What if you want to attract ruby throated hummingbirds to your yard but you have a very small budget? Well, I invested a whopping $2.97 a few years ago, and I’ve seen migrating hummingbirds ever since.
Here’s an example from today. I was chopping ginger in the kitchen when a movement outside the window drew my attention. I like counting how many monarchs feast each day from my $2.97 special, so I stopped to look.
Is It a Monarch? Is It a Dragonfly? No, It’s a Humm!
What caught me eye wasn’t a burst of fire orange though. It almost seemed transparent and hovering. Was it a very large dragonfly? (Don’t ask me why it would be at the flowers: this all went through my head in about .3 seconds!). Then my brain caught up with my eyes and I realized it was a hummer, hovering and feeding. Oh, the agony: do I stay and watch, or run for the camera and maybe never get to see it again if it zooms away?
Luckily today this humm was hungry. Not only did it wait for me to steal outside (little “Crooks” humour there), it actually waited while I grabbed the camera, tried to take a test shot, realized the battery was dead, popped the battery, put in the new battery, still couldn’t get my test shot, finally got a shot of the edge of the door as I went outside, and started blindly shooting photos of my $2.97 wonder without any idea whether the bird had flown.
64 shots later, I had 4 photos of a ruby throated hummingbird, and 4 that are almost in focus.
The most frustrating of the shots are about 11 “ghost” shots. I took those when the hummer was hovering in mid-air in front of the fence-line trees. The autofocus insisted on focusing on the trees, turning the bird into a shimmering golden white blur in the foreground. Ah, well, I remember how good it looked! (Does anyone else keep a few bad photos just to trigger the visual memory of what something really looked like?)
So What Is the $2.97 Wonder Plant That Survives Arctic Blasts and Summer Droughts?
Anyway, I imagine you’ve already looked at the photo and have correctly identified my $2.97 investment as a Butterfly Bush, Buddleia davidii. There are more costly cultivars of the bush, but mine is the old plain one.
This plant is not glamorous. It has thick, grey stems and branches. It shoots up easily over 6 feet each year, despite being hacked down to about 3 feet tall each fall or early spring. I can’t say I prune it. I just cut off bits that seem too tall. Yet it withstands everything. Winters with 100 cm of snow. Winters with no snow. Even this year’s record-breaking drought didn’t kill it.
And each August and September, it blooms. If I deadhead the central stalks, they divide below and send out two more blooms. And the monarchs love it. So do the bees, cabbage butterflies, some skippers, and the occasional amazing soul-singing hummingbird.