Sunday, July 24, 2005

Hummingbirds, spiders and flies

Oh my.

Hummingbird update: we still have a dominant male Anna’s—the mob boss—guarding our balcony. He sits in the oak tree opposite us, watching the feeder, and zooms in like a tiny chirping torpedo the moment he spots any interlopers. Hummingbird fights are all about noise and speed; the sight and sound of him approaching is usually enough to see off his opponents.

However, he’s much better at spotting other hummingbirds when they’re on the move than when they’re still. Hardly surprising: we have the same problem spotting him when he’s perched in the oak tree, particularly as he’s taken to hiding amongst the leafy branches rather than perching on the exposed dead branch he used to prefer. Occasionally, a hummingbird will make it to the feeder without being spotted, where it’s free to take a big long drink; only when it takes off to leave does the mob boss notice and chase it off.

And I think his status might be on the wane: there’ve been a number of standoffs lately in which a challenger refuses to be chased off by him and tries to face him down. There’s a lot of noisy posturing in these confrontations: wary circling, jockeying for the height advantage, feints and rushes towards the opponent to try to make him turn tail and run. Our guy has won so far, but I wonder if his days on top are numbered.

We saw the biggest confrontation yet yesterday. Two hummingbirds snuck unnoticed onto the feeder to drink. This is unusual enough in itself: hummingbirds are aggressively territorial and rarely share a feeder. But then a third, and a fourth, hummingbird spoiled their idyll by zooming around the corner, attracting the boss’s attention. He zoomed over to be faced with four birds to chase off, two of which stuck around to challenge him. It’s tough work being the top dog.

As for the spiders and flies: the neighbourhood is infested with tiny spiders. I think the drainage channel running alongside apartment complex attracts lots of tiny flies, which in turn attract the spiders. They love our balcony railings; they love the entryway to our apartment, where the light stays on all night; and they love the bushes alongside the trail, many of which are so draped with webs that they look like they’ve been covered with dirty snow. And despite the window screens, both spiders and flies sneak into the apartment, where the spiders spin webs on the textured ceiling and catch the flies.