The Hummingbirds

Hummingbird August 23

Today was a fretful day for the hummingbirds. At least three were trying to stay close to the honeysuckle and the feeders, vying for a favored pair of branches in the pear tree. They chirped testily, launching attacks from far less desirable perches in the wax myrtles, occasionally looping the house in frustration.

Hummingbird August 23

They didn’t seem to mind my noisy camera, even when I moved to a chair beneath the tree. They were too busy guarding their airspace.

Hummingbird August 23

Hummingbird August 23

Hummingbird August 23

It seemed to me that every calorie they gleaned from the honeysuckle and the feeders, they quickly spent on aggression.

Hummingbird August 23

Hummingbird August 23

Hummingbird August 23

Watching them, I realized that I have often lived in similar fashion. Wasting my energy on ambition and envy, when it would have been wiser to sit still and enjoy the sunshine.

Hummingbird August 23

A Hummingbird and a Publication Note

Hummingbird June 11

The honeysuckle has been in full bloom much of the summer, but hummingbirds are rare so far. I’ve only seen one a handful of times, and each of those visits has been brief.

Hummingbird June 11

Last summer was our first hummingbird summer, so I don’t have a feel for “normal” hummingbird activity. I’m looking forward to seeing what happens as the summer wears on.

Hummingbird June 11

Publication Note:  My poem “Doppler Effect” posted at vox poetica on June 19. Many thanks to editor Annmarie Lockhart!

The Nestlings

Wren May 4

A house wren began claiming the yard’s nest boxes in late April. He spent days on end carrying twigs, working on nests in each of the boxes.

Wren May 4

House Wren April 29

He clearly preferred one of the smaller boxes, and built his most elaborate nest in it. When females showed up to inspect the nests, he led them over and over again to his favorite, as if arguing its attributes.

House Wren April 29

The activity around the wren boxes was so entertaining that I almost missed a developing cardinal nest in the overhanging honeysuckle.

Cardinal May 11

Cardinal May 9

Cardinal May 11

The wren watched the cardinals’ progress with obvious interest, but didn’t seem to object.

Cardinal May 11

The cardinals quickly completed their nest, and soon there were eggs.

Cardinal May 19

May 19

Cardinal May 25

May 25

And then…

Nestling June 1

June 1

When the eggs hatched, the house wren’s interest in the honeysuckle nest increased alarmingly. (More than one source reports that house wrens sometimes destroy nearby nests, pecking holes in eggs and even killing nestlings.)

Nestling May 31

But a closer look revealed that the wren wasn’t planning to harm the nest.

Nestling May 30

He was feeding the brood.

Nestling June 1

And so were the cardinals.

Nestling May 31

I’m confused, but the cardinals, the wren, and the nestlings seem content.

Nestling June 1

Nestling May 31

The cardinals bring seeds, while the wren scours the yard for insects.

Wren May 30

And the nestlings greet either meal with enthusiasm.

Nestling May 31

I wonder if this kind of behavior is common. Have the yard’s birds been feeding each other all along?

Wrens May 3

I suppose “wonder” is the key word here, as it usually is in the yard.

Nestling June 1

Spring is in the Air (and in the Ground)

Fly April 10

When the pear tree’s pollinators finally arrived, they arrived in encouraging numbers. Hoverflies were the first wave, pretending to be bees.

Fly April 10

Fly April 10

A wave of true bees followed.

Bee April 10

Bee April 10

Happily, a few Question Mark butterflies drifted in near the end.

Question Mark April 10

Question Mark April 10

While the pear blooms lasted, the yard’s winter flock of yellow-rumped warblers divided their time between sipping nectar, foraging for insects, and sampling the last block of winter suet.

Warbler April 11

Warbler April 11

(As an aside, I spotted the following warbler yesterday and was confused by its complete lack of yellow feathers. I believe it is a yellow-rumped warbler, but I’ve never seen one that didn’t have at least a blush of yellow under its wings. Please comment if you can correct or confirm my identification!)

Warbler April 22

As the pear tree dropped its petals, we readied the yard for summer. We replaced damaged boards on the aging deck, uncovered the ginger lilies, and swept leaves out of the cactus bed. (The carpenter bees ignored us and concentrated on chasing each other. They also chased warblers, chickadees, crane flies, hoverflies, beetles, bees, leaves, dandelion fluff, and pear petals.)

Bee April 22

The garden stores aren’t fully stocked yet, but we found most of the plants on our list: dill, fennel, milkweed, columbine, annual lantana, snapdragons, salvia, and cosmos.

Flowers April 22

Yesterday, this American Painted Lady butterfly made me wish we had planted more cosmos. (The yard’s 2015 butterfly sightings, so far, are a major improvement over last year’s butterfly drought, but they don’t begin to equal 2012’s impressive migration.)

Butterfly April 22

The yard’s birds have been getting ready for summer, too. This little house wren doesn’t have a mate yet, but he clearly has a favorite house.

House Wren April 21

House Wren April 21

A pair of robins finished their nest last week and now spend most of their hours foraging.

Robin April 22

Robin April 22

(I am amazed by how many worms they find and eat each day.)

Robin April 22

The robins aren’t the only efficient foragers in our area. A pair of osprey make regular passes over the yard, carrying fish. Yesterday I caught a few frames as one of the pair nearly dropped its lunch on the deck.

Osprey April 22

After a brief struggle, which lasted no more than two wingbeats, the osprey managed to subdue its lunch and flew on. What would happen if the fish managed to break free? Would the osprey land on my deck and reclaim its catch? (I’d probably drop my camera and break it, leaving me with no proof of why I dropped it…)

Over the years I’ve found many surprising things in the yard, but never a fish. Perhaps this summer?

Osprey April 22

Except, it’s not summer yet. Today the windows are closed against a surge of chill that moved in overnight and is forecasted to last through the next few days. Mother would have called it dogwood winter, expecting the dogwoods to bloom after the chill passed. Or blackberry winter, if the blackberries were due to bloom. I’m content to call it the end of winter.

Hawk April 18

Grackles, Crows, and Hawks

Crow and Grackle April 10

With so many birds building nests in the yard, conflicts are inevitable. The grackles have been particularly testy over the last few days, mobbing crows whenever the larger birds enter the yard’s airspace.

Crow and Grackle April 10

And the crows, who routinely retreat once the grackles have spotted them, will not tolerate the presence of a hawk. Sunday morning I managed to capture a few images as three crows chased a Cooper’s Hawk back and forth over the yard.

Hawk April 12

Hawk April 12

Hawk April 12

Hawk April 12

Hawk April 12

About ten minutes after the chase circled off to the north, I spotted another hawk in a tree two yards over. (Or maybe it was the same hawk, returning for another try at breakfast?) The grackles saw it, too, and began voicing their alarm. Soon a pair of blue jays arrived, also calling alarm. None of the commotion seemed to bother the hawk, until an approaching group of crows added their caws to the chorus. Then it gave up and moved off to try its luck in a quieter hunting spot.

Hawk April 12

Which led me to ponder the relationships between larger and smaller birds. Why would a larger, stronger bird flee from smaller birds? I suspect it has something to do with energy conservation, it simply being easier to leave when you aren’t hungry enough to risk losing a few feathers, but I wonder what they are all thinking as they call and chase and flee.  And how will their reasoning change, when hungry nestlings enter the equation?