Hand made Hummingbird Feeders--Pictures from Photobucket

kristin_williams(6)March 14, 2007

Here we go again. I'm sick of that sad thread where my pictures weren't posting, so I'm trying again on a new one. I've put my feeder photos into Photobucket, but now I'm not sure which one of the 3 choices they are providing will work as a URL or location or whatever. When I preview it, the pictures are working for me, but then they were on the other thread, too, but not for anyone else.

This is the Salvia coccinea feeder that got used frequently last year by the hummers:

This Great Blue Lobelia (Lobelia siphilitica) was just completed earlier this winter, so I haven't had a chance yet to see how the hummingbirds will react to the blue color. Last year, they went straight to the purple hybrid Lobelia also shown below:

Finally, the Cypress vines in pink and in red. These have stiff protruding stamens, but the hummers don't seem to have a problem with them, as long as I make the flower short enough that they can reach the sugar water. They seem to be smart enough not to bump their little heads on the white anthers. I do, however, have to hang them with the stamens on top. If they're on the bottom, the hummingbirds can't easily reach into the "flower."

If these pictures don't post, I guess I'll have to try a different URL Link, HTML Tag, or IMG Code. I'm not sure which one to use in Photobucket. My computer expert friend spent some time with me on the phone trying to figure out what was wrong. All he could establish was that the URL's (if that's what they're called) provided by Yahoo were kind of bogus. He would have needed to get on the forums and try to trace the sources to figure out what was going on. He thinks my troubles have something to do with how Yahoo Photos labels the locations of its pictures. We decided it would be best if I just tried Photobucket.

I hope this works. I've gone to a ridiculous amount of trouble just to post these three pictures. It's late, I'm tired, and I'm going to bed!

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cs7580(zone 7 TN)

very nice:). If you dont care my I ask how did you make the flowers

    Bookmark   March 14, 2007 at 12:46AM
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penny1947(z6 WNY)

You did a fantastic job on the flowers. Your detail is wonderful!


    Bookmark   March 14, 2007 at 10:32AM
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Hi Kristen, your feeders are beautiful! How on earth did you make them? Pictures look great BTW, and showed right up.

    Bookmark   March 14, 2007 at 10:52AM
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You did a great job with these. I would suggest staying away from creating anything yellow and you know why.

    Bookmark   March 14, 2007 at 1:45PM
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What a relief that the pictures finally came through! My techno-whiz friend decided that Yahoo Photos is not a very good site from which to post pictures. He was never able to figure out exactly what was going wrong. He tried a few things, and decided it would take a long time to get to the bottom of it. He suggested just trying a different place to post them from, so I did Photobucket. Thank goodness it worked.

As for how they're made, it's quite involved and there's been a lot of trial and error in getting the whole process to work. It would take ten posts to explain all that I've learned along the way.

The flowers are sculpted in polymer clay. Polymer clay comes in a rainbow of colors, like paint, and it's sold in art stores like Michael's, etc. It has a consistency sort of like soft taffy. When you knead it in your hands it gets softer and easier to work. Different colors can be kneaded together to get different colors or incompletely mixed to get marbled effects. I use Sculpey and Premo brands, but there are other brands of polymer clay that I've never tried that might also work. Premo is stiffer, and works better for the delicate petals. Sculpey and Premo are rated as non-toxic, and the person I phoned at Sculpey told me that children can eat fair amounts of the unbaked clay with no apparent toxic effects. I think it's safer yet after it's been baked to hardness. Unfortunately, I'm quite sure no one has felt the need to test for toxicity to birds, but since it's very safe for humans, I think it should be OK for them.

The flowers are formed around a bamboo skewer so that there is a uniform, smooth channel that runs straight through the flower. I've had to develop all sorts of home made tools to help me hold the flower so that it is well supported. Otherwise it tends to get mangled from handling. One of the hardest parts is making the stopper. It is made separately, and is also formed around a skewer. For the stopper, the skewer has a conical piece on one end. This is so that when the soft clay is pressed into a bottle (mini liquor bottles are perfect) it can be extracted neatly from the bottle by pulling on the skewer. There's so much to it that it's hard to explain everything. While the stopper is being formed and pulled from the bottle, the flower is placed into the freezer to get stiff, so that it can be threaded onto the skewer and joined with the stopper without getting mangled. Sepals get added at the end, plus a little extra clay to make a solid joining. A small ring of clay is wrapped around the stopper so that it will fit tightly into the bottle and form a good seal. This is vital, or the feeder will leak. The joined stopper/flower is baked in a 275 degree oven for 15-20 minutes. When it comes out of the oven, I carefully sand the stopper down so that it fits perfectly into the bottle and makes a good seal. It takes quite a bit of practice and skill to get all of this right.

I try to be as botanically accurate as possible, but in the case of smaller flowers, I usually increase the size quite a bit. I have to cut down on the length of the flower, though, so that the hummingbirds can reach. With some of my earlier efforts last summer, the flowers were too long, and the poor little birds would come in on an exploratory visit, but would be unable to reach the sugar water. Poor things! I had to cut some of them in pieces and rejoin them to make them shorter.

After these troubles, I did some reading on hummingbird bill lengths, and found out that their tongues can stick out a distance equal to their bill length. This means that the absolute maximum reach for a Ruby-throat would be about 30-40 millimeters. By watching their foraging behavior at the feeders, I've learned that it's best to keep the flower/stopper lengths at 25 millimeters or less. Otherwise they get frustrated, decide it's not worth the bother, and go for an easier feeder or a real flower.

As for yellow, hummersteve, I assume you're referring to the attraction of bees to yellow. I've read this, but don't know if it's really true. I've been avoiding yellow, but did make one Four O'Clock in yellow marbled with fuchsia. It hasn't been tried outside, and I'll be curious to see if the bees go for it. Maybe I'll do a test of Lonicera sempervirens in red, and an identical feeder of the yellow-flowered form. I can hang them within a few feet of each other and see if the bees become a nuisance at the yellow one.

I've got my work cut out for me this season. I just hope those little cuties find their way back.

Sorry about the long post. I do tend to say a lot in my posts, but I've never written one anywhere near this long. I guess I'm just excited about my feeders and the months ahead.

    Bookmark   March 14, 2007 at 7:57PM
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cs7580(zone 7 TN)

TYTYTYTY so much :) I'm going to try this

    Bookmark   March 15, 2007 at 12:45AM
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Thanks, Connie, hummersteve, Tess, and Penny for your kind remarks about my feeders. That was really stressful trying to get those pictures posted, so I appreciate the nice feedback.

    Bookmark   March 15, 2007 at 2:39PM
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Wow,those are fantastic. I had to look several times before I would believe that you made them. I thought you had found a clever way of putting a real flower in a stopper. These remind me of the glass flowers I saw at Harvard's Botanical Museum. I tried to find photos on line of those with not much luck; 4 or 5 pics is all, so maybe they had trouble loading their photos too!

Incredible workmanship. Again, wow.

Here is a link that might be useful: Harvard University glass flowers

    Bookmark   March 18, 2007 at 2:44PM
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Your work is superb. So very realistic. I can't imaginge how much time and effort you put into making those. It had to be a work of love.

    Bookmark   March 18, 2007 at 5:11PM
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Thanks, guys. Those glass flowers are amazing! I wish the pictures could be enlarged to see the detail. I have this vague memory that I might have seen the real ones many, many years ago when I visited Boston. They truly are exquisite works of craftmanship, and glass is such a classy material compared with Sculpey clay. It has a translucency that's hard to get with polymer clay. If I make the Sculpey clay really thin, though, the light passes through and makes the petals glow in the sunshine. I'm always striving to get this effect, but it's hard to do. When clay is pressed this thin, it tends to slump either in the forming or in the baking stage.

It is definitely a labor of love, but then so is gardening for hummingbirds and feeding them. It is such a thrill to make a feeder and watch them head right for it, take a sip, and zip off, disappearing to parts unknown. Some of my flowers are quite a bit larger than life, and I sometimes chuckle to myself and wonder what those little hummingbirds are thinking when they see a Salvia coccinea that is 3x bigger than it ought to be. "Ay caramba! That's the biggest salvia I ever saw!"

I've had my share of failures, but have gotten better and better at making them hummer friendly. Although I try to make them works of art, they remain, first and foremost, functioning hummingbird feeders.

Here's a couple more:

A NOTE TO CS7580 (Otherwise known as Connie, I think)--If you're seeing this, I just wanted you to know that I tried to send you an email by going through your member page, but I think it didn't go through. I know you were interested in trying to make your own Sculpey clay feeders, and I remembered some instructional things I hadn't mentioned in my original post that might help you with your efforts. If you're interested, maybe you can send me an email by using my member page. Hopefully, it will work for you. Once I have your email, I can get those extra instructions to you. They are very important, and I think you'll have trouble being successful without them.

    Bookmark   March 18, 2007 at 11:18PM
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You are so talented. Will you be offering your art for sale?

    Bookmark   March 20, 2007 at 2:56PM
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myoneandonly--Thanks for the compliment.

I'd like to answer you, but I don't think I'm allowed to talk about that sort of thing on this forum, because it would be considered a commercial promotion. I could get into trouble with the forum.

    Bookmark   March 20, 2007 at 3:08PM
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These feeders are beautiful--little individual works of art for the garden and dual purpose--for our feathered friends!!!
I'm very impressed!!!

    Bookmark   March 20, 2007 at 3:44PM
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Ooops. So sorry Kristin. I didn't think about that.

    Bookmark   March 20, 2007 at 4:16PM
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W O W !!!!!!!
Beautiful works of ART.

Kristin, I too am interested in more details on making these for my garden. I am new to this forum and hoping to learn more.

My email is on my member page.

Many thanks,

    Bookmark   March 20, 2007 at 7:33PM
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I tried to email a couple of different people from this forum by using their member page and clicking on the "send me an email" and it never worked for me. I don't know if it's because I'm in Mozilla Firefox and need to go into Internet Explorer or what. I can get by on computers, but there's still so much I don't understand. Maybe I'm doing something wrong, but it seemed like it worked. And yet, I emailed one person who definitely never got it, and another never responded, so I assume she didn't either.

Maybe it would be best if you emailed me using my member page. Oops! I just checked my Member Page and there's no way to email me. I wonder how it is that people set that up. I'm going to try to figure it out and see. I don't really want to leave my email in this message.

I may not have time tonight, but I will definitely see if it's possible to make me "emailable." Is that a word?

    Bookmark   March 20, 2007 at 8:12PM
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There. I fixed it and it wasn't even that difficult. I think you can email me now, McPeg! I hope you have better luck at it than I did.

I wonder if I was unable to email others because others could not email me. Just wondering.

    Bookmark   March 20, 2007 at 8:22PM
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