By Irene Perry
After such a cold, wet winter, signs of spring are welcome in Skagit County. It’s time to listen for resident and migrant birds tuning up for courtship. Grab your binoculars and zoom in on the changes in plumage. Scientist believe longer daylight hours trigger bird songs, plumage change and migration. I agree. I’m ready to sing in the sun, shed a coat and migrate to longer days outdoors. Two signs of spring welcomed by local birders are the return of hummingbirds and swallows.
Although many Anna’s Hummingbirds are becoming year-round residents, the return of the feisty Rufous Hummingbirds brings increased excitement to our feeders. Consider adding a second feeder during migration since this is the time hummers fuel up for flight. My experience with hummingbird feeders is to keep it simple. I’ve tried some of the fancier and more expensive (yes, gifts!) feeders with poor results. The basic glass jar with red top and bottom including perches and plastic yellow flowers is my best feeder. They’re inexpensive, around $20.00, and relatively easy to keep clean. You can even buy replacement parts for them at local bird supply stores. The keeping clean part can be challenging. I try to stay on a “clean every five days” schedule and keep a toothbr nearby. Hot water and a little diluted white vinegar helps to take the gunk off too. No expensive special red dye nectar is needed for your feeders. Just a four to one, warm water to sugar ratio is best. No need to boil the sugar water mixture either. Just be sure the water is warm enough for the sugar to dissolve, stir, and wait for it to cool before filling your feeder. Using the “store brand” sugar cane granulated sugar is fine. I tried going cheap once and tried beet sugar. My husband determined after citizen science observations, hummers don’t like beets either!
Onto one of my favorite signs of spring, the return of the swallows. I always get excited to see the first Violet-greens showing up swooping over the water near our local marinas. I know my favorite swallow, the Purple Martin, will return late May to early June. Skagit Audubon provides nesting boxes and monitors sites for Purple Martins in Skagit County and beyond. We have a kickoff day scheduled for Sunday, May 7 at Ship Harbor in Anacortes. The purpose of this event is part work, information and recruitment. We will be preparing the boxes for this season’s birds, answering questions about our program, and encouraging people to become citizen science volunteers. Bring rubber boots if you would like to help with the boxes. We also need assistance from the shoreline. This event will run from 8:30 until noon, weather permitting. For more information about this kickoff and our Purple program please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.