NatureLog - My Nature & Nature Travel Blog
Animals Through My Traveling Lens
As I shared in my Arrivals and Departures blog, there are many arrivals that I look forward to as I wish the northbound birds Godspeed until I see them again in the fall. You don't have to go far for nature travel - it could be right in your backyard. Just this week I was happy to see 2 different species of dragonfly in our backyard – one the unmistaken bright orange of the Flame Skimmer. And just a week or so prior, the first of the season’s Valley Carpenter bees arrived. The male, aka the “teddy bear bee”, with his gorgeous golden “fur” and the female, with her gorgeous iridescent wings, always delight us. As the UC Davis article describes, these beauties are pollinators, not pests so we hope that all can enjoy them.
Aside from these new arrivals and some different varieties of smaller butterflies, I am especially happy to welcome back the tiny but fierce Black-chinned Hummingbirds. I watched in shock as one tiny male, as if to announce his group’s arrival, harassed a relatively large California Towhee across our back fence. At first, he zipped back and forth at his back. When that wasn’t enough to get the Towhee’s attention, he flew to his face and zigzagged back and forth as the Towhee progressed along. Luckily for the Hummingbird, the Towhee chose to simply ignore this tiny little annoyance. Of course these moments only arrive – fleetingly – when I am without camera in hand. ;-)
And so it begins… the next level of backyard entertainment for the summer. Nature travel at its best - when you don't have to go anywhere. We’ve watched over the ensuing days as they continuously harass their own species, as well as the Anna’s Hummingbirds and anyone else who dares to be in their “newly re-established” territory! They tend to enjoy the purple salvia and the cuphea the most. I remind my significant other of this fact whenever he laments how “overgrown” our backyard flower garden has become. He, too, enjoys the entertainment of our tiny winged friends and has acquiesced, going with the flow of the growth in the cover and food our backyard provides to everyone. The beauty, after all, is in the eye of the beholder and for me, the more birds, the more important the flourishing - albeit overgrown - flower wonderland becomes!
If you don’t know much about Black-chinned Hummers, like most Hummingbird species, their “backstory”, IMO, is fascinating. The way I know they’ve arrived is hearing their distinctive “squeaking”. Both males and females get quite vocal, always tipping me to their location even while camouflaged in our tree cover. (Shhh…don’t tell them I’m onto them). Another thing I’ve learned from different sources is their bold habit of nesting close to large predators. Yes – you can find this little hummer nesting right next to a hawk’s nest! From what researchers have indicated, this is a good way for the hummer to gain some nest protection from its own predators. This tiny little Hummingbird species, thanks to banding efforts, has also been discovered to live as old as 11 years! For their size and energy exertion, scientists wouldn’t expect such long lifespans. And from their “summer vacations” as far north as Canada, east to Oklahoma and of course here along the West Coast, every fall they migrate south to Mexico. I usually see the last ones in our yard in mid-to-late September, and notice their return around 21 April. I keep both an eye and ear out for their arrival.
To enjoy an intimate depiction of their lives, follow the lovely story of a female raising her brood in the gorgeous and entertaining award-winning movie, First Flight: A Mother Hummingbird’s Story, currently viewable on Amazon Prime. Filmed in the Las Vegas area backyard of documentary filmmakers, the mother and chicks' story is captured in the movie and a book as well.
If you love Hummingbirds as much as I do, you can visit the Eyes4Nature Hummingbird collection here. But I do hope you get to enjoy the fun of their antics live! And my heartfelt thanks to the wildlife rehabilitators out there who rescue even these tiniest of creatures! Happy Spring! Remember that this is the season of nesting, so be sure to do all of your tree trimming at a later time. You never know what birds may be using your trees and shrubs for their nesting needs. And as always, contact your local wildlife rehabilitator if you find a bird or newborn chick in need. Enjoy the season!!
After a quiet winter and spring in which a few Anna's Hummingbirds would come and go, I was anxious for the Black-chinned Hummingbirds to return in April. I always look forward to their arrival between 16 and 18 April. But this year, 18 April came and went with no sign of them. This got me thinking: how much do we really know about their migrations, and what influences their arrival times? Given how wet and cooler our winter and spring had been, I presume it had an influence on their late arrival. My research led me to a fascinating discovery: that not only do we understand a lot about bird migrations, we understand with some incredible precision. It is truly amazing to realize how much we understand. Have you ever looked up at the night sky and wondered about the many birds above you who are making their long trek to their final destinations, some of which may be many hundreds if not thousands of miles still to go? It's amazing to think of. And yet, if you're in the U.S. and you'd like to know exactly who is on the move above you during migration time, you can learn that in the "BirdCast". Turns out, just as we have weather forecasts, we have bird movement forecasts! ;-)
As I read about the migrations, I sat and wondered what the spring and summer will bring in new arrivals and new offspring. Last year, we had many male and female Black-chinned in the backyard. We even rescued a tiny baby in our local park. She had clearly fallen from one of the tall redwoods. I had a bad feeling when I saw her little wing looking a bit 'off', but I took her home and she anxiously fed on all of the flower blooms as I cupped her in my hand and gingerly held her up to each one. She was absolutely precious! We let her eat a bit more from the blooms in the yard to give her some energy, not knowing how long she had been without food, then raced her over to our local wildlife rehabilitation facility. Much to our dismay later in the week we learned that her little wing was unrepairable. My only consolation was that she didn't have to lay there on the ground, slowly starving but instead could experience the richness of the food from the flowers - just as her mother had taught her - and certainly felt the love from all of us who cared for her for the time that she had left. Meanwhile, back at home, I was able to bring a smile back to my face as I watched the very tiny but aggressive female Black-chinned who would sit on our light cord under the pergola as her 'throne' and fight off the larger Anna's for a stake at the feeder. Nothing like Nature to teach you hard lessons, but always bring you back to the present moment. For that, I am always grateful ....
And so finally, on 27 April, I heard the unforgettable little squeak in our backyard! As always, I was thrilled to welcome their return. This first one is a tiny little guy. And for weeks he has flitted around our backyard flowers, helping himself to the sage, salvia and many other flowers. Welcome back, little one - to you and to all of the many others who brave the long distances to return here each Spring, to eat, fight for your bit of territory, mate and raise your young. I look forward to the many special moments you will bless us with between now and September when you again must start your long journey back South - and I anxiously watch the calendar to welcome you back 'home' once again.
Remember that this is the season of nesting, so be sure to do all of your tree trimming at a later time. You never know what birds may be using your trees and shrubs for their nesting needs. And as always, contact your local wildlife rehabilitator if you find a bird or newborn chick in need. Enjoy the season!!
Pamela, Eyes4Nature's proprietor, enjoying life out in the field among the animals and the peacefulness of nature.