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Hummingbird Decoy Works!

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Along about Christmastime 2017, a package arrived from my new friend Susan Rankin-Pollard, a wonderful artist who specializes in picture book illustration.  See her amazing work on her Instagram account here. We'd met at a Highlights retreat where I was teaching, then been to Ecuador together for Sue's first real bird expedition. She was bitten hard by the birding bug, and what a place to receive one's baptism! In the box were some amazing ginger snaps from the Carolina Cookie Company, plus some lovely gewgaws that brought me joy. One of them appeared to be a hummingbird decoy. Well, maybe it was meant as  a Christmas ornament, but I decided to hang it outside this summer, hoping to attract hummingbirds.

 I am here to say it worked! I'm sure I'd never have had any hummingbirds on the cardinalflower unless that decoy had been doing its job. 

No way would they have checked out Pelargonium "Happy Thought" unless I'd hung the decoy.

When I see this, I imagine the bird going Neeerrrrrrroooooowwwww! under its breath.

Seriously though, I stare out the window a lot. Much less so this summer, because I'm nose to the grindstone on 20 watercolor paintings for Saving Jemima. They aren't just vignettes--they're full bleed full page chapter head illustrations. And they're SUCH FUN and SO AWESOME to do. I was meant to paint blue jays doing interesting stuff in cool settings. So lately I look at my work a lot more.  I've got a brutal deadline of October 1 to finish them, and September is just a hash of travel and speaking engagements and sending my kids off to far-away places. But that's life--it's what happens around the deadlines you set for yourself, that seem perfectly reasonable when you set them.

Thanks I'm sure to the bejeweled hummingbird decoy that brings them in to my gardens from far and wide, I see hummingbirds doing cool stuff every time I look up, and every once in awhile I raise the big rig and bang away at them. 

Caught this little feller flying backerds with rotational scoops of his tiny wings. Like backpaddling a canoe. That's really hard to do with anything but a hummingbird wing, because unlike most birds, the movable part of a hummingbird's wing is reduced to just the wrist and hand. If you're not at work and won't get stared at, spread your arms out to the sides and pretend you're a big hawk flying backward with rapid backstrokes. Doesn't work very well. It's hard. Now pull your elbows in tight to your sides so only your hand sticks out. Now pretend you're flying backerds. Works better when you can rotate the wrist, doesn't it? Psst...that's how they manage all those aerobatics. They fly with their hands.

The garden this time of year is dominated by juvenile rubythroats who are moving through on migration. It seems most of the adults have already migrated. Juvenile hummingbirds are really fun to watch, because they do funny, cute stuff. They're lazy, and like to see how many cardinalflower blossoms they can reach from the couch without having to fly. Mothers of teens will recognize this behavior.

But there's this thing they've been doing, that I've been trying to capture with my camera for weeks upon weeks. When they're done with a feeding bout, they fly up and for a micro nano split second they pay homage to the bejeweled hummingbird god that hangs just east of the cardinalflower bed.

I finally got some craptastic photos of the behavior. Since it's over almost before it starts, I have to prefocus on the ornament and wait for the bird to approach it. Because I have to shoot through a window which has bird netting over it, autofocus goes wild, focusing on everything but the bird, and most of the time I don't even get the ornament, much less the bird; I get great photos of the lawn behind the scene.

But I did get a few crummy-but-cute shots, and I wanted to share them with you.

Touching its wing

Checking out the other wing

 Flying together

and my favorite, lightly kissing its head.

 Knowing hummingbirds as I do, I'm pretty sure this juvenile is licking the ornament to try to figure out what it's all about. These are bad photos, but I'm happy to document the behavior, because I find it so predictable and endearing. It's not just one hummingbird that does it--they all do it.

So hang yourself a hummingbird decoy, and see what magic happens in your garden! This post is for Sue and Phil, with all best wishes on the move to OHIO!! Wahoo!! Smart move, if you ask me. Thanks for the decoy. It works!!

ZICK ALERT: The Rain Crows have a gig coming right up. 
 Blennerhassett Hotel, Parkersburg WV, Friday, Aug. 31, 7 pm.  We'll be in the beautiful Rose Garden if it's nice, in the sumptuous leather lounge if it's not; either way it'll be awesome. We have Matt First of the Sunset Roosters on guitar!! 


Gotta get me one of those! This is so cool and fun, and big hummingbird migration time is coming, yippee! Thanks, Miss Julie. Love the photos.

We have one of those but I didn't think of putting it outside.
We currently have 4 feeders and about 15 hummers in the yard.
How many would there be with a deco?

And it's not even red! Go figure!! The photos were gorgeous!!

How can you tell if a ruby-throated hummingbird is juvenile or not

Hey Miz Julie! Had a juvie the other night who apparently was seeing a hummingbird feeder for the first time. Or maybe just mine and needed to check it out thoroughly. It started at the ant trap up top, checked out the dried contents, then slowly descended to the feeding level, did some feeding without landing on the perch and then rocketed off.



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