Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Dancing With Hummingbirds

Summer 2007, Blodgett, Oregon, and Bass Lake, California.
They are tiny and beautiful, dozens of them, darting up and down, forward and even backwards, as they flit, chirp, click, and chase each other. They are the Rufous Hummingbirds, and are after the sweet nectar in the feeders hanging from the porches at my Aunt Betty's house in Oregon.
(The picture is an Anna taken in my yard at Bass Lake)
As they crowd the feeders, their wings move so fast that they sound like bumble bees. As they fly to and from, they let out a long, rather screechy kind of noise, which surprised me, as I didn't hear that when they were passing through my area at Bass Lake, CA, a month earlier. (They only stay a couple of days usually, on their way north, but this year they were stalled in a freaky weather pattern, and decided they liked my feeders, so they were with me for 2 weeks. I' like to think that they then flew straight to my aunt's house, and I was able to meet up with them again!)
The Roufus' colors are exquisite. Basic brown and white, the male has an orange-red head and neck. When caught in the right light, as we photographers strive for, he lights up in a fluorescent glow of golds, greens and red-oranges. It is like magic not only to witness that beauty, but to capture it on film! It catches it your throat! The female is lovely too.
My Aunt Betty lives in the coastal range of mountains, in central Oregon. She is half way between Corvallis and Newport. Her 3 acres are nestled in among thousands of Douglas fir trees. When you take a walk it smells like Christmas. If I were a bird, I would want to nest there too. It's an enchanting forest.
As lovely as hummers are, their tomfoolery can be perplexing. They are just downright mean and vicious to each other. They guard their feeders fiercely, and actually attempt to injure other birds by flying right into them, sometimes knocking them to the ground, and/or impaling them. The sound of the impact is startling. They mean business! Our family has rescued them many times from a fateful battle, or when they get caught in my bedroom!
I live in a hummer fly zone here at Bass Lake. We have mostly Annas, some of which stay throughout the winter. However, this year, when I got back home from Oregon, hundreds of Rufous' arrived and stayed all summer. So you see, they did follow me back! We had dozens of feeders full of Annas and Rufous.
I, like all other faithful hummer feeders do, am constantly brewing the sweet nectar for them, using 4 cups of water to 1 cup of sugar. It needs to be boiled for 3-5 minutes to get rid of any impurities in both the water and sugar, then cooled. I learned in a wildlife course to be sure the feeders are always cleaned thoroughly with hot soapy water and brushes, to get out all the black mold that can grow inside. The mold can get on their tongues and kill them. A dirty feeder is a death sentence for hummingbirds. I think that anyone who decided to feed them, should take an oath to keep the feeders clean. I see so many of them back with mold, hanging abandoned. That's a no no.
I have numerous brushes for this job of cleaning. Tooth brushes, a bent bottle brush, even a mascara wand to get into the small port holes. In the winter when it freezes, I try to remember to bring in the feeders, however at the crack of dawn, even if I'm slightly late putting them back out, they actually peck at my sliding glass door! I think that's just brilliant!
Years ago, while living in Ventura, my daughter, Kim, saw a hummer taken down by another. She rescued it before the attacker went in for the kill. She held it sideways in her hand, putting its beak into the feeder, and soon it was revived enough to fly away. Another time, Kim and her daughter, Erika, and I finally rescued one that had been flying around in my bedroom for over 5 minutes. It finally just dropped to the floor from exhaustion. We let it rest in our hands, fed it nectar, and soon it said thanks, and flew away. At my aunt's in Oregon, I rescued one on her porch that was caught in large glob of cobwebs.
In the spring of 2007, my daughter, Kecia and I went to southern Arizona to see the migrations of hummingbirds that fly north from Mexico. We both have the same camera, and it was quite exciting photographing birds that we had never seen before, like the blue-green of the Broad tails, and the purple of the Costa's. (I will post pictures soon.) The high desert was lovely with all the saguaro cactus, and it was teeming with all the different kinds of birds. Both Kecia and I have a Canon Rebel Digital SLR. It's such a great camera. With a lot of concentrated time and effort, along with our intuitive eyes, we've gotten quite proficient in being able to catch these tiny, jet-like creatures in action. The camera not only picks up their speed, but their incredible colors. After a lifetime of taking pictures, this digital SLR process has changed my life forever, and brought me total joy and passion with my photography!
I've often wondered about the hummers' long migrations. Do they fly in groups, or go alone? At what altitude? Does anyone ever see them? From a plane? Do they collide with planes? I wonder how many are lost to predators. I have several books that don't cover these questions of mine. I've heard that one reason why some of them don't leave in the winter is because they are too old, and know they can't make it. One, I named Mean Anna, has been out there on my back deck for 3 years, and of course, owns the place!
In Oregon, my Aunt was picking blackberries, and found an exquisite, empty, hummer nest. To this day, it sits in her kitchen window, in a special place, along with her agates, sea glass, and other treasures.
Thanks for being there for us, hummers! You are a god treat. We love your song and dance! You make our days good!

Monday, November 26, 2007

How 'bout my kitchen bangs?

Looks like Mom cute my bangs, huh?!!!!!" My friend, judi, one of The Sisterhood, calls them Buster Brown bangs, and says that these look good compared to the way her Mom cut hers when she was a kid!

Christmas Day - Guam 1973 - Navy Life

We had just moved to Guam from Okinawa, and were living in a hotel near Tumon Bay. (The equivalent of Waikiki.) It was Christmas Day, and we were opening our presents. The phone rang, and it was the quaratine area on Guam telling us that our black cat, Charcoal, had escaped from her cage, and had disappeared into the boonies. Alarmed, we all (6, soon to be 7) dropped everything and drove to the quarantine station. We tromped through the tropical vegetation for miles and hours, calling her name, and even saw a black cat from a distance, but didn't find her. With great sadness we returned to our hotel, hoping and praying that someday soon, we would have our kitty back.

After the new year, we rented a house in Tumon Heights, still waiting for on-base housing. The kids adopted a stray kitten, and named her Scope, because she had such bad breath. (We found out later that our neighbors were feeding her food laced with lots of garlic.) We lived there for 3 or 4 months. One day when getting off the school bus, Kim found Scope dead by the road. Another sad situation. However, that same afternoon, the quaratine people called us said that Charcoal had sneaked back into the cage area, and they caught her. She had had a little bell on, and they could hear her "out there" in the boonies.

So once again we all went to the quarantine station expecting to see a scrawny, emaciated, pathetic half dead kitty, and low and behold, she was fat and beautiful. She was so fat that I didn't think it was our cat. Whatever she subsisted on in the boonies sure agreed with her, but she must have gotten lonely, and wanted some of that good boxed cat food! After identifying some little white hairs in a personal area on her body, (and, "Come on, Mom, she has her bell on.") we were able to cancel out the remaining time on her quarantine, and take her home that day. Talk about happy kids!!!!! It was a good day.

Friday, November 23, 2007

November 23, 2007

It would be a 65 mile drive to the nearest large store, and besides, Black Friday just isn't for me, so before I go to work this afternoon, I'm going to drive down the road about 8 miles, and go to the open house being put on by the local alpaca ranch. Want to take pictures, of course, (hope they have babies) and check out their advertised gift shop. I know they must have yarn, milled from their animals, and I think they get it milled locally. Since I'm a hand-spinner, I'm anxious to learn the particulars.

Late yesterday I received a dinner invitation from my friend, Anita, who, along with her son, runs a B & B nearby. She's a friend from my old Yosemite days, when i lived and worked in the Wawona Hotel there. Her B & B is named the Pine Rose Inn, and it is like an old fashioned lodge. We had nice dinner, and, although she lost her power, we pioneered on with candle light! Delightful. (we lose our power often here in the mountains)

I'm listening to TSO. The weather is finally thinking colder. Our Indian Summer has been a many splendered thing; warm, yellows and reds, with good walks and smells for my dog and I, but today, we have an unusual wind and a bit of frost! There goes the last of my dogwood leaves outside my window here. I still have a few Anna hummingbirds in my feeders, along with a number of other birds. Some of the hummers will winter over here, but that's a whole other story for another time. It's a good day.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Thanksgiving Day 2007, Bass Lake, CA

This may be the first Thanksgiving I've ever spent alone. Well, I do have my blessed dog, Muppet, 3 cats, and 2 very old and noisy white doves, but due to my job, and a nasty cold, I chose to just stay put at home this year. I couldn't do it at Christmas time, but for today, it's delightful. This time last year, I was in New Jersey at Kecia's, and the year before that, at Kim's in Ventura.

One of my "close-at-home" adventures recently has been trapping critters, mostly raccoons, from under my house where they are doing damage. After a round robin group of calls, a few weeks ago, I came up with the "federal trapper's" # where I left a message. He answered promptly, and came here the next day with a trap. Two days later, I had a very large raccoon in the trap, and called the trapper to come get him. As he was taking him away, he informed me that he had to put it down. He can't relocate it because of disease. I felt bad. So for the next 4 trappings of smaller raccoons, I'd take them across the lake and release them. As for the oppossum I trapped last night, I let him go in my yard, as I know he's been around for years, and doesn't live under my house. I found out how they were getting under there, and now have to have someone come and fix the damage!

Protector of the Underdog,
Provider for those who have none,
Do you wear the bandit's mask
to hide the good deeds that you've done?
Teach me to turn away from
rich rewards or worldly acclaim,
Knowing that my generosity allows
my Warrior Spirit to be reclaimed....
from The Medicine Cards

By the way, the clam dip that Kecia posted is delicious! It's a good day!

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Merry Christmas, mom!

As one of my gifts to my mom, Patti, i've been working on creating this blog for her. I made the banner using pictures that my mom has taken. My mom loves to read my blog and always asks alot of questions about my blog - so i think she'd really like to blog herself. i know i love it!

So this is officially her first post!

Merry Christmas, Mom!