Fauna, Flora

Orange is the new red

Ask anyone and they’ll tell you that fall, with its welcome cooler temperatures as a respite from July and August heat and humidity, is a wonderful time of year in North Carolina. 

Even if you’re not in the Blue Ridge Mountains the glowing oranges, reds and yellows of once-green leaves are a gorgeous reminder that Mother Nature is the original, and still the best, artist in the world.

black swallowtail enjoying orange tithonia

Fall is also the time of year that we lose precious light each day. The ratio of darkness to light swings quite literally to the dark side.

Remember when you learned in school that summer days are longer?
Fake news!

These changes add up to a blinking warning sign for creatures who need to head south to escape the cold weather…danger, get out while you can! 

For me, looking up to see a V of honking Canada geese offers the same comfort as the transition back to school used to bring. Fresh pencils, clean notebooks, new clothes and maybe some cool new tennis shoes. 

It’s been way too many years to accurately count since I enjoyed that mental reset but I try to find it in different ways now. Cleaning out the once-vibrant pink and purple and orange and yellow flowers, and planting a winter veggie garden. Raking fall leaves and settling them into the compost pile to break down into new soil for next spring. Rediscovering my favorite sweatshirts and putting the tank tops and shorts toward the back of the closet.

orange is the new red (hummingbird feeder)

One part of fall that I’m not fond of though is the sudden disappearance of my favorite summer bird: hummingbirds. It never seems like a slow transition…it’s more like one day they are here, and then poof! not here.

Reluctantly I take down my three orange feeders one by one, hoping to catch a straggler or two drinking out of what are technically Baltimore oriole feeders. 

I’m not a huge red fan, that’s one of the colors I don’t allow in my garden, and I’m REALLY not a fan of the cheap-looking plastic red and yellow hummingbird feeders. Internet to the rescue. I googled orange hummingbird feeder on a whim, and voila, these popped up.

More my style, their basic design and color is much better fit with the nearby orange cosmos and orange tithonia (Mexican sunflower), some of my favorite flowers.

orange cosmos pops in the midday sun

I’ve used these orange feeders for the past three years, and they are very easy to clean with their wide opening. They do fade in the sun but by then the hummingbirds are well versed in where to find the sweet juice so they don’t need to be as screaming bright to attract them. 

At that point it’s more likely that the hummers will be buzzing my kitchen window and staring right at me when the juice is running low.

They know who their sugar mama is.

Until next spring…