Thinking spring? It's really not that far away. In about seven weeks, select birds will start on their northern migration. For the avid gardener Springtime means flowers and hummingbirds. Once we approach the end of February the risk of severe cold temperatures decreases. By this time, most indoor gardeners have probably started some of their perennial planting, and within another four weeks these same gardeners will start planting select annuals from seed. It's an exciting time of year for most people, but for gardeners and birdwatchers Springtime is the greatest time of year. Birds of all types, sizes and colors start flooding into our yards with a chorus of squawks and songs. People's attention gets directed towards the melting snow, the fresh spring air, and the early perennials peeking through the soil. Soon to follow is a strong push of springtime growth of early perennial flowers. The earliest perennial flowers are our greatest indications of how close the most envied bird on the planet is. Hummingbirds start making their first appearances when we first see flowers. They will not show up even if we appear to have an early spring, unless flowers are available. They appear entirely because of the availability of food. They will not appear just because it's warm outside, or because the other springtime birds have arrived. They follow the blooming flowers to ensure their survival. Sometimes they are handed some severe early spring weather, which can result in loss of flowers, and make survival very difficult. We can significantly increase their chances by providing fresh nectar in hummingbird feeders. Despite snowfalls and colder temperatures early on, we can ensure that the hummingbirds will have fresh nectar available until the flowers return. If you are not familiar with the times that the hummingbirds arrive in your region, you can find out this information on www.therubythroat.com. Simply go to "reporting a sighting" page, and scroll down to the arrival map. This will show you a range of times that the hummingbirds can appear. It will usually vary each year. Go by the earliest dates, and place your feeders out about five to seven days before that earliest date. This will ensure that you'll catch the earliest arrivals, and protect those early birds if severe weather hits. I know that I'm getting a bit ahead of myself right now but it certainly can't hurt to want Spring to arrive early. At any rate, we should be planning our list of annuals and perennials right now, and don't forget to pick up your copy of the new book "JEWEL OF THE NORTH" by Michael Wiens to get great ideas on how to attract hummingbirds. It will give you great information on flower choices, along with an abundance of information on how to attract these mysterious birds.
Author of Jewel of the North. Please post your comments and questions.