Hummingbirds are on the move!

Don’t take down your hummingbird feeder just yet!

A rufous hummingbird resting in a juniper tree in the author's yard.

The rufous hummingbird has been a frequent visitor to my backyard feeders this summer. In full sunlight, that black patch on his throat flashes an iridescent scarlet like a traffic light!

After a summer of sipping nectar from North American wildflowers and gardens, hummingbirds begin their migration south in September and October. They very much need the supplemental fuel provided by your garden feeder as flower and insect food become scarce in the cooler weather.

Male calliope hummingbird sipping sugar water from a backyard feeder.

The calliope hummingbird is another desert hummingbird species we have enjoyed watching through our window this summer. Notice the long feathers decorating his throat, almost like a beard, or ornate collar.

If you missed out on attracting hummingbirds to your backyard this spring, fall is an excellent opportunity to set up a feeding station to observe these cheeky little warriors up close.

Calliope hummingbird at a feeder, with violet feathers catching the light.

This shows off the violet iridescent color of the calliope hummingbird’s feathers.

The classic sugar : water ratio is 1/4 cup sugar to 1 cup water. As the weather gets chillier, I like to bump that up to 1/3 cup sugar per cup of water. This gives the little birds an extra boost to keep warm and build their energy stores for the long flight ahead to South America.

Learn more about hummingbird gardens here:

Learn more about hummingbird migration here:

Things I’d like to paint: The common five-lined skink

The 5-lined skink has a bright blue tail when it's a juvenile.

That electric blue tail really stands out, doesn’t it? You can see why one of the common names for this lizard is sand scorpion.

This attractive little fellow was crawling around on the brick wall of my mother’s home in Arkansas. The tail really is that electric blue!

When I asked my parents about it, they both said it was called the “sand scorpion.” Its more current name is the common five-lined skink, or Plestiodon fasciatus. It’s one of the more common lizards in Arkansas, with a very healthy population all over the state.

This one is a juvenile. Once it becomes an adult, it will lose the bright blue coloring and have the duller dark-brown and light-yellow stripes all over its back with a buffy belly.

Resources:

  • Herps of Arkansas (herp is a nickname for herpetofauna, or reptiles and amphibians!)

My mother’s thumb is viridian green

My mother is quite a gardener and plant whisperer. Her house is full of 6-foot philodendrons and unusual succulents received as gifts and raised from tiny teacup pots to unruly giants.

My mother has raised a coffee tree for years, but you need many beans to make a cup of joe!

Juan Valdez and his coffee farm in the Colombian Andes have some competition from my mother, who grows her coffee tree in her bedroom in the foothills of the Ozarks.

Despite her advanced age, she still manages a minimal version of the massive garden she once cultivated with my stepfather. She now admits that on days she works in the garden, she no longer feels guilty about not taking a walk.

A basket of ripe tomatoes and cucumbers from my mother's garden.

My mother and stepdad no longer raise the entire seed catalog of vegetables, but tomatoes, cucumbers, eggplants and peppers are still a must!

She still keeps a flower bed, and laments all the beautiful shrubs she had to leave behind when she and my stepdad moved to be closer to my step-bro.

Coleus and out of bloom tiger lilies take up much of my mother's flower border this year.

Doesn’t that coleus look like an advertisement for the Burpee seed catalog? Tiger lilies on the right are over 6 foot tall!

No one else in the family has quite the same gardening skills as my mother. My older sister comes close. If my mother has an emerald-green thumb, mine is ivory black, as I have killed a rain forest of houseplants over the years.

I always love visiting my mother and stepdad in the summer!

 

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