Welcome to Wildlife Wednesday, a monthly appreciation of wildlife in the garden, in the neighborhood, or in the wider world that you inhabit For me, this was a busy and distracted month, but not necessarily an engaged month of chronicling wildlife goings-on. I enjoyed observing the critters in my midst, but somehow, didn’t catch photos of wildlife doings. Some eclipse-viewing (it was truly awesome!), some time-spending with my traveling son (that was awesome, too!), and some helping said son prepare for settling half-way around the world, all took precedence over any full-throated wildlife watching.
Oh yeah, there was also an unwelcome and destructive guest: Harvey.
Mid-summer mornings were graced with a birdsong that I didn’t recognize. Cheery, chirpy and with some variation, I rarely saw the bird–except when high in a tree or winging away from my sight in a flutter of feathers, I couldn’t quite match the bird with the daily serenade. Eventually though, I spotted this pretty visiting the pond.
A new bird to my garden, once I identified it, I also identified its song. This is a Western Kingbird, Tyrannus verticalis. I’ve seen these birds in other parts of Austin, notably at the parking lot trees of the HEB grocery store where I usually shop, but don’t recall ever having one visit my garden or neighborhood. It seems that a pair nested in the neighbor’s tree for the summer and that they popped over to my garden to enjoy the water sources.
I’d typically hear their song in the mornings. After identifying the bird, I learned that song I heard most often was the Kingbird’s morning song. I also realized that I didn’t hear that song later in the day, even when the birds were around. I witnessed their acrobatic flight, swooping through the tree tops, as they dined on insects in the late day summer sun. Western Kingbirds are large flycatchers who breed here in Central Texas and throughout much of western North America and winter in Mexico.
I don’t know if it was only the male, or female, or both, who visited–they share similar coloring and markings. The Western Kingbird is a darned cute bird!
By mid-August, the birds had apparently left the area, migrating to Mexico and the Pacific Coast side of Central America for their winter digs. I enjoyed their visits and have missed their morning calls; I hope they return next summer.
Hummingbirds have been active all summer. In fact, I think I’ve seen more hummers in my garden this year than in the past decade or so. That said, this is the only decent shot that I’ve managed:
I believe this is a female Black-chinned Hummingbird, Archilochus alexandri, and she represents a common hummingbird species in this area. I think it’s a Black-chinned because the beak is fairly long and straight and this one is a little larger than the other common hummer, the Ruby-throated. I’ve had no luck this summer with hummingbird action photos, though they are very much a part of the garden landscape, especially now as they prepare to migrate south. I’m glad that I grow many plants that they like (Turk’s cap, Flame acanthus, Tropical sage, Autumn sage, Yellow bells, naming just a few) because much of their habitat along the coast of Texas–a major part of their migration route–was severely damaged during hurricane Harvey. Rockport-Fulton, Texas has hosted the wildly popular Hummingbird Celebration each September for decades, but is devastated due to Harvey. Because Rockport-Fulton is decimated, the Hummingbird Celebration has been cancelled for this year, which is bad for both the people and the birds. Rockport-Fulton relies on the influx of tourist money generated from the annual celebration of these winged wonders, and the tiny birds fuel up for their long migration to Mexico, Central and South America by feeding from the abundance of hummingbird-friendly plants in that area and the multitudes of sugar-water feeders that residents and festival supporters place for the diminutive pollinators. I fear that many hummers won’t survive migration this year as their needed nectar sources were stripped during the floods and high winds, and the good folks who hang sugar-water feeders for the hummers to feed from can’t do that now. There are few trees to hang the feeders from and most people along the coast are assessing damage, desperately cleaning up their properties, and attempting to return to some sense of normalcy. It may seem trifling to fret about birds in the wake of a human and property disaster, but hummingbirds are important pollinators of trees, native plants, and commercial crops.
When their population plummets, the environmental impact is broad, and grave.
Wild Birds Unlimited (WBU) of Kerrville, Texas is taking donations of water and sugar, as well as providing feeder poles so that hummingbirds have some food available as they migrate through Rockport. Here’s an excerpt from their Facebook page about the plans:
Our Donation Plan;
I wanted to let everyone in on what your donations are doing, and how we will be moving forward.
1) For now we will NOT be accepting any more donations other than sugar and water and monetary . We have secured over 200 brand new feeders and poles from our great vendors that are heading to Rockport as we speak. And we have another volunteer from King Ranch bringing over another 100 feeders this week.
2) We will continue to use all of the donated money for hummingbird supplies as we make multiple trips to Rockport in the upcoming weeks.
3) If you would like to donate sugar and water please look for multi packs of 5 lb sugar or gallon jugs of water from the baby section in HEB packed in 3 count boxes. We can get so much more of this stacked in trucks. These can be dropped off at the store.
4) We are not taking any more plants down right now. Many of you helped educate me as to the soil conditions and the lack of fresh water for plants not to mention the lack of residents to care for them if we put them in pots. We have many folks wanting to donate native plants and we will be doing this when the human conditions improve before the hummingbirds return in the spring. I will keep you posted on this project.
We are setting up a free feeder adoption plan on our next trip for Rockport residents that would like to help and we will continue to bring them nectar supplies when we travel down. This way we will get all of these much-needed supplies spread around that area and not overload a small number of residents who are trying to pick up the pieces of their own lives.
Last but not least-THANK YOU!!!!!!!!! WBU customers and bird people are the very best, we are so fortunate to have you in our lives.
And further from WBU’s FB page:
Donations can be made to: Wild Birds Unlimited at 855 Junction Highway Kerrville Texas 78028. All of the funds collected will be used over the next few weeks to bring in sugar, water and any unforeseen items that will help the birds. If you are not comfortable doing that we are recommending donating via paypal to any of the wonderful pet organizations that are feeding and housing displaced and injured animals, they are really doing a fantastic job in Rockport.
There are many in need after the catastrophic winds and floods generated by Harvey. Monetary donations are the most practical way to assist people, pets, and wildlife who are negatively impacted by this storm. Check out these links for more information:
So, there it is. An odd month, a busy month. A month of joy, wonder, and fear. That’s life and we’ll roll with it, because we don’t have much choice. Please share your wildlife stories for this past month and remember to leave your link when you comment. Good wildlife gardening to you!
We’ve had some feathered friends in our garden too. I just love hummingbird. We’ve had a bunch this summer. My wildlife Wednesday is at:
I love the hummers, too. Such interesting critters and you’re right, it was a good year for them here in Texas.
Nice info on the hummingbirds which certainly need our help. I remember reading about one family in Rockport that went through ten pounds of sugar a day during the festival.
Beautiful Kingbirds, I haven’t seen them but will keep a watch for them. Life gets busy but the garden will be there for the wildlife even when we’re not. A few observations from my garden during August:
The Kingbirds are common, apparently. Not sure why they decided to show this year, but I’m not complaining. Wow–10 pounds of sugar. I say that, but when I’m getting the bees going (new hive), I go through quite a bit, too, though not in one day.
The kingbird is a cute little thing. There were a lot of expressions in the photos you captured.
They really are quite charming, Lisa. I enjoyed watching them for the month that they were around.
I am so glad to hear someone is helping out the hummingbirds in Rockport. I have 6 or more in my yard now and have been working on a post about them. I also wondered how many birds ended up in a new place after the storm.
I think the folks of Rockport are quite fond of their temporary residents, so I’m sure they’ll continue to do what they can. I imagine there were lots of birds and other critters displaced.
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I like the western kingbirds they look so sweet,
I feel for both the people and both domestic and wild animals when disarster strikes, I hope many of the humming birds left the area prior to the storm and have found other food supplies, a great shame about the festival, living in a very small community I know how important these events are to the local economy,
my contribution to wildlife Wednesday is posted, thanks for hosting Tina,
The Kingbirds have the most darling expressions! Yes, natural disasters are hard on everyone, and you’re right that a community like Rockport really needs the income that a festival provides.
Tina Hurricane Harvey has been a catastrophe for people and animals. I’m glad it did not affect you. Hopefully there are many donations for Hummingbirds and can feed on water with sugar and get ahead. As for your garden Tina the Western Kingbird seems to me a very funny and very beautiful bird. Happy Wildlife Gardening. Greetings from Margarita.
Thank you, Margarita, I hope there are lots of donations and help–for the people and the birds. My only real damage was a tree in my front garden split and now it’s half its size. On the up side, my garden has more sun, so I’ll be able to replant with more sun-loving perennials.
Tyrannus verticalis – what an ominous name… I can see that saving whatever can be salvaged and trying to restore some semblance of normalcy would take precedence over bird feeding, but I would like to inflict that watching the marvels of nature can have tremendous healing powers, and replenish the feeling of sanity where there is none. Something the kind souls of Wild Birds Unlimited are undoubtedly aware of.
Ha! Does sound scary, but they surely were cute. I think you’re correct, and I suspect many folks along the coast, especially in Rockport where there’s been a successful symbiotic relationship with the people community, bird watchers, and the birds.
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Thanks for this clear account of how the hummingbirds in Texas are being affected in since Harvey. Hopefully many of the shrubby plants that they depend on can recover quickly and the people who typically feed them are inventive and resourceful. I like the idea that the Western Kingbirds have been singing morning songs for you. I can see how you’d miss them.
My wildlife sightings are described here at: http://wp.me/pM8Y1-6gM
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I saw on TV the devastation caused by Harvey and glad to see you were not directly affected. It was interesting to hear about the efforts with the hummingbirds after Harvey. It just shows that there are wonderful and caring people out there who care enough about the wildlife to help them in anyway they can, all while trying to get their own lives back to some sort of normalcy. I wish I could see more of this in the world.
Here’s my wildlife roundup.
Yes, I only had damage on one tree and lots of water-logged soil. It is heartening to see people who understand the importance of their surroundings, especially when damaged and that they make efforts to mitigate that damage.
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Wow, you’ve had some joys and challenges in your area. The hurricanes and fires continue! Much need for donations, so I’m giving through several sources. Glad to hear people are including hummingbirds and other wildlife in their assistance. I like the new look of your blog. 🙂
Yeah, it’s been weird, though I wasn’t directly affected by Harvey, I have family who was. There’s more of the same in the works–frought times, I’m afraid.
Thanks–a little font tweaking and a change in photos. Way overdue.
Your blue curls are beautiful! And as for birds, I’ve seen two ospreys: one yesterday, and one today, in quite separate locations. It’s strange that this year I didn’t hear them call first, as I usually do, but here they are. I’m sure that they rode in on the front, and it’s a sign that autumn is on its way — despite everything.
I’ve been worrying about the hummingbirds, so I’m glad to have this information. I’ve spent a lot of time working in Rockport, Key Allegro, Port Aransas, and Aransas Pass. Those ports always were favored sailing destinations, too, as well as great spots for the hummingbird and raptor migrations. It’s just a shame what’s happened.
I’m going to call WBU in Kerrville tomorrow and see how I best can contribute. I’m going to be going there in two or three weeks, so I could do some collecting of sugar and water here, and take it to them. I know some people in Rockport who would be more than happy to put out feeders, too. They have a good bit of damage, but still are in their homes. You may have heard of Four String Farm — a wonderful organic farming family there. They just were featured in an Austin magazine.
i’m quite concerned about the various parks and wildlife refuges in this area. All of them are closed now, of course, and it’s not even possible to drive to Nash prairie, or other Brazoria County locations, as the roads still are flooded. One step at a time.
I just saw in your comment that you have family affected. I hope their damage wasn’t substantial, and that they won’t have any extraordinary problems with the recovery process. I’m about five miles from Dickinson, where the elderly folks were evac’d from the nursing home, and I have friends in Bellaire and Meyerland who went under. It was something.
Were you impacted in any serious way? Yes, I saw the photo of those elderly folks–horrible. It was something, can’t really add to that.
You may have missed my current post. I spent Harvey with some birds, watching the water rise. And no — no damage for me at my home.
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That’s very good of you to plan to bring supplies for the hummers. While I haven’t been to Rockport in years, I know that community values their birds and birders and will do what they can as they can.
Like you, I’m concerned about the many wildlife refuges and coastal birding areas. Sadly, this will simply take time and the areas will need recovery–I hope there’s will and funds in the various communities affected to see this done. I’m just hoping the migratory birds are well out of the way of Irma, but I’m afraid there’s not much that can be done for the resident birds along the Florida coast or all the the island that have been, or will shortly be impacted. Bad for everyone!
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The good news is that the Aransas Wildlife Refuge didn’t take a direct hit, so the whooping cranes will have a place to come to.
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We only have the one species of hummers – the ruby throats. We saw more of them this year than ever before. I hope too many aren’t lost during the migration.
There are several species here in Texas, owing I assume to the mild climate, generous quantity of food and migration routes. Any hummer is a great one to have and I agree, I hope migration is a risk-free as possible for these brave and fascinating little birds.