Talk was informative

I am fascinated by hummingbirds, but until last week, I knew very little about them. Now, thanks to a talk at the Milford Garden Club, I know quite a bit more. I even learned all the dopey things I was doing and have seen the error of my ways. Correction is just around the corner, or, I suppose, really outside my windows, where the birds are.

The talk at the Congregational Church in Milford was given by Judi Burger, owner of Wild Birds Unlimited in Nashua and it was well-received, and not just by me. She drew a good audience of club members who asked a lot of questions. Even I asked a question and it led me to throw out last year’s leftover home-made hummingbird nectar. Too old, Burger said.

Here, though, are some of the things I learned which I am sure will fascinate you:

• Hummingbirds have approximately 940 feathers that they replace every year.

• In north central and South America, there are 325 species of hummingbirds. In North America, there are 18. In New England, there is one — the ruby throated hummingbird.

• To get to us, hummingbirds leave Central America at night and fly non-stop across the Gulf of Mexico, then, after a bit of rest, 1,000 more miles up to us, and then some go even further north. They don’t fly in flocks; they’re loners. Before they leave on this journey, they devour enough insects to double their body weight, but they’ve lost it after those first 600 miles.

• The male birds arrive first to set up nesting territory and they return to the same spot year after year during their 5-9 year lifespans. When they die, their offspring return to those spots. “Once you’ve grabbed a hummingbird, you’ve hooked him” to the quarter acre of territory he’s marked on your property, Burger said.

• When the female arrives, she selects a male with which to breed. She then builds a nest out of spider webs and covers it with moss and lichen. The nest will be the size of a golf ball, but good luck finding it — it looks like a bump on a tree, not like a nest. She lays only two eggs that hatch after 16 days. The young are just the size of honey bees when they are born and weigh one-fiftieth of an ounce. By the 12th day, they are seven-fiftieths of an ounce. The spider web nest stretches as the young grow.

• After a cold night, you might see a hummingbird and think it’s dead, but it could only be in a state of torpor. On such nights, their regular heartbeat of 1,200 beats a minute slows to 50 beats and their average body temperature of 108 degrees falls to 40 degrees. The bird will be rigid, but still alive.

• Worst enemies of the hummingbird: Cats, of course. But also the praying mantis and large frogs. Hummingbirds sometimes hang around small bodies of water, thus the frogs. And cats and praying mantis can get them near flowers.

• Burger leaves her feeders out until Oct. 1 and said doing so doesn’t keep birds from flying back to Central America. Rather, it serves to feed birds coming this way from further north. And it’s an “old wive’s tale,” she said, that hummingbirds hitch rides on Canada geese.

• She says we should clean our feeders at least once a week and change the nectar often. In summer, change it every 2-3 days.

• Do not use the red nectar found in stores. It’s made with food coloring, she said, and the color “is not found in any flower out there.” Make your own nectar with a solution of 1 part white sugar to 4 parts water. Boil it to melt the sugar, let it cool, then use it.

Crying fowl

And now let’s talk turkeys. Not the ones in the White House, but wild turkeys, the kind that have been terrorizing a woman in Cambridge, Mass. The woman, KIenda Carlson, has been attacked twice, or should we say allegedly because, as you must know, even turkeys should be innocent until proven guilty and what proof have we? It’s Carlson’s word against these five turkeys she says attacked her and pecked at her legs, as if turkeys would do such a thing.

But now she carries a large golf umbrella on her walks, according to Steve Annear, writing for the Boston Globe.

“I heard the motion of opening up the umbrella in the face of a turkey might be enough to scare it away,” Carlson said, again indicting the birds without offering the slightest bit of proof. Where’s the video? Audio? Cell phone videos or photos? Everything is on a cell phone these days, but these turkeys? No? Hmmmmmm. Clarence Darrow would have a field day with this.

Perhaps this is just an excuse for Carlson, who is seven months pregnant, to carry a golf umbrella. What one thing has to do with another is beyond me, but it seemed right to mention it. Perhaps she just likes people to think she plays golf.

“Look, I have a golf umbrella. I must play golf.”

Turkeys are being defamed all over the map these days. In the Globe, David Scarpitti, a wildlife biologist, was quoted as saying that spring “is the most common timeframe when we are getting reports about turkey issues.”

Turkey issues? Please. Isn’t it possible that these poor turkeys have people issues? Oh, no, that can’t be possible, people never bother turkeys or any wildlife.

And Annear writes that many wild turkey reports “involve the birds taking over streets and blocking traffic or pecking at cars.”

Why shouldn’t they? They were there first. Long before there were streets or cars, there were turkeys. Perhaps the ancestors of these five turkeys once roamed Cambridge before it was Cambridge. Maybe these five turkeys want it back.

Or reparations.

Well, we’ll have to wait until this case makes its way through the courts. Oh, you think it won’t? You don’t think these turkeys will sue for libel or slander or charge that they fear that everyone will now start carrying golf umbrellas and maybe opening them to threaten the world’s turkeys? Oh, it’s court time, Jack; you and Craig Carton can bet on it.

In the meantime, these turkeys are innocent until proven guilty and if there is a video somewhere of this alleged attack, I’m pretty sure Bob Kraft can get it suppressed.

Hey, are there any sanctuary cities to which we can send the turkeys? And this time I DO mean the ones in the White House.