Pushing for Spring

Pushing for Spring

Posted on January 11, 2012

It is hard to believe that birds could be starting to nest in January, but our hardy Anna’s Hummingbirds are at it already.  Their squeaky, buzzy songs can be heard as early as late December, and they are known to nest from December through May or June, with as many as three clutches of two eggs each.

Their nests are made of plant fibers bound together with spider silk.  They are often decorated on the outside with small bits of lichen, and may be lined with feathers or hair to make a soft bed for the eggs.  For reasons perhaps best known to themselves, they are said to prefer white or light-colored hair.

Pygora Goat Hair Nesting Material

Pygora Goat Hair for Nesting

In my yard, nesting material gets put out in early January.  Yesterday, I hung three baskets of  Pygora goat hair near feeders.  I have seen hummers and other birds, notably Bushtits, taking these fibers.

Other hair or fur could be offered.  My cat combings are instantly picked up as soon as I put them out in spring.  Friends report that the clippings from white dogs are very popular with the birds, but if you decide to use these, please be sure that no pesticides were used on the animal prior to its being clipped.  The use of dryer lint is not recommended, because of the chemicals from detergents and fabric softeners.

This year, I hope to find a hummingbird nest with a lining of goat hair.


These end-of-December days are very short, and seem to rush by.  It’s not a bad thing that we are nearing the end of 2011.  It has been a tough year for many, and I’ll be glad to see the end of a frustrating and uncertain time.  Still, it is always good to look back to see what has been accomplished, and when I do I can see that this year’s clouds had many silver linings.

December is a time when few birders come to the yard.  There’s new snow on the mountains, and lots of birds, deer, and other wildlife in the yard, but it’s too cold to be outside as much as I’d like.  There’s work aplenty indoors, however, getting rid of things I don’t use or need any more.  I have time now to mend broken feeders, reposition and hang new feeders, get the nesting material out for the early breeding Anna’s hummingbirds, and dream about the spring to come.

My privacy wall has been beautifully rebuilt since the fire in June.  Fire fighters were forced to knock holes in the wall to get hoses into the yard.

Damaged beyond repair

Damaged beyond repair.

Their actions were what saved the area to the south of the house, where most of the hummingbird feeders are.

I was fortunate  to find a local craftswoman and artist who demolished the remains and rebuilt it using earthen bags covered with stucco, covered with a top coat colored with natural earth pigments.

Wall being rebuilt with earthen bags.

Wall being rebuilt with earthen bags.

Finished wall.

Finished wall.

As weather permits, I’ll be moving dirt and rocks around, and continuing to plant wildlife-friendly trees, shrubs, and perennials in the burned areas.   In spring, it will be clearer to see what trees have been lost forever, and what to do, if anything, about the ones that are coming back, whether from the roots or the crown.  Though the landscape lacks the lushness it had, the open spaces created by the fire will fill again, and there will be new and different birds and wildlife here.

To counter winter’s somber tones outdoors, there’s a spot of color inside — my Christmas cactus is blooming beautifully at a south-facing window.

I wish you all a wonderful Christmastime and a happy New Year.

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