Sunday, December 14, 2008
BATHING BIRDS AND HUNGRY HONEYBEES
OK, the animal life around my home has now successfully trained me to 1) wake up, 2) feed domestic animals, 3) feed wildlife, which now involves, a) add food to (what has now become) a various assortment of wildlife feeders, b) rinse and fill the bird bathing area with clean water, c) put out some deer chow around the trails, and d) (as of today) tend to honeybee feeding stations! I have to admit, this is getting a little bit ridiculous! I feel like the local Mother Nature sanctuary! But I have brought this on myself, the wildlife is not forcing me to do it..... :)
I am totally sure that anyone who is not a nature nut like me would undoubtedly think I was CRAZY if they followed me through my winter morning routine! We actually have metal garbage cans set up along the front porch containing all of the various feeds and scoops and buckets and whatever else needed to accommodate a host of feathered, furry, and other assorted flying, buzzing, or crawling friends. It is a lot of extra work everyday and the money expenditures add up, but it makes me happy to see the wildlife eating, and bathing, staking out territory and vocalizing to each other all over the place everyday! So while I know it probably seems nutty, I still keep doing it and when I'm done I sit back and reap my reward by watching all of these totally neat and unique species display their exquisite behaviors for me!
This morning was no exception and since it was a fairly nice day all of the resident birds decided it was BATH TIME!!! Now, I don't mean that only one bird or one species gets cleaned up on bath day around here. THEY ALL LINE UP (!) in the trees, or on the ground, or somewhere nearby and take turns! I can sit and watch them through the window as they go in some sort of pecking order that only they understand. The Cardinals are usually the ones to go first, male before female, and they can usually kick the smaller birds out if they want to get in. Sometimes a different species will share the bath, but they always keep a respectful distance from one another.
Pretty much all of the different birds have a similar ritual of; sit on the edge and look around a bit, take a few sips to quench that thirst, hop to the rock or just jump right in if feeling brave, sit a bit, and then get TOTALLY WET! before anyone catches you!
Hop out when done and the next bird waiting takes your place! I was able to snatch pictures of the Cardinals and a Titmouse bathing, but I truly have a steady stream of different species that come to the communal bathing pond including; Chickadees, Inca Doves, Savannah Sparrows, wintering Pine Siskins and Finches - all taking turns!
It's a great source of amusement to watch them flitting and splashing around, trying to get clean, ever mindful of who or what might be watching or lurking just around the corner!
Well, having finished my morning entertainment session at the bathing station, I hadn't expected anymore wildlife chores for the day - until I just couldn't ignore the activity going on at the hummingbird feeders any longer.
Now, I have been trying to keep at least one feeder up for the hummers this winter because I have heard them buzzing around so I'm fairly sure we have at least one or two that are still hanging around. They haven't been using the feeders at all, but the HONEYBEES sure are!
Soooooo......just in case you didn't know, this is not a good thing, to have honeybees desperately trying to suck sugar water out of the hummingbird feeders. Because, what actually happens is they crawl into that tiny hole (believe it or not) and they DROWN in the water basin! I unfortunately found at least 20 of the little guys dead as a doornail when I emptied it. Well, I can't have that, and I know they must be really hungry for that sugar water so I decide to try out some homemade "HONEYBEE FEEDERS" made from assorted shallow pans that I find out in the shed.
This, of course, takes up another hour of my time, but again - it is all worth it to me! So I get out my makeshift pans, add some lounging rocks to it (so my little buzzing friends will have a way to crawl out), and look up a honeybee sugar water recipe on the internet. I don't know anything about feeding honeybees so if any of you have advice, please help me out here. I read that they prefer a higher sugar to water ration of 1:1 instead of the 1:4 ratio for hummers. So I made that up and divided it into my pans. Just for fun, I left the red dishes with the 1:4 ratio and added 1:1 to the new dishes to see which they preferred.
And then I waited to see how long it would take them to find it again. It was not very long, immediately 1 or 2 sniffed it out and started drinking and in about 30 minutes I had a whole pack hanging around fixated on the mixtures in the pans!
I joke around a lot about how much work it is to provide food, shelter, and water for the wildlife (and it IS work and it CAN BE costly), but for me it truly is gratifying to watch these creatures and to learn from them everyday. So there you have it, the crazy nature lady is now not only feeding horses, dogs, cat, birds, squirrels, deer, rabbits, hummers, but (pause for breath here), she is now feeding the HONEYBEES TOO!!!