A good explanation of Facebook’s Places feature with a link on how to disable it. Via Slate.
Each year we get a few tiger swallowtails. They glide over the ivy, and if I get lucky, they land. It was very breezy this afternoon, and this one managed to cling to leaves despite being buffeted about. I don’t know how they do it.
The ones that stick around generally have flaws of some sort. This one had a chunk out of a wing. Some lack a tail. Still, they breed and produce larvae that chew big holes out of my petunias. I forgive them because they look so magnificent.
A pair has been around the yard for a few months. Still very shy, they head for the hills the second they see me move toward the door. This afternoon I was distracted by the beef stew simmering on the stove, and headed out for something in the garage. To my amazement, eight or nine doves instantly flew up to the oak trees. Maybe there are some young ones in the flock, but as I look at the five directly in front of me on the patio right now, they all seem to be the same size. Here comes number six.
I haven’t replenished the seed on the table. The towhees scatter anything loose in all directions, and I’m tired of sweeping every day. The doves are eating the dropped nyger seed from the finch sock. There are now eight goldfinches, counting the babies. I saw the juvenile towhee today, almost the same size as its parents, kind of rangy-looking.
Do I turn off the laptop when cleaning the keys? No. Do you?
Sometimes odd things happen on the desktop as I do this, but nothing particularly dramatic. This morning, I seem to have hit a happy combination of keys. The CD that has been stuck for a year or so popped about 1/16th of an inch out. Then it ducked back in. ‘No!’, I yelped. ‘Come back out!’
A son finally bought me an external CD drive since nothing could be installed. But I was determined to get this thing out. The famous orange juice spill may have factored into its stubborn refusal to exit. Seizing the opportunity, I hit the eject button. Then I grasped it firmly as it slid out the fraction of an inch. Sigh. At last. But I hesitate to insert another disk.
Maybe I should clean the keys of the old laptop where another CD is stuck.
A few days ago, there was a new frantic sound, the rapid buzzing of a hungry fledgling on the ground. It was big.
Alongside the parent junco, it looked enormous. My first thought was, this can’t be a junco. Maybe it was a hybrid. A quick check proved me wrong. Till today I had only seen it in the agitated, fluffed out stage. The parents seemed bent on leaving it behind to forage on the millions of nyger seeds dropped by the goldfinches. This it would do, but as soon as it spotted a parent, it turned up the volume on the buzzing, chasing them all over the yard.
This morning, as it fed alone on the seeds, a dove landed. Immediately, it unfluffed itself, and I could see that it had the lean lines of a junco. But I kind of prefer it all poufy.
If you look a little more closely at the second photo in the preceding post, you’ll see that the raccoon is a lactating mom. It did not move erratically or otherwise seem sick. Most likely, it is out looking for food at a time when most of its babies’ predators are sleeping.
But I’m sure no one would object if I keep the screen door closed today.
There I was, minding my own business after a fine lunch that included a protein and not one but two veggies. My usual bird friends were fairly calm, and the only discordant note was a bluejay that kept swooping in and stealing their food. Then the raccoon appeared.
Around the corner it came. High up in the oaks, the crows began to screech loudly. The door was open as usual. Quickly I went outside, closing the door behind me, grabbed the camera and tripod and went after the rapidly disappearing creature. It loped across the back patio, and ducked under the shed.
Every bird and squirrel in the surrounding trees set up a huge outcry. I went back to work. No photos. In a few minutes, the alarm sounds went up again as I heard something big crashing through the ivy on top of the fence.
A little blurry, I was nervous.
About a week ago, I found a dove sitting on her nest on the fence. She froze, even though she tended to flee at the slightest human movement near the feeding table. The day after, all that remained was the nest with one broken egg and a lot of feathers scattered on the ground and caught on the vines.
Now I know what happened.
It went along the fence easily, as if it had done this many times before. At the spot where the dove had her nest, it stopped to see if another dinner awaited. Then it climbed down the other side. I didn’t go after it.
But if it comes back along the same route, I’ll be ready.
Earlier, I’d mentioned that Sparky seemed to be in the last stages of a molt. Over the holiday weekend, we noticed what appeared to be a new hummer at the feeder.
Last year at certain times, Sparky would change to what I called his courting colors. His gorget colors extended to his head, and he would sit all puffed out, swaying from side to side to attract the Missus when he wasn’t doing the stunt flying. But then, once back at the feeder, he looked his normal sleek, mostly green and white self.
This newcomer might or might not be Sparky. His head and throat are a deep magenta all the time, it seems. If indeed it is the new, improved Sparky, he must have requested a custom color job on the molt.
But near sunset, something magical happens. When the light is just right, a lot of that magenta turns to gold.
The lingering scent of a man’s deodorant prevails in here as I work, even though I work alone. The UPS man uses this particular kind. Ditto the FedEx guy. Various workmen that make expensive visits to disabled appliances and plumbing. On occasion, a son, despite my pleas for him to desist. And now, apparently, the mailman. To say it’s strong is an understatement. Somehow it gets on the mail and most of the packages.
I don’t know how this happens. But unless I take the mail back outside, this will be the smell of the day. Sometimes, if there is no breeze, it will stay in the air for hours.
But it’s the 4th of July weekend. My next door neighbor will be grilling. There is a nice cool breeze. Soon, the smell of charred meats will fill the air. But I’m moving the family member’s mail to the other room.
And then when I catch him blinking and sticking his tongue out, well that just gets a little strange.
Sorry for the blurry action, he and I still aren’t back on our old routine of sharp close-up footage yet.
When Sparky deploys it, he looks a little spooky. He’s still recovering from his adventures, might be going through the last stages of a molt, judging from the look of some of his feathers.
If I was uncertain if it was really him, all doubts were dispelled today when he appeared to challenge one of the goldfinches.
It is said that a wandering hummingbird will want to find his old feeder in the same spot upon his return. So far, I’m keeping it right in front of where I work, which is too shady a spot for photos. Once he gets used to his old routine, I’ll move it. Not very far, just to where there’s some better light. Perhaps by the weekend, I can take some video. I’ve sold more of Sparky than anything else.
Last year, he would get irritated whenever I moved the feeder, but eventually he got used to it. The bird population has grown considerably since he left, especially in the goldfinch category. If he contributed to the demise of that other hummingbird, he probably won’t take nonsense from them, even if they are bigger.
My optometrist took one look at my bloodshot eyes, and handed me a list of ‘approved’ artificial tear products. The one I have in the medicine cabinet is not on this list. Few stores carry these brands. Since I needed to check out birdhouses at Walmart (best prices, if you need one), the family member and I found ourselves there after supper.
Shortly after our arrival, someone knocked down a glass jar of pickles. A baby began crying, as one always does in this store. Well, I can understand.
We try to make our visits as brief as possible. On our way out, the two gentlemen in front of us reminded me of People of Walmart. One had on overalls and a t-shirt that was underneath them, but not tucked in right so he had this ballooning thing going on. On the back of his gray head, he had a little braid. Short but definitely braided. The other guy looked normal, but someone had to spend some time enabling this braiding.
And by the way, out of the eight ‘approved’ tears list, Walmart has six. That is truly amazing. (I got the GenTeal mild to moderate.)
Please bear with me, he’s been gone a couple of months, looks scruffy and has gotten camera shy again. Here is a terrible shot through a really dirty window in very little light:
How do I know it’s him? Between 7:00 and 7:56 p.m. tonight, he has come by the feeder more than 10 times. The only other hummers don’t sit and feed like he does, they sip and are gone within seconds. He knows it’s his feeder, and takes his own sweet time.
Which begs the question, where did that hummingbird body we found in the deer scare (which I thought was Sparky) come from? Did he kill a rival and vanish for a while? It really didn’t make sense that he would die in a fountain he saw every day, and took baths in. But the weather was brutal back in April when he disappeared. I looked carefully at the remains, and noted that Sparky didn’t have that many white-tipped tail feathers.
I had heard that ruby-throated hummers migrate. However, there have been females in the yard and at least one or two juveniles that chose to stick around.
But all is well, he’s back. And starved, obviously.
Here’s what he really looks like.
I’m not the only local person missing resident hummingbirds . For the past few days, however, a smaller version of Sparky has been appearing sporadically at the feeder. I know it’s not him because it doesn’t have the full gorget, plus it is easily intimidated by the chickadees. Sparky always stood his ground, even to the bigger birds. This younger one wasn’t quite sure how to use the feeder at first.
Since we found the body of a hummer that was Sparky’s size a while back, I concluded that he had succumbed to our bad weather. Today, there’s a different one the same size as Sparky, and not flitting away as soon as I appear. By the end of the month, I will be setting up the laptop outside. If it’s really him, he will take my presence in stride, as he did all last year from May on.
In retrospect, it was a very interesting time. If only it weren’t for the itching, the swelling and the incredible pain. To keep distracted, I began work on a photograph of an antique printing press that required isolation. At the time, I didn’t know certain shortcuts I could have taken in PhotoShop. This photo took an entire week to process, given my condition. I was still having to go over to the extended family’s house to watch over a disabled family member, shingles or no shingles.
It is one of my best-selling photos at iStock.
As the June 30th deadline approaches for a work project, I can’t allow distractions to keep me from falling behind. Life, however, tosses a dump truck full of issues on the doorstep when I get these deadlines. The days are just packed, as Bill Watterson used to say.
Most of these issues have been shoveled aside, and pity the poor solicitor who rings the bell, expecting a gracious hello, yes I’d love to hear about your bond spiel. I’m taking a lesson or two from a) my extremely rude neighbor Ruth, b) my late Aunt Sissy, who had hooded eyelids and a venomous tongue.
The only distraction I allow is the Wii tennis. It makes me get up from my chair, forces me to sweat, and in ten-minute sessions several times/day, slowly makes me lose weight. To my dismay, I discovered that once a certain level is reached, it’s no longer a matter of merely beating the opponents. Points go up only if the match is won in a decisive manner, as in not letting it go to deuce, for example.
Looks like I will have to spend some time on the balance board next.
The tufted titmouse is one of the shyer residents of the yard, overly fond of mealworms. I don’t get many pictures of it, but lately it has become emboldened by the apparently addictive nature of these worms.
Things have been really hectic around here on the human front, and I’ve not paid a lot of attention to the bird population except to keep the feeders full of seeds and suet. Once or twice a day, I open the box of mealworms, which, to my surprise, grew mightily during the warm spell. I put a few in each feeder. Today, I only did it once early in the morning.
Various events occurred to make my morning extremely unproductive, none of which were my fault. After lunch, I had a lot of catching up to do, and by 4, I went to shower, bringing in the suet feeders to keep them safe from the squirrels.
Afterward, I had time to tackle the work pile again. What should appear on the nandina branch that I can see just over the laptop but the titmouse. It turned this way and that, keeping its eyes on me. I waved, as crazy bird people like me do. (I have found that hand motions make them less wary; this has worked on the towhees and wrens. Working on the goldfinches and doves.) It did not leave. Instead, it stopped, and just perched, looking at me.
It is the same look I get from the chickadees. So I dutifully got up and pulled out a few more mealworms. My supply is getting low, hence the rationing. But when the towhee removes them three at a time, and the wren and its baby hop up and swallow them whole, I have to consider reordering. Real soon.
The wren baby watched while its parent moved a mealworm around till it was just in the right position. It flipped the worm a few times, and down the hatch it went. It ignored the baby, who was waiting with its beak open. But thankfully, it is a fast learner. It reached in, selected a worm, and just like Mom, maneuvered it into position, and the worm disappeared.
The loudspeaker is turned up very loud at the junior high up the street. Soon the struggling sounds of the band will carry over on the spring breeze, a yearly interval of certain pain. Speeches are currently being practiced, and then there will be the reading of names.
One night soon, every possible space on the surrounding streets will be occupied by hurrying parents, desperately late ones will park illegally. There will be much cheering, airhorns, screaming, etc.
Mornings will be quieter, no stream of cars up and down the street to tell me it’s close to 8:00 a.m., and I’d better hurry up and focus on my work, time’s a wasting. Afternoons, ditto, except, it’s 3:00 p.m., why do I have so little done.
As mentioned in previous posts, my yard has become heavily populated with wildlife of all kinds. Squirrels especially. Years ago, a pair of mockingbirds had an annual nest in the pyracantha bushes along the fence. Squirrels ran through their territory regularly. Those were the times when we would catch more than one squirrel a day in the traps. After a time, I noticed that whenever I went to move these traps, the mockingbirds would fly overhead and along the fence not too far away. I just assumed they were happy to be rid of one more squirrel.
Eventually, the birds were defeated, and moved away. I miss their songs, even the ones in the middle of the night.
In residence and busily raising their family are a pair of towhees. Extremely shy, they have recently begun coming to the feeder more regularly. They are the last to feed at night, and when I’ve gone out to retrieve the feeder tray, they can be heard nearby chirping away. So I leave the food out a little longer.
In the last few days, two large black squirrels and assorted smaller gray ones have been leaping up on the tables. (Seriously cutting into my Wii time.) The black ones avoid the traps as if they’ve been caught before and somehow gotten out. Finally, a few minutes ago, a gray one found the peanut-butter covered nuts too irresistible. I went out to cover it up, and took a stroll around the garden. The towhee pair flew past down low.
I went out front to plant some pansies. The towhees came out there too. Not real close, but keeping me in sight. Did they make the connection between the food and me? Their nest is low in the arbovitae, and I’ve seen squirrels run in there, so maybe they recognize the removals are to their benefit.
Now if I can only get the three doves to hang around me.
At least six, and sometimes a house finch manages to get a spot too till it is overwhelmed by the goldfinches, who eat all day long. This male was eating peacefully alongside another male, which certainly doesn’t happen very often.
Underneath the sock feeder is a pile of black seeds and their hulls. The doves and juncos pick through them.
Near the end of next month, I will move my laptop and camera gear outside, and then we’ll see how close they’ll let me get.
Possibly the most retiring of the menagerie. It was all I could do to set up the tripod and camera (open door, equipment inside) without spooking it. And that, of course, is why it is not in focus. This is also from video. But it craned its neck so it could check out the camera and me for a few seconds before taking off.
There are three of them, one bullies the other two, so maybe it’s not a pair with their young one, but a male and two wives. Now I’m trying to get used to big shadows across the yard as they fly back and forth, but they get closer each day.
Next thing I know, there’ll be a dove or two in here making those frantic twittering sounds which seem to be their normal mode. We will scare each other to death, no doubt.
Readers will note that the blog is mostly concerned with birds now. What started out as a small tray on an old table with two or three juncos and a few chickadees has turned into something completely different.
Over time, a titmouse and a very shy wren would make an appearance, quickly disappearing when intimidated by the juncos. The towhees built a nest in Mr. Maria’s trees, and raised their family on cornmeal suet. A very large flock of sparrows forced me to shut down the feeder till they lost interest. More juncos came by. The resident hummingbird defended his feeder fiercely. A lone Townsend’s warbler visited late in the year and stayed.
This year, the chickadee pair seems to have only one baby. Mourning doves have a nest in the honeysuckle, and while fleeing at shadows, land on the table. During dinner on Sunday, one settled down for a rest right next to the food bowl, watching us as we ate inside. It stayed there a long time. (I have witnesses.) The towhee pair not only lands on the table, but also on the smaller table right against the wall. A phoebe comes to the yard but not to the feeder, being an insectivore, and a grosbeak eats seeds that fall on the patio. Robins have a nest either in the street oaks or a neighbor’s yard, and stop by now and then. A house finch feeds on the finch sock along with at least six goldfinches. The hummingbird I named Sparky has died, I’m afraid, but has left such a force field around his feeder that few hummers even dare to stop there, and then only briefly. The wren has become so familiar and content that it too flew inside (as did the juncos and a chickadee), and exited in a timely fashion.
All this occurs in a very small space of the patio and surrounding semi-grassy area. I am constantly amazed, and if I didn’t have a stringent deadline of June 30 for a large project, I would be sitting outside filming all this, especially the goldfinches, who have a most picturesque lifestyle.
These activities have been going on for almost two years. In that time, the birds have become quite used to me, most particularly the chickadees. They know how to get my attention to get mealworms out of the box outside. I will swear that they have a meaningful look.
Lately, the squirrels are back, leaping up on the tables, knocking things down, and the black ones have figured out the traps. I have watched as they smell the nuts inside, nose all around, try to reach for them with their paws, and can actually remove them if the trap is set on the ground. They go all around, even on top, but avoid the opening. But I can’t fend them off all the time.
This morning, I was deep in work when a chickadee landed on the bush in front of the window where I work. This is nothing unusual, they do this all the time, usually to chip away at a piece of suet or a mealworm. But this chickadee was giving me the Meaningful Look. I stared back, said hello, went back to work. It persisted with this look, bobbing back and forth a bit, then kind of moved its wings out a little. That’s when I saw the black squirrel on the small table next to the wall, big chunk of suet in its paws, eating away.
So, message sent, message received. I ran the squirrel off, and everything went back to normal.
The pair is finally making regular appearances at the feeding table, taking the cornmeal suet, but much hesitating and apprehension. I don’t dare try to photograph them yet, they startle so easily.
Yesterday morning, I glanced out, debating whether to bring the feeder closer to the house since it was sprinkling. To one side, there was a pale blue egg similar to the plastic miniature eggs I’d been using as Easter photo props. Being so light, they were frequently blown off the table. I assumed the family member found one on the ground, and put it there for safekeeping.
But when I picked it up, it was much heavier than the plastic eggs. The only answer was that the female towhee somehow laid this while eating or while being startled. (I looked it up, the only other sizable bird that comes to the table is the mourning dove. This resembles more the towhee egg.)
So I figured if I put it in their nest, they would abandon it and any other eggs already there. It’s probably illegal to be in possession of this egg. Meanwhile, depending on how long it had been out there, it was no longer a viable egg anyway. But the family member, who gets up at dawn, did not see it earlier. So there was the chance it was a freshly laid egg.
While I pondered all these issues, I put it in a prop nest, and put it under a lamp.
For the last few days, work has been very intense and I’ve been unable to take photos or footage of the birds. The goldfinch mesh sock has attracted what amounts to a small flock that seems to eat constantly, and the pile of seed hulls underneath is thankfully blown away each afternoon when the wind picks up.
I’ve left the mealworm container (a transparent plastic box) out on another table. Just now, a chickadee lands on it and walks all around, inspecting the contents. The titmouse has given up on the possibility of live food, and hacks away at the cornmeal suet to feed its brood.
A hummingbird that is not Sparky comes daily to the deer scare fountain to take a bath. Now this is amazing to watch. The goldfinches also visit the water, and take frequent drinks, sometimes a bath as well. The family member says we have sparrow hawks in the redwood tree. I think there is a juvenile in the neighbor’s pine tree, and spotted it one afternoon as it flew across the court.
Last week I bought a bluebird house.
For a couple of months, it seems, the two towhees have been trying to build a home in the large but dead arborvitae. I have a great view of this bush. Maybe the squirrels get in there and tear their efforts down. There is constant construction, and as late as last week, they brought in long pieces of grass and twigs.
Their parents would regularly empty out the cornmeal suet container last year, raising at least three offspring. However, they failed to teach them where the human-provided foods came from. Despite numerous comings and goings all day long of chickadees, juncos, wrens, titmouse, and most recently, mourning doves, the towhees don’t land on the table. They will look under the table and all over the patio, which is mostly covered now in nyger seed hulls from the constant eating by the goldfinches.
This morning, the male towhee took a giant leap forward. It looked terrified while pecking at the seeds. Later, it took a big clump of suet, retiring to the patio to eat. I can’t wait to film them when they come swooping in when the nestlings get hungry.
I used to get terrible photos of the hummingbird till the feeder was moved into a brighter spot. Maybe this will happen tomorrow when I don’t have 10,000 other things to do.
Turnabout’s fair play, as they say. I’m always shooting chickadees outside, and today, one of them decided to check out what I do in here.
Yes, those are cobwebs on its feet. I tried to keep it away from the windows, but it just wouldn’t listen. At first I thought it was the baby chickadee, but it seems to be the male parent. The male will not land on my hand, but the female will. Although given the stress of the situation, she probably wouldn’t have either.
It kept going to the base of the window even though I pleaded and tried to coax it out with mealworms. There it goes again.
When the juncos came in, they looked over all the equipment I use, and got out of here in a hurry. The chickadee decided it would stick around.
I remembered the butterfly net in the garage. Please, please, I thought, let it not be the one with the hole in it.
It wasn’t. The family member came home, and managed to escort the chickadee outside in the net. It flew off into the oak tree where it lives. Where it is probably currently soaking in the tub, trying to get rid of all that stuff on its feet, and regaling the family with his strange adventure. I hope he remembered to tell them that there were refreshments.
The other night a raccoon apparently entered the trap we set for squirrels (not the first time this has happened). When it was unable to exit in a timely manner, it called in the troops. One must have strapped on his handy tool belt. Next morning, I noticed that the trap was turned around and not where it was left the day before.
I asked the family member if he moved it. He said no. When I tried to reset the trap, an important part of the trapping mechanism didn’t work. As if something took a pair of raccoon pliers and loosened it. When the family member returned from work, he made adjustments, but he failed to take into account the technical expertise of raccoons, especially the ones who go to college on a tools scholarship.
It happened that for the past week, I had been troubled by a pack of squirrels who kept jumping on the bird feeding table. I then placed the big trap right under this table. Caught one, waited to catch the other two. And that evening was the night of the raccoon gathering.
After the human adjusting, I baited the trap the next day. Sometime in the afternoon, the loud metallic sound of the trap was heard, which tends to make me leap up almost like the squirrel does. I looked, and indeed, there was one of the gray squirrels. Usually, I put a towel, tarp or some such over the trap, which calms the animal down till it is deposited in parklands not close to here. I neglected to do this because I had a lot of work.
When I got up to get a tarp, the trap looked empty. Sometimes, if the angle is right and the squirrel is crouched in the corner eating the walnuts in there, it can look empty. But no, this time, it was really empty, and the squirrel was pausing at the open door, seconds from entering the house.
Part of the trap door had been loosened in such a way as to be undetected by mere humans. But the raccoons had figured out a way to let the next animal get loose on its own.
I bow to their superior intelligence in matters of the trap.
For my nonbirding readers, goldfinches will feed from these mesh ’socks’ filled with tiny nyger seeds. It took them a day or so to find it. So far, I’ve only seen one, but I know there is at least one pair in the yard. This one fed from the other side of the sock this morning.
Because I’m always staring at the monitor, it’s fortunate that some birds, like this one, will announce its arrival. A clear whistling sound signals a visit, while the titmouse makes a rasping, harsh call, but is sometimes more melodic. When there are fresh mealworms in the feeder, the titmouse is no longer hesitant or mindful of the camera. The goldfinches will just have to get used to the many comings and goings, bird and human alike.
The titmouse is taking plenty of food back to its nest. It fought off the usually ferocious juncos this morning to get a prime spot.
After spotting a pair of lesser goldfinches yesterday, I bought one of those mesh socks filled with nyger seeds. No takers yet.
Thanks, Kaiser, for canceling my appointment today, but not telling me till I got there.
Mealworms disappear fast when nests are full of ravenous baby birds (low-res frame from video). No matter, there are 1,000 of these coming in the mail today.
For several days now, a large gray squirrel has been sneaking up to the bird feeder tables. While I do sit in front of the window, the rain has forced me to move one of tables next to the wall on my far left. I can’t see it without pushing the chair back, which is hard to do on a very busy day engrossed in my day job.
It has made quite a dent in the food. Three times today, I chased it away, only to have it return within a couple of minutes. I own a large Havahart trap which I hesitated to move due to my annoying back problems. But desperate times call for desperate measures. I put it right by the feeder table. A chickadee flew in as I did so, thus reassuring me that the presence of this giant trap wouldn’t bother the birds.
My squirrel bait is stale walnuts smeared with peanut butter. It works well when blue jays aren’t around to steal it.
It didn’t take 10 minutes. Later it will be taken to a happier place for squirrels.
This morning, a bright red/orange hummingbird flew in to sample the flowers on the lemon tree a few feet away. Could it be? I’ve never seen one before. Gone before I could take a photo.
Still no Sparky but two small hummers were flitting about near the feeder early this morning, possibly his progeny.
I stepped outside to check the mealworms, and hear the familiar whirrring sound a hummingbird makes when you are too close to its feeder. Could it be? It flies by again, and then lands on the tomato cage and looks at me. No bright red throat. Smallish, but then so was Sparky. I run for the camera.
Of course it’s gone when I get back. Can it be he’s still defending his feeder, but living on insects for now?
The chickadee pair has stepped up their visits to the feeder, and taking mealworms as fast as I can get them out there. Their habit has been to land in the nandina bushes about a foot from my desk, then look for the feeder location, which has been changing due to all the rains. I forgot to bring in the cornmeal suet last night, which got completely soaked.
Just now, a chickadee shows up, chirping more than usual, then starts flapping its wings vigorously, pleadingly, with its mouth open. Aha! That was quick!
I have a large order of mealworms on order since the 50 I bought the other day are almost gone.
The deer scare has been written about here before, and is simply a large black pot with the moving parts in the middle. On the lip of the bamboo portion, there is a growth of moss topped with tiny jewel-like capsules. Frequently, this moss keeps the deer scare from working properly, but it is so beautiful that I leave it.
Recent rains have filled the pot to the brim, further hampering movement. This afternoon, the family member stood at the door and said there was something I should see, but it would make me sad. Oh no, not Sparky.
It was a hummingbird face down in the water. There was no way to tell if it was a male or female, it had been in the water a long time. A day or so ago, I saw what seemed to be a large leaf in the water. Only a small portion of the bird was visible, but once we got it out, the tail feathers all fanned out. Still, I couldn’t tell.
I did see what seemed to be Sparky only a few days ago. Male hummers are fierce defenders of their territory, and this could have been a potential suitor to the missus. It seemed too big to be a juvenile. Time, as they say, will tell.
It was almost to the other side of the room, and was unhappy. I left it near the deer scare container. Inside the container was another story.
In the process of mowing the lawn and picking up plant containers, the family member happened upon a salamander. Of course I wanted it to photograph, so he put it in a 3″ tall wood planter, and I put it on my desk. Then I proceeded to go through the hour of footage shot this morning, thinking the salamander could wait.
It didn’t. When I looked in the box next, it was empty. I keep a pair of boots by the desk, which it would have dropped into if it went over the edge of the desk. Nothing in the boots. Nothing on the floor all around. But then the door is wide open on this sunny day in the mid-70s.
I’m guessing it went right back outside. I sure hope so.
The towhees have a nest in the dead arborvitae, along with at least one other unidentified bird pair. I glanced up as a towhee flew out of the bush, and right behind it was a hummingbird, which landed somewhere in the bougainvillea. Just out of fun, I called out ‘Sparky! Sparky!’
Thank goodness I work alone, as this may seem like demented behavior. But I used to talk to Sparky all the time as he visited the feeder. There’s a goodly amount of footage of him looking directly at the camera as I’m saying his name.
The hummingbird came to the tomato cage about 18″ from the feeder, and looked at me. The cage is what I hang the feeder on when there isn’t enough light under the overhang where the feeder normally is. He had the bright red throat, so I knew it wasn’t a juvenile or the missus. Then he was gone.
Could it be? Does he actually help feed them, and that’s where he’s been the last 2-1/2, almost three weeks?
Yesterday, I saw two hummers high up in the oaks going through what appeared to be a mating dance. I don’t think juveniles can fly that well. We’ll see what the following days bring.
Two of them, stopping at the deer scare, whose container is overflowing from recent storms. They stopped at the breath of heaven bush, then one came to the feeder, but doesn’t seem to know what to do. Is this a juvenile? It looked slender, but could be, I guess. I’ll try to get some photos.
Thanks to the continous downpours today, I now know what hydroplaning is.
Surprisingly, the chickadee pair are making a new nest. I thought by now they’d have fledging chicks. Maybe the marauding squirrels ate the eggs. Daily now, the pair pull at the remnants of the long-abandoned nest (of another bird) by the window. One of them found the mealworms this morning. A titmouse went for them immediately. Maybe traffic will finally increase. Sparky is still missing, but his mate came by for a drink at the deer scare yesterday.
Meanwhile, the juncos are hesitant to perch on the small twig I stuck in the middle of the mealworm cup. I’m working on a better solution.
Last year, I bought roasted mealworms as a treat for the various birds that show up at the feeder. I’m going to assume that they got out their miniature cameras and took shots to put on their blogs, complaining about how underwhelming crunchy mealworms can be. Word certainly got out.
After inspecting these treats, I decided they were the equivalent of pork rinds for humans - some of us like them, some not.
Before dinner last night, I ran out and got a container of real mealworms from the pet store. This was not a simple task. In the store fridge, there were three tiers. One held the small containers, then the mediums, then the large. On closer inspection, some little tubs held waxworms. Others had Giant Mealworms. These I bought.
Today, I’ve set up the usual soft suet, but in a clear plastic cup (directions say to put out mealworms in something they can’t climb). Knowing the birds can’t perch on the thin rim of this cup, I inserted a twig. Then I added a few worms.
The juncos came by first, noting the live food. But being juncos, they appeared cool about it, pecking at the bits of food I’d dropped earlier at the edges of the feeder. One pecked at the side of the cup where it could see a mealworm. It did this time and again, then gave up.
Then the male wren showed up. It went straight for the twig, and was upside down reaching for a worm when I realized I did not have the camera and tripod set up. While I got my gear out, Mrs. Wren appeared, attracted, no doubt, by the symphony pouring out of Mr. Wren from the roof’s edge where he was going nuts.
It will be an interesting afternoon.
The resident hummingbird, Sparky, has been missing from his usual feeder activities for two weeks. After today, I suspect he’s more of a hands-on father (so to speak) than most male ruby-throated hummers.
After reading up on the facts of nesting life, I learned that males don’t stick around, don’t assist with the nest building and might even search out another mate. But this afternoon, I spotted a hummingbird skimming along the vinca, looking for insects. Then I saw another. When it turned, I saw the red throat.
The preferred food for baby hummers is regurgitated insects. I bet they’re doing great on all that food from mom and pop both.
For those who are tired of the usual tighty whities, underwear with the look of Japanese armor.
Out of the corner of my eye, I spotted it, flitting from one vinca flower to another, then it came at the feeder. Was it Sparky, missing for almost two weeks now? I got up to look. It fed for a few seconds, hovered, looking in the while and fled.
I think it was the missus. She’s the only female bird I’ve seen lately, all the rest must be on their nests.