Saturday, February 19, 2005

Nature notes

The hummingbirds went through a lull: a long hot weekend with few visits to our feeder, which left us wondering if we'd done something wrong. Did we scare them off? Did the nectar go bad?

But on Tuesday it rained and rained and rained. No hummingbirds. Where do they go in the rain? Hunker down and wait it out is my guess. And on Wednesday they were ravenous: visits to the feeder about every 10 minutes, all day.

It's tailed off a little since then, but we're still seeing a lot of visits. Annoyingly though they favour the feeding port facing away from the window, so we often hear them approach but see little of them feeding; Melinda plans to bung up that port to force them more into view.

And I think we have a new species visiting: darker, with a brilliant iridescent red throat, and different habits to the Anna's Hummingbird: it perches to feed, while the Anna's prefer to hover; and it's silent, while the Anna's are vocal. My best guess is that it's a male Ruby-throated Hummingbird.

The pine tree opposite has been in bloom this week, and when the wind occasionally catches it (not often, as it's sheltered by other trees) great clouds of pollen puff from it like smoke. I've never seen anything like it.

Parking lots here are often full of blackbirds. Not the inoffensive blackbirds of Britain: these are mobs of Brewers' Blackbirds, which seem more similar to European starlings. One page describes the song as "a harsh wheezy que-ee or ksh-eee, like the creaking of a rusty hinge". But it's stranger than that: when there's lots of them calling over concrete, their song sounds almost artificial; as if its being broadcast over a cheap Tannoy.