate.
The best examples connect us.
Dreamers by @YuyiMorales is one of those books. Yesterday, I had time at Barnes and Noble while my daughter was off with friends. I went to the picture book section to see what’s new. Dreamers was on prominent display. I read it and my eyes filled with tears at the beauty & longing & sadness & joy all wrapped into one story.
I bought it and went to @Mirasolscafe to write. I worked diligently for a while until a man sat down, said “hello,” & asked how my day was.
At first, I was a little annoyed. I was working. I didn’t want to chat. But for some reason, I set my work aside to talk with him. During a lull in the noise, I noticed his accent. He asked what I was doing. “Researching.” He asked what that word means. I did my best to explain. I answered his questions about my research for Flying Deep. He told me he is uneducated, but he is going to elementary school to learn English. He recently read his first book.
When he mentioned his childhood, I asked where he grew up. Mexico. I had to tell him about Dreamers: it felt so relevant, especially since English books are now in his grasp. I tried to describe it but realized I needed to show it to him. How could he hear about the book & not see its gorgeous images? I told him I would get it from my car.
I told him to take a look while I went to the ladies’ room. When I came out, he was looking page by page. He said, “This is a good book.” We talked about the word resplendent. He told me the Spanish translation (resplandeciente) while I apologized for not being able to speak Spanish.
I learned that his son has a 3 year-old son. I asked if he would be able to get the book to his grandson. He said, “yes.” I gave it to him.
Then he switched & spoke to me in Spanish. He asked my name. Michelle. I asked his. Pedro. We shook hands, thanked each other for the conversation, & said good-bye. Our time was up. I had to pick up my daughter.
I could have talked longer, but somehow that chance meeting also felt perfect just as it was.
Thank you @yuyimorales for the gift of your book.
Lumpia: little packages of deliciousness. Lumpia is a Filipino food I loved when I lived in Cebu. (I didn’t love it as much as pancit or milk fish sisig, but I loved it). A Filipina named Maria, who lives in Galena, AK, made them for me when I was visiting last month. (My friend asked her to make them for me). I was happy to speak a little Cebuano with Maria and eat her Alaskan version of lumpia which was made with a combination of moose meat and pork. #pinoy
We spent our final days in Alaska with our friends at their home in a village called Galena. Galena is west of Fairbanks and is “off the road system,” which means you can only get there by plane this time of year. (When the Yukon River freezes over, they can drive up the river). We spent quality time with our friends and our kids got to know each other. The kids also had little adventures of their own such as paddling a raft across the Yukon River, which you see in these photos. You’ll also see me prepping to go up with our friend in his bush plane, a view from the air, and some veggies in their huge garden. (Our friends prefer not to post pics on social media, so I’m only sharing a few pics in which their kids are far off and not identifiable).
I love this quirky #streetart Made me smile last night in Historic downtown New Bedford, MA.
#HatchStreetStudios in New Bedford has open studios the second Saturday of every month. The building is home to a variety of talented visual and performing artists, including a clown. Yesterday she taught my daughter to spin plates. We also viewed gorgeous art, joined in on a ukulele strumming session, ate some good food from Destination Soups, and watched various other musicians perform. Sharing space with so many creative people is invigorating.
Great day yesterday at #hatchstreetstudios . A day filled with art, music, and community. This is the New Time String Band from @southcoastlessons performing. (My whole family has taken lessons with Jeff on guitar, bass, piano, ukulele, and banjo. Of course, he teaches fiddle, too. He’s wonderful. He’s also enrolling new students now).
Alaska Photos, part 3 (2nd attempt). Something wonky happened to yesterday’s post and the kayaking photos didn’t appear. So here they are. The one of my family on land features the Valdez Glacier behind us.
Alaska, Part 3: Rafting and Kayaking
We rafted on the Copper River and kayaked among icebergs in Valdez in a glacial lake that is 600 feet (183 meters) deep. I wasn’t able to take photos while rafting, but here are a couple from shore. The drive into Valdez is spectacular, so I’ve included a few pics of that along with pics in Valdez proper and while kayaking. #nature
Alaska Photos, Part 2.
We spent three nights at our friends’ cabin about 30 minutes outside of Fairbanks. The last time we visited, they didn’t have power in the cabin. Now there is power, but there’s still no running water or centralized heat (there’s a wood stove and a space heater). My family loved this peaceful location that felt miles from everything. If we didn’t know where the cabin was, we wouldn’t have found it. We literally parked on the side of the dirt road and slipped into a narrow trail that wasn’t obvious from the road. My two favorite things about the place: 1. Nearly every square inch of ground is covered with moss, lichen, mushrooms, or low plants. 2. The silence there on an August afternoon or evening is absolute. This is so different from home. My daughter commented on it many times. When we got home, the insect night sounds at our house seemed deafening! (Swipe left for more images. The last video with the black screen is the sounds here at home right now. Turn up the volume). #nature #peaceful
My family spent a couple of weeks in Alaska. This is a sampling of shots taken with my phone at Denali National Park and Preserve. (I posted my SLR photos on FB if you wish to see them. That post is public). #nature #getoutside #nationalparks