If questions coming into our Outdoor Notebook mailbag are any indication, hummingbirds and bats hold a special fascination (or is that frustration?) for many readers.
With the approach of fall weather, interest in these two winged species inevitably heats up. Common queries include: is it time to take down the hummingbird feeder? And, what is the best way to make certain that bats won’t set up housekeeping in my attic through the winter?
Despite the state’s cooling temperatures, now is not the time to bring in your hummingbird feeder.
Yes, it’s true that by late September nearly all of Ohio’s ruby-throated hummingbirds have fled for Central America and other warmer climates. But you may be surprised to find that some fascinating but far less common hummingbird species are eager to visit your sugar-water filled feeder.
Over the past two decades, so-called vagrant hummingbird species those from homes elsewhere than Ohio have been seen here in growing numbers. That’s a good reason to keep your backyard feeders in place and your eyes peeled, because you might see one of these vagrants even when temperatures dip to the 40s or high 30s.
The most frequent of our late-season visitors has been the rufous hummingbird, which was seen in Ohio in 1985. Since then, at least one has been sighted here every year, with nearly a dozen being reported in both 2002 and 2003. This predominantly rust-colored hummingbird is usually found west of the Rocky Mountains, but you can show it some Midwestern hospitality by keeping your feeders clean and full until the end of October or early November.
Late in October of 2002, a young male calliope hummingbird another western species made its Buckeye State debut at a feeder in Chillicothe. While this smallest of North America’s hummingbirds has not been spotted in Ohio since then, who is to say your feeder couldn’t play host to the next visiting calliope?!
Indiana, Michigan and Pennsylvania are also reporting their share of vagrant hummers, including black-chinned, white-eared and broad-billed hummingbirds. It may be only a matter of time before one or more of these species take a side trip through Ohio.
Experts say that Ohio’s growing variety of hummingbird visitors is thanks to increased public interest. With more and more people setting out feeders, we are bound to attract more hungry hummers. These little guys obviously know when and where dinner’s ready.
Are things a little batty around your house? They have been for several Outdoor Notebook readers, who want to know the best way to humanely evict bats from attics, eaves and house siding. These inquiries are timely, as bats will soon be going into hibernation and the time to help them “move on,” is growing short.
During the spring and summer, Ohio’s two most common bat species the Big brown and Little brown have no issue with taking up residence in homes across the state.
By late fall, most will either migrate to a warmer location or hibernate inside a cozy southern Ohio cave or mine. But some bats, particularly Big brown bats, are more than willing to quietly hang out in your attic until spring.
If you are a do-it-yourselfer, here are some steps you can take to prevent this from happening. But do it now before the weather turns much colder.
Examine your home’s exterior walls for oil stains that are produced from the bat's coat as it squeezes through small cracks also watch your house at dusk to determine all of the bat exit and entrance routes. Seal off the majority of those points at dusk when you know that bats are out. Since bats do not chew their way in, you can block most of these points with light building materials, such as window screen, which can be attached using caulking, a staple gun or duct tape.
Create a one-way escape route over a main exit to ensure you've not trapped any bats inside. Cut out a large flap using polypropylene bird netting or fly screen. Attach the netting above the escape hole, leaving at least 10 inches to hang loosely on each side and below the exit point. This allows the bats to slip out from under the mesh, but unable to return. Leave the netting in place for a few nights, especially if it’s been cool and rainy. Once you know all bats are out be sure to follow up with repairs that will permanently exclude bats from your house.
Although for centuries bats have gotten a bad rap, many people now recognize the value of these nocturnal creatures as major predators of agricultural pests and night-flying insects.
If you would like to have bats living close by, but not in your home, consider installing a bat house before next March. Chances are good that the bats you evicted this fall will return in the spring to find their new “bat condo,” a cozy trade off to your attic!
Do you have a question for the Outdoor Notebook? Send it to Laura Jones at the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, 2045 Morse Road, D-2, Columbus, OH 43229 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org