Missing your hummingbirds? Hummers come and go as they please

The birds are important pollinators of wild and agricultural plants, as well as those in gardens.

Lake Stevens resident Barbara Foster had an abandonment issue.

“I have had hummingbirds at my two feeders for several years, 12 months of the year. Now they have disappeared. Can you give me some idea about what is happening?”

Hummingbirds come and go as they please, sometimes with little rhyme or reason to us. I have a photo of eight hummingbirds swirling around a five-hole feeder six or seven years ago. I haven’t seen those numbers since.

It could be a bad storm with high winds that pushed large numbers of them to another part of their range during migration north. It could be destruction of their overwintering habitat in the south. It could be that “your” hummers found an attractive set of blooming flowers or flowering wild currants before they reached you.

Maybe the climate change is creating a different set of feeding opportunities when they fly north.

One reason might be pesticides. A just-released study by Canadian researchers found that hummingbirds living near blueberry fields in British Columbia accumulate pesticides. Hummingbirds are important pollinators of wild and agricultural plants, as well as those on decks and in gardens.

The good news is that Barbara’s hummingbirds are back.

“I got new feeders and they also love a big patch of juicy red flowers, so all is well.”

She also sees swallows nesting under docks and in boathouses (I bet not everyone is happy about the latter location), as well as pigeons in the boathouses.

“I have been feeding crows for several years, and they have their big babies out now and they just scream at the moms to continue feeding them. It seems to take a long while for them to cut the cord!”

Vulture fan. Stanwood resident Michael Wooten recently had a close encounter with a turkey vulture.

“I really enjoyed your Sunday article about the (turkey vultures), and thought you might enjoy my recent experience. I was in the Yakima River Canyon when I came across this TV fighting with two magpies right alongside the road. I’ve seen plenty of TVs in flight, but I had never seen one sitting on the ground and about 50 feet away.

“I came to a quick stop, grabbed my camera and started shooting. The TV stayed on the ground for a short minute, then took off over the river. They really are quite magnificent birds, especially in flight, and they certainly do their job well,” he wrote in an email.

Park planning. Washington State Parks will update community members and interested park visitors on the next phase of recreation planning for Wallace Falls State Park at a public meeting at the Sultan City Hall from 6 to 8 p.m. July 18.

Invitation. Take a moderate 20-mile bike ride on July 21 that includes the historic 2-mile-long tunnel at Snoqualmie Pass, then along the Palouse to Cascades Trail. Registration is $40, which covers shuttle costs and other expenses. Go to mtsgreenway.org for all the details.

Hurricane Ridge. A rehabilitation project on popular Hurricane Hill Trail is underway. It will affect parts of three summer seasons. It will include improving the first 0.4 miles to federal accessibility standards. The trail will be open on a rotating basis through the Labor Day holiday, but the trail parking area will be closed.

Trail closure dates for the summer are through July 18, July 25 to Aug. 1, Aug. 8-15, and Aug. 22-29.

For current trail and road information, go to nps.gov/olym.

On the bookshelf. “Colors of the West: An Artist’s Guide to Nature’s Palette” by Molly Hashimoto opens with sections on the art of observation, palette colors of the West and how to get started painting, followed by six sections covering six colors.

Watercolor paintings are featured throughout the book. Hashimoto sprinkles brief information on an animal or plant, painting techniques, an occasional look at “artist heroes,” as well as her sense of the location.

This is a peaceful book that honors artist as well as place.

Columnist Sharon Wootton can be reached at 360-468-3964 or songandword@rockisland.com.

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