Backyard Birding

My Resident Female…. Up close and personal!

I have been spending some time lately trying to improve my photographic skills when it comes to photographing hummingbirds. My recent posting showing a bit of jousting between a Ruby-Throated male and female at my feeder seemed sufficient enough to display the action but lacked the ‘pop’ I like to see in a photograph.

In pursuit of that goal here are a couple of photos I took a couple of days ago of the female Ruby-Throated Hummingbird who is the favorite of my summer visitors this year. Since I don’t have but a few regular visitors anyway, it is fairly easy to keep up with who’s who.

By the way, if you look at the enlarged versions of the photos you can actually see bits of pollen on top of her head apparently gathered from a recent visit to a flower, especially in the second one. Thought that was sort of cool….

Hummer 07(Click to Enlarge)

Hummer 08(Click to Enlarge)

A spring storm’s littlest victim….

Flegling Robin(Click for Enlarged View of Photo)

On this more or less dreary and dark morning with the threat of storms and rain I decided to have my morning coffee on the patio regardless. Noticed some movement along my nearby fence line and was quite surprised to find a young fledgling Robin. We have had several rounds of weather roll through the last couple of days so obviously the young one had been unwillingly routed from the nest. I immediately retrieved my camera for a quick photo or two.

But I was even more surprised to see a baby Robin at all quite honestly. I know it is early May but that seems too early to be seeing fledgling birds, whether in distress or otherwise. And the Robin wasn’t all that small to boot. Probably hatched in early April or so.

However, is as usually the case in these situations mom and pop were nearby offering a great deal of encouragement and of course their food catering services. Being in my yard, he was safe from any other larger critter getting him such as a dog or cat so one can only hope he stays safe until finally on the wing.

Bye, Bye Birdie….

Sad & Crying Smiley FaceIt has certainly been well documented by ornithologists as well as hummingbird enthusiasts alike that little is known about what triggers Ruby-Throated Hummingbirds to head south toward the end of summer. Most agree that by the end of September to the middle of October the majority have left their northern territories and have headed south to Texas and Mexico.

As I drew the curtains on my patio doors this past evening I saw my little dominate Ruby-Throated male sitting on his favorite limb keeping watch over his domain. But this morning when I opened those same curtains the little fella, whom I had featured in my last post by the way, had apparently headed south sometime between dusk last night and 7:00 AM this morning.

Of course one could assume it all quite coincidental but I would be terribly amiss if I didn’t mention the fact that he left at the dawn of the fall equinox. Yep… oddly enough this evening at 9:29 PM the Sun will be crossing the celestial equator and my little hummer is so smart that he apparently noted that last night as he looked to the heavens and knew it was time! So take that all you smarty pants bird people!

Bye, bye little birdie… and may the wind be at your back and the sun upon your face and may the winds of destiny carry you to the safety of your southern sanctuary.

There’s Been A Changing of the Guard….

Almost before the ink could dry on my last post regarding my hummingbird visitors, the adolescent male whom I had posted about was gone and there was a new king on the mountain, so to speak. Seems an adult male has now staked his claim to the feeder and is willing to take on all comers. And when I say the adolescent male was gone, I mean I have not seen him since so the new adult male took over so he must have sent the young man packing for good. In fact, much to my dismay the resident female I posted about I have not seen in some time now either. With migration time almost upon us I could assume both hummers just decided to go ahead and head south for the winter but of course one cannot really know these things for sure. One thing for sure, the little female I referred to as my ‘resident female’ will be sorely missed.

The weather was to my liking yesterday so I went out on the patio and setup for another photo session in the afternoon. Took photos off and on for about four hours but the adult male who is currently king of the castle was the only hummer who showed up to be photographed. Here are a few of the photographs from yesterday….

Hummer 01(Click to Enlarge)

Hummer 02(Click to Enlarge)

Hummer 03(Click to Enlarge)

Hummer 04(Click to Enlarge)

Next week brings on the first week of fall so it will be only some three or four weeks before all my little friends will have headed south. Photos will probably be far and few between from now on but I will have my eyes open for transients traveling south who may opt to stop by for a ‘pick me up’ on their long journey. 🙂

The Adolescent Male…. Up close and personal!

If you are familiar in the least with hosting a hummingbird feeder then you know that there is pretty much always one hummingbird in the mix of visitors who thinks the feeder is solely theirs and spends the better part of their days running off the other hummingbirds who try to feed. That particular hummingbird is, of course, typically referred to as the dominate hummingbird. Others like myself may refer to such hummingbirds as “little assholes” since they wreak havoc on any plans one might have of taking any meaningful photographs.

Unfortunately for me given my photographic aspirations as of late, I have one of the most tenaciously dominant hummers I have ever run across. And what is most surprising about the little critter in that he is an adolescent male less than a year old, probably born this past spring. He not only keeps any potential visitors away from the feeder, he keeps them out of the entire yard. He literally watches the yard from high in the trees and when one encroaches he goes on the attack.

You will note the dark colored spots on the throat of the hummer below which indicates that he is an adolescent male. Males normally tend to be the more aggressive of the species although as I have mentioned in an earlier post, I have a resident female who holds her own against all the males and feeds when she so chooses, despite their strong objections. But back to the featured little pesky male. He will migrate this fall and go through the molt stage during our winter and then next year when he arrives back north in the spring/summer his throat feathers will all be present in all their ruby-colored glory. If in fact he would by chance return to my area and feeder I doubt I would even know it since he will look completely different.

Hummer 05(Click to Enlarge)

Hummer 06(Click to Enlarge)

Ruby-Throated Humming Bird Feeder Wars….

Yesterday morning well before sunrise I went out to the patio and retrieved my hummingbird feeder. It was time for its weekly cleaning and refill. With late summer closing in I thought that later in the morning I would go out and try to capture a few photographs of some of the hummers that had been around this year. I sit on my patio just about every morning drinking a cup of coffee or two and watching them come and go. And because I don’t have all that many it is somewhat easy to soon become familiar with certain ones and their personalities.

My Resident Female(My Resident Female – Click to Enlarge)

It was around 8:00 AM as I prepared my camera and was about to go out and set it up near the feeder when I looked out and noticed there were a couple of hummingbirds really going at each other around the feeder. I went ahead and went out, set up the camera, grabbed my coffee and was ready for my photo shoot. I sat down to relax for a moment and the two hummers were immediately back and trying to exert their dominance over the feeder. One of the gladiators was one of my resident females who I really liked and is quite elegant. The other was a very aggressive male which was not a part of the daily visitors and must have happened upon the feeder by chance this morning, perhaps even in the process of migrating already.

Anyway, to my amazement for the next 2½ hours the two did battle never straying more than 6 feet or so from the feeder. Photographically speaking, I was in hog heaven because the least of their interest was me and during the time period I shot well over a hundred photos. Of course, many didn’t turn out and many were quite similar in content. Thought I would share a few of those this morning and remember to see a larger version, just click on the desired photo….

Feeder Wars - 12
Feeder Wars - 01

Feeder Wars - 03
Feeder Wars - 05

As previously mentioned, this display of domination and aggression went on for over two hours when finally they literally locked up and went to the ground almost in a ‘ball’ configuration and then just laid there on the patio floor motionless. I really thought they had been injured or something. They were on the patio about three feet or so from me so I shuffled one of my feet and they apparently relinquished their holds and each other and flew off. The male never came back so obviously the victory and the feeder went to my beloved female. Hoooorah! 🙂

Senior Moment #43

Buttering ToastAs many of my peers are aware, those classic ‘senior moments’ can come at anytime. They seem to lurk everywhere and spring out to grab us when we least expect it!

Such was the case yesterday morning as I walked up the hallway on the way to the kitchen to fix my ritual breakfast which always consists of one solitary piece of toast with of course, butter. Now I ask you, whose thinking about having a senior moment for something as simple as that?

So… I take a small plate from the cabinet for the toast and a butter knife from the silverware drawer, setting them next to the toaster as always. I then get the butter carton from the refrigerator, scoop the ritual amount of butter from the carton onto the knife, lay the knife on the plate and return the butter carton to the refrigerator. As I wait for the toast to pop out of the toaster, I walk to the patio door and take a look or two outside and then casually walk back to the kitchen. As I gaze out the kitchen window I suddenly come to the stark realization that I have been waiting a while now for my piece of toast to pop out of the toaster. As I look over to see what’s going on with the toaster it only takes a split second to understand. There is no bread in the toaster. The toaster sits idle. I never got my loaf of bread out of the cabinet and put a slice in the toaster!

That my dear friends for those who may not know is a classic senior moment! And for me it is number 43 since I have been counting for several years now!

The Mourning Dove Encounter….

If to any degree one participates in ‘bird watching’, whether from their kitchen window or excursions down a nature trail, they are surely familiar in some measure with the “Mourning Dove”. And of course I can’t exclude hunters from this brief discourse.

Mourning Dove

One of the first things you will learn about this bird is that they become quite nervous when put on alert and are quite skittish. This behavior is usually followed by them taking flight with that all too familiar wing whistle or squeaking sound.

I’m not fanatical about feeding birds in my backyard but do keep up some measure of a regiment during the winter months although it seems winter has passed us by this year. And I normally feed the birds from feeders hanging off the edge of my patio roof. So whenever I exit the house through my patio door there is usually the immediate rush of birds scattering from the area.

A few weeks ago as I walked out my patio door I noticed two doves lying a couple of feet from the left-hand edge of my small patio and sunning on a small patch of bare ground. I was immediately struck that my entrance onto the patio some 15 feet from them seemed of little interest to them. Curious by the behavior, I turned and walked back into the house. They didn’t seem to even notice, not even rising to their feet.

I decided to get my bag of mixed bird seed and see what would happen if I went out again and began throwing a bit of seed out onto the ground. Again I stepped onto the patio and then casually walked directly to the edge of the patio somewhat in a direction slightly away from them. The two doves were off to my left at again what would be the left-hand corner of the patio. I slowly, without any sudden movement, spread some seed on the ground and then walked back into the house. During that time one of the two doves had risen to their feet and was keeping an eye on me but otherwise did not seem all that nervous.

I decided to end the experiment at that point and no longer test their patience. I thought perhaps just leaving them alone might be at that point the best move for reinforcing their trust, if in fact that was what was going on here.

A few days later as I looked out my patio door I noticed what seemed to be one of the doves back and lying in their favorite little sunning spot. I immediately wanted to test his patience again, assuming it was even one of the previous two that I had encountered previously, but this time I wanted to try and get it on video so I grabbed my camera which was nearby and already on its tripod. I slowly stepped out onto the patio with my camera and began getting it setup and focused in on the area I wanted to try and video. The dove seemed to have little concern with my activity so close by.

I was ready to proceed. I turned on the video camera and slowly began walking in the direction of the dove lying on the ground. After getting about halfway there from where I started I slowly turned around and walked back. The dove seemed fine with it. Then I decided to really push the envelope since I was getting it on video and just see how far I could go. Watch the video below to see how it all unfolded….

As you saw in the video I got incredibly close to the dove and not until right at the point when I got up to return back to the camera location did the dove get a little nervous, standing and then walking just a few inches in a cautious manner. I was most surprised when I tossed the two small twigs. I would have bet a lot of money that any movement of that type would have certainly spooked the little feller for sure! Also I would like to note that except for the title and ending frames, the video is completely unedited.

I have to say I remain somewhat amazed at this particular occurrence given the nature of the Mourning Dove. A couple of days later I noticed my new little friend was back again at apparently their favorite sunning spot so I decided to get my camera and try to get a nice photo of her/him as a keepsake. That photograph was featured earlier at the beginning of my post.

Well, there you have the long and short of it – the Mourning Dove story. 🙂

Just a friendly game of ‘hide & seek’….

Happen to glance out a back window this morning and observed what I characterized as nothing more than a friendly game of “Hide & Seek” between two of Mother Nature’s local residents enjoying the fresh morning air. Could not help but try and snap a photo or two of the event. Thought I would share and be sure and click on images to get a larger view…..

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Previously blog featured hawk becomes worst nightmare….

Yesterday morning was ‘HELL’ around here. The hawk featured in the “After the rain shower” post began an onslaught on my nesting Robin pair’s nest yesterday morning and I was not a happy camper. I had become somewhat attached to the pair and nature taking its course could go the hell somewhere else yesterday as far as I was concerned.

Their babies were about a week old. I just happened to be on my backyard patio drinking coffee when I heard the local bird residents start going berserk. I couldn’t see the hawk but the other birds were buzzing a tree limb just above the bush the Robin’s nest was located. I walked out across the yard toward the area and the hawk flew off. I immediately suspected he had located the nest.

Within the next half hour he came back two more times landing in the bush itself and trying to pinpoint the exact location of the nest. Each time I ran across the backyard clapping my hands scaring him off. Of course in the end I knew it was already a done deal because he could easily wait me out. It was just a matter of time unfortunately. It didn’t take him long to make his final run. Within some ten minutes he came back swooping right into the nest area without hesitation, had the babies in one clutch and was gone before I could even move out of my chair.

I tell you…..I swear I could hear those babies squealing. The parents, other Robins, Blue Jays and even Cardinals were trying to run him off. After he was gone for the next hour or two the parents were trying to locate and call to the babies. It was really, really sad. And I was really, really mad – nature taking its course or not! Just because its “Nature” doesn’t mean there aren’t times when it sucks!

Well….how’s this for a cheerful post? 🙁

UPDATE – I have just returned from having a cup of coffee on the patio and having reflected on the events from two days ago related above, perhaps there was an ounce of humor available in those tragic moments. I began to wonder this morning just what my neighbors might have been thinking if they happened to see my antics that morning after hearing the hand-clapping. Imagine if you will, standing at your window and seeing the elderly man who lives behind you all of a sudden for seemingly no reason at all bolt from his chair and go running out across his backyard clapping his hands…..only to return moments later, sit down and return to drinking his coffee. Then ten minutes later with no warning…..off he goes again for seemingly no reason whatsoever! I have to admit, from my perspective it brought forth a bit of a chuckle! 🙂