by Leslie Cox; Saturday; January 18, 2020

Anna's hummingbird - femaleFor the last 4 or 5 years we have had two Anna’s hummingbirds decide they would spend their winters in our Black Creek garden. Unbelievable! Do they know how cold it can get here…in the shadow of our ski hill, Mt. Washington?

In December 2015 we had lows of -6.5 °C. In December 2016 we had lows of -10.5 °C. January 2017 hit -12.5 °C; February reached -9.0 °C. December 2018 had lows of -8.5 °C. February 2019 hit -12.0 and December 2019 low was -9.5 °C. And somewhere in the recent past we also hit a record low of -18.5 °C.

So now our hummingbird feeders come out through the freezing winter months to ensure our little “stay-at-home” hummers have food to see them through these ridiculous minus temperatures.

Hummingbirds have been prominently in the news this weekend because of the nasty weather in BC this year and the affinity of concern of British Columbians for hummingbirds in general.

What can I say? These tiny dynamos are too cute not to love.

It is our experience, our two hummers are very appreciative for the care we provide them. On freezing nights, we bring the feeders indoors to keep warm. I am an early riser so it is my job to take the feeders back out to their hangers at first light. And almost every morning, the birds come right up to me…as close as 10 cm (4 inches) or less…anxious for their breakfast.

But it is not as simple as bringing the feeders indoors overnight these past years. We have to check them regularly to make sure they are not freezing solid…solid enough that the hummers can no longer get anything out of the feeder tubes.

There have been many days this month when we have had to swap out our third feeder in order to bring the frozen one inside for the hair dryer treatment. One thing I have learned as I try to thaw the frozen feeder in order to swap it out with the second frozen one, there is a lot of ice that builds up in the bottom cup, which you cannot see.

Boy, it is cold outsideLooking at the glass tube, it often looks like the sugar water is just frozen at the top. Gently push the feeder and the liquid moves under the ice level. But, aim the dryer at the flower cups and after a few minutes you will see bits of ice float up from the bottom to join the ice cap at the top. This means the little hummers cannot get an adequate feed. Ice in the feeding tube stops their little beaks from reaching their sustenance.

So, on the really cold days that barely warm up, we have had to swap out the feeders every one to two hours. It becomes a true commitment to these precious creatures…one which we do not mind dedicating ourselves to. Their repayment to us is always the huge number of insects they eat every spring and summer. They truly help to keep the mosquito and other minute flying insect population down.