Category Archives: Gardening

Attract Orioles and Hummingbirds to Your Cottage

Attract Orioles Each Season

Attract OriolesWe were at the market in Caseville Michigan in March and someone brought up the topic of when the Hummingbirds and Orioles will show up. I’ll admit that in Michigan’s Upper Thumb there is a big nectar feeder culture. We look forward to seeing these migratory visitors show up each spring as a sign of warmer days ahead. 

 The robins make their way here about mid-March to feast on insects and worms emerging from the frozen earth. The next anticipated migratory birds to swoop in on the scene is the Ruby-throated Hummingbird and Baltimore Oriole. After spending, the winter in Mexico, Cuba and Central America these migratory birds make their way to the Great Lakes by mid-April.

With a little persistence, you can attract hummingbirds and Orioles to your cottage within a few weeks and enjoy this colorful resident for the entire summer season. 

For Orioles Set up Colorful Feeders Early

Attract Orioles

  • Orange is the New Black – Orioles are attracted to bright vibrant orange. We found that having an orange or bright red feeder draws the birds in for the feast. Set fresh sliced orange halves in a shallow bit of water to discourage ants. Replace the oranges daily. If you see mold, clean out the feeder. Mold can be harmful to the birds.
  • Set Up Feeders Early in the Season – We think Orioles have a great memory and hummingbirds are demanding. One early spring we noted that the hummingbirds were buzzing us until the feeder was placed. Placing your feeders out early will catch the early arrivals and may turn those passing through to seasonal residents.
  • Keep Oriole Feeders Out in the Open – We have seen the most active oriole feeder posted in the middle of the yard. Orioles will fly in, take a sip or two of the sweet nectar then fly off to a nearby perch to finish up, preen and do it again.

If You See an Oriole Nest, Switch to Bugs

  • Mealworms – If you are lucky enough to see one of the small sack like nests in your yard change up the diet to mealworms. In the spring, the birds crave the sweet from fruit nectar after their long migratory flight north. Once breeding and nesting season starts they will begin to seek out insects. Mealworms are a great high-protein food that will build them up for their fall flight south.
  • Leave Oriole Nests in Place – The bird won’t reuse the nest but the will be reused the material. Orioles will set their nests out on slender green twigs to discourage predators. We found nests in small trees about six feet off the ground. Experts suggest offering lengths of twine or horsehair. Sadly we have seen small spreads of plastic wrap incorporated in a nest.

    Create a Bird Spa

Attract Orioles

  • Water  – Orioles are attracted to shallow moving water. Pick a shallow basin and add a small pump or bubbler to keep the water moving. Change the bath when you see crud or droppings 
  • Place Oriole Feeders Away from You – Orioles are typically shy. They do not like a lot of traffic from humans or animals. Try to locate your feeder in an open area where it can be seen from the air and treetops. Placement in a high branch or on top of a pole is ideal. We have placed one feeder on a tree outside our kitchen window with great success. 
  • Multiple Hummingbird Feeders – If your successful drawing in the small birds, consider placing several nectar feeds in close proximity. 

    Hummingbird Food Tips

Attract Orioles

  • Offer Clear Sugar Solution – We use the same recipe for both orioles and hummingbirds. Add one cup Big Chief granulated sugar to four cups of boiling water. Stir the sugar water and let cool. Refrigerate unused portion. Never use food coloring. For Orioles, some experts recommend diluting the sugar water to eight parts water to 1 part sugar.

Attract Orioles

  • Grape Jelly is OK – A favorite alternative to sugar solution is a small amount of grape jelly. A couple of tablespoons in a secure dish is like ringing the dinner bell. You may see some aggressive behavior by the Orioles as they vie for feeding rights. Hummingbirds will also visit a jelly station.  Experts suggest mixing a ¼ cup of water into the jelly.
  • Clean Feeder Means Healthy Birds – If you see black mold form in and around your feeder take it in and wash it out. This advice is especially true for hummingbird feeders. The sweet nectar will draw in ants and other critters.
  • Orioles Will Chase Away Hummingbirds – Orioles are territorial and will go to any bright colored feeder that offers nectar. The best solution is to over several hummingbird feeders minus any perch to avoid the problem. Hummingbirds also have issues with Woodpeckers but they infrequently feed thus tend to be not a huge problem. Hummingbirds can coexist with other birds if enough feeders are around. 

Related Articles About Birds



Sustanability: Straw Bale Gardening in The Thumb

Straw Bail Gardening

Straw Bale Gardening

In the movie Dr. Zhivago, there is a memorable quote that goes something like, ”if you scratch a Russian a peasant can be found”. In our case, the quote is “if you give a suburbanite a cool idea the frontierswoman come out.” Melissa got the idea of straw bale gardening from a book by Joel Karsten. Joel comes to us from Minnesota where the growing season is incredibly short and the soil tough to cultivate. The situation in northern Huron County Michigan is similar. With a large lot next to our cottage consisting of mostly of sand and a little acidic oak leaf loam the opportunity to put in a really successful garden was remote. So Melissa decided to experiment. 

You Want Straw For What?

In farm country straw is used for animal bedding. In addition, it’s typically cut and baled in the fall in huge rolls consisting of several hundred pounds. Finding baled straw in smaller bales is proved tough. However, we managed to find a supply near Bayport that delivered a dozen bales to our lot. After heaving them into place and placing a snow fence around the site to deter deer, (good luck with that said a friend), we had an impressive structure of straw in neat rows and surrounded by security. We looked like a Denver based horticulture operation.  Now what. 

Straw Bale Gardening – Time to experiment!

Straw Bale GardeningOur season has not started where someone can be full time up in the tip of the thumb. We still had to go to work. So we decided to get a couple of bales for the suburban backyard and start the 12-week “cooking” process required to break down the fibrous matter into the lush soil-less material in which to plant. This offered us a chance to carefully hone skills required of our 12 bail garden up north. We spent about two weeks alternating between spreading organic fertilizer (pee-you) and watering. By the final days, the bales are now decomposing with an internal temperature exceeding 90 degrees. I sacrificed my digital beer brewing thermometer for the cause. 

Transferring this Experience into a Working Garden

Straw Bale GardenOver a Memorial  Weekend campfire and several bottles of “2 Buck Chuck,” we convinced our friends and neighbors to at the cottage contribute the effort by hosing down our northern garden each day then spend alternate days of spreading cool smelling chicken poop 10-10-10 onto the top of the bales. With 12 bales cooking I hope that the wind is blowing off the beach. it’s ripe! This 2nd weekend of June is finally planting weekend. Stay tuned. 

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