Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Frigid New Year

It's a bitterly cold morning, 18 degrees, wind gusting to 30 mph, snow flying... and Emmy is alive! Glory hallelujah!

I set the alarm early enough this morning to get the hummingbird feeders out before dawn, and immediately after doing so began an anxious vigil at the kitchen window. The towhees and cardinals arrived for their sunflower seed along with the juncos and sparrows, but no hummingbird appeared.

My worry intensified when I turned on the computer and learned from the Weather Channel's website that the wind chill was 3 degrees. How could such a tiny creature survive this extreme cold? Especially considering that two days ago it was 60 degrees. I paced back and forth from the coffeemaker to the kitchen window. And then I saw it, the hovering little figure near the bush. Emmy was alive!

Thus far, the odds for our little "Unexpected Visitor" have been in her favor, as we've had a remarkably mild winter. She may wonder why Mexico isn't quite as balmy this year (assuming she had intended to migrate there along with the rest of her species), but the high temps here during most of December were in the 50s. Then came the New Year, and the Arctic blast that ushered it in. Brrrrrrr....

The bird experts came out and banded her the week before Christmas. I appreciated the fact that they asked permission, since she has recently begun to feel like part of the family. Their close examination revealed her to be a female Rufous Hummingbird, a species that spends its summers in western North America, breeding from southern Alaska to California. According to Wikipedia, most Rufous Hummingbirds winter in the Mexican state of Guerrero, an astonishing trek of 2000 miles from their nearest summer home. Given that they usually trek from Alaska down to Mexico and back, it's not surprising that I have never seen one before.

Emmy - named for her beautiful emerald green back - apparently decided to migrate southeast this year instead of due south. Perhaps she heard about the many wonders of western North Carolina - our beautiful mountains, the Biltmore Estate, or the lovely spa at the Grove Park Inn. However she should have paid more attention to the section in the travel brochure about seasonal climate. It can get very cold here. Last winter we had 20 inches of snow. The year before that it was 40 inches. I've never been to Mexico in the winter, but I'm assuming they don't get much snow.

But so far, so good. Last night was brutally cold, and she's alive this morning. The feeders are freezing in the time span of about an hour, so I've been rotating them in and out of the house all morning. Frozen ones come in, warm ones go out. She's generally staying in the Pieris Japonica shrub in front of the kitchen window instead of in the rose bush on the hill, which has been her preference. Perhaps the shrub close to the house provides extra warmth and better protection from the wind. A little while ago, I decided to try putting one of the warmed feeders in the shrub instead of on a hook out in the open. She was feeding from it within minutes.

(the red tissue paper streamers announce "there's a feeder here!")
The high temperature today is forecast to be 27 degrees, the low tonight 15. It's going to take some work to keep her supplied with unfrozen nectar today, but if she can make it through another 24 hours of this cold, much better weather is on the way. The forecast high tomorrow is 45 degrees, and back up to 57 degrees for Friday and Saturday, with mild night temps as well. Hang in there Emmy!

These photos taken this morning show Emmy all fluffed up and trying to keep warm in the Japonica shrub. That little stripe of yellow paint on her head was applied by the folks who banded her. It will wear off in about a month, but in the meantime it makes her very easy to identify. This is intended to help determine if we have one, or more than one, vagrant hummingbird here.
So far only one!
(Thank goodness - it's hard enough taking care of just ONE misplaced hummer.)


  1. Oh, dear. But lucky Emmie to have a caring person like you providing warm nectar.

    Love the dog wash post. Wish we had one nearby.

    Happy New Year to you and the critters, Brenda!

  2. Isn't she a pretty little thing? And so lucky to have you in her corner.

    Sorry to hear about your brutal weather. Here in Denver we had lots of snow and cold in December, but the past few days have been nice.

    Happy New Year!

  3. Emmy is a survivor & with your help she will make it! You are so kind!

    I checked out Grove Park Inn.. VERY NICE!!!

  4. so purrty we love those little guys
    Benny & Lily

  5. I use Picasa for all my photos & the Movie Maker button (in Picasa) - I am self taught by trial & many many errors. After making the movie in Picasa I upload it to You Tube & use the royalty free music.

    Yes, Halle is 13 but one would never know it! She is a magical dog.

  6. Emmy is so very lucky to have found your house. So nice you are keep a close eye on her. She is super cute all huddled in the bush against the cold. I love hummingbirds, they are such interesting creatures, so tiny and yet so fearless. Thanks for looking out for her.

  7. Stay warm....27 for a high and windshield factor of 3 above? Thanks, but I'll stay in under the covers!

    Happy New Year to you all!

  8. Awww! Look at her all puffed up! You took a great picture Brenda! A on different note, I took your advice about the recipe blog swap. Check out my post for today. =)