May 20, 2003: This is a busy season at The Lair. We have had several weeks of company and just returned from Mitch and Tresa's home where we attended a dinner celebrating their tenth wedding anniversary. I have been quite busy with updates of programs, new technique tutorials and the increased tasks that go along with getting the outside in shape with new plantings of herbs, flowers and feeding the hummingbirds. In addition, I am scanning all our slides taken over the years to put them on CDs for a permanent archive, since I no longer use an SLR camera, using my digital one instead. I am also putting our videos and eventually our CDs in a data base, I am sketching, painting and continuing to declutter the house, the latter task almost completed.
It also is a season of change. One major change here is that we lost all of the goldfish that we have had in our sugar kettle fountain for eight years. The only clue of the cause is that when I added water to the fountain as I have hundreds of times before, the water suddenly became very clear with all algae gone. Within two hours all of our fish were dead. Apparently some work had been done on the water lines and I suspect the workers at the plant increased the amount of chlorine in the water, since the algae all disappeared. I felt very sad to see my beautiful fish gone...some were very young and some had grown quite large. On the other hand, I am not going to replace them, not wanting to risk the same thing happening again, and because (and this is the main reason) it is one less thing for me to care for and I am ready for that kind of change.
A lot of activity has been going on among the wildlife, especially the birds. We have had a pair of Roadrunners come through our yard. I hope we have a nesting pair up on the hill, that seems to be where they come from when they appear. I was only able to catch one of them in silhouette in a photo taken through a double-paned window, but here it is:
Just yesterday I glanced out my window in time to see three little Downy Woodpecker fledglings being fed by their parents. The Downy is a tiny (5 3/4") bird that is most endearing and watching the show was quite entertaining. This is the first time we have seen Downy fledglings in our yard, so that is encouraging. According to Stokes Nature Guides, they will become regulars at one's feeders if suet in mesh bags is offered. We only offer that in the winter, so they must have found a dead tree nearby that they like. Downys excavate nests in dead trees, often near the top of a broken stub five to forty feet high. Goodness knows there are plenty available, we have lost over 3/4 of the Escarpment Live Oaks in our front yard to Oak Wilt.
A little Bewick's wren built a nest in a pipe of my satellite receiver for my internet connection. When we sat on the patio and the cats joined us, or when we merely went into the back yard, she became quite upset and aggressively came quite close to scold us. Here she is on a power line just above the roof of the house:
When the cats came into the yard because I was there, she became even more upset and aggressive and jumped down to the fence, a dangerous move, but the resulting picture lets one see her markings from the side:
I quickly took the last picture and then led the cats out of the yard so she wouldn't continue to be disturbed. This story doesn't have a happy ending, though. Sometimes observing nature is very difficult. When the babies fledged, like Mockingbird babies do, they went to the ground. Farris rescued one from the cats but I don't think it made it. The next day I saw Graycie run across the patio and investigated, and saw that she was after another little wren fledgling, an adorable little 1/2 inch bird; Farris rescued it and took it high on the hill where the mother found it while I distracted the cats. Unfortunately, the next morning I arrived at the window of the computer room just in time to see Rio finishing his little baby wren breakfast. I get angry at the cats, but they are merely following their nature. We taped up the pipe so no more nests would be built there and put up a new wren house on the hill where a wren immediately began building a nest. The male builds two nests and the female chooses one of them. Apparently the female of this pair was wiser, for she didn't choose the new house nest, their nest in use is far away from the cats and the house.
I had a wonderful and unusual experience with my humming birds recently. Here is a picture of the birds feeding late in the evening, taken through a double-paned window with a zoom lens, so the picture isn't clear, but still the numbers we have are apparent in the picture, and keep in mind we have three 32 ounce feeders out that I have to refill daily!
One day when I was replacing a newly-filled feeder and still had my hands on the feeder, a hummingbird flew over my shoulder and landed on the perch and began to feed; another one flew under my arm and did the same, while a third one approached from the opposite side. Since I have never been that close to the little jewels before, I froze in position with my hands still on the feeder and stayed that way until they had eaten their fill and flew away. Here is a picture of a pair showing how pretty they are, although this is not a picture of the actual birds that were so hungry:
If you look carefully you can see just the beginning of red showing at the back of the dark part of the male's throat on the right. They were flashing their red throats at me but I wasn't able to catch one in mid-flash, they were too quick for me. I did manage to catch a Black-chinned male as he was flashing his throat at a different feeder:
I won't mention how long I stood to get these pictures.
My goal is to catch a Ruby-throat in full flash mode before the summer
Here is a picture of another "bird" hard at work at his hobby of higher mathematics, along with his working dog, Sally.
Farris is fearless and without any ego-protective devices, because he gave me permission to put that picture on the web! Sally didn't care either way.
I have added a few paintings to the digital gallery. Click here if you wish to see them.
Last revised: November 26, 2010