Match the Patch
I sat in the deep grass along side the slow moving current and watched the Cutthroat Trout occasionally rise from the clear depths of the stream and gracefully sip flies off the surface of the water. I searched across the glass like surface to spot what the trout might be selecting as their primary food for that day. "Matching the Hatch" is the common term fly fishermen use to fooling the trout into thinking they are taking the real insect instead of the deceptive form you're throwing them. I chose the closest thing I could find in my fly box and gently tossed it upstream of the rising trout. As the fly slowly drift downward toward him, he started to levitate to the surface. He got within 6 inches and quickly rejected the fly. From a distance the trout believed it to be the real thing, but as he neared it, the differences turned him off. Repeatedly I would get one rejection after another. So I sat back in the grass, pulled out my portable tying kit and began to manufacture something that looked like the real thing. I tied up 3 flies in hopes they would get me through the day. My first attempt coaxed a trout without hesitation. It broke the surface with an aggressive take, and I soon had a beautiful Cutthroat trout to shore. I admired the beautiful colours and gently released it back into the stream. I continued on to land 5 more trout out of the same pool. This time I matched the hatch perfectly.
I believe the same principles apply to every living thing on this planet. Everything has its season, and when a certain insect starts to hatch, it will hatch in abundance. When a particular flower starts to bloom it will bloom in abundance. This is the way it was all created. As these patterns of life develop, a reliant host becomes aware of its abundance, and starts to feed heavily on it, until that season ends and another begins.
For those of us who understand the value of a hummingbird feeder, many of us have tried to get the young birds to solve the feeders early on. We know that when they figure out the never ending source of nectar within a feeder, we pretty much have a hummingbird for life. The problem is, when you stick a hummingbird feeder in amongst your flowers, they oftentimes overlook it, even though it's obvious to us. Hummingbird feeders rarely look like the real thing. Hummingbirds get so focused on the one type of flower, colour, and shape that they like, that the feeder almost becomes an obstacle for them to go around. I am absolutely convinced that if we can fool the hummingbirds into thinking our feeders are the same as the flowers, we'll have a much quicker conversion. This means creating a replica of the favourite flowers within your garden and replacing the ones on a couple of your feeders. This has been my project for the last few years, and as I slowly improve my conversion rate, I continue to work on my training feeders. Because Nasturtiums are one of the favourites in my garden, that's the one I've now replicated. Unfortunately I have to wait until July to test them out.
I've had such a large number of people tell me that the hummingbirds don't like their feeders, but only their flowers. That's not true though. They just don't know the feeders yet. I'd encourage anyone out there who struggles with converting the young to feeders to try the same thing. Create a few flowers to look just like the favourites in your garden, and replace them on your feeder. Then place that feeder in the patch of similar flowers. The closer look we can create the more likely we'll keep hummingbirds around our gardens. This is what I call "Matching the Patch". I'd only do this with a few feeders, and as they associate your new flowers with the bottle they're attached to, they will eventually start noticing those bottles with other flowers, and the conversion will be complete.
Author of Jewel of the North. Please post your comments and questions.