The magical hum of summer

Sometimes, in the heat of a summer day, if you’re sitting still (and sometimes if you’re not), you may glimpse a tiny, winged thing not much bigger than a large moth, zip right by, emitting squeaks and beeps. In the northeast, it’s likely a ruby-throated hummingbird in search of a sugar water feeder or a suitable flower.

Before this year, I hadn’t been much on keeping up with feeding hummingbirds; I know you have to change the water often and make sure it doesn’t run out (hummingbirds are voracious sippers), and I just didn’t make the time.

But as I spent more time with Mom, feeding the regular feeder birds like cardinals, house finches, titmice and a few others, I figured we would both enjoy watching hummers through her big picture window. I found an inexpensive feeder, we boiled some water and let it cool, added the requisite sugar, and very shortly, welcomed our first visitor.

little male hummer
The males I find hardest to photograph; the light has to hit them just right to make their gorget shine.

Hummingbirds, perhaps because of their speed (or their insatiable appetite), are not as shy as other birds. After a few days, you can risk getting closer for pictures.

hummer comin
Sometimes you have to keep snapping to get a good photo: these things are fast!

I am always amazed at how birds (and animals as well) can so easily blend into their backgrounds.

hummer camo
One of my favorite hummingbird shots.

I recently relocated Mom to live with my husband and I in North Carolina. As we sat on the deck one evening, a hummingbird flew by. That was our signal; Mom set out the feeder. After about an hour, there was one. Now there are four, and they all think they own the feeding station.

hummer hover
I caught this little beauty mid-hover!

I forgot to look for a second feeder today when we were out shopping. I will have to remedy that soon; the males seem to have already left for the winter.

hummer tail
Hummingbirds look amazing from every angle.
hummer stretch
I joked when we saw the first hummer in North Carolina that they had followed us from Mom’s house, two states away.

Whether sitting still, or zooming by, hummingbirds can be a wonderful introduction to backyard birding.

hummer hello
Soon they’ll fly south, but I look forward to their return in the spring.

 

Holding on and catching up

It’s funny how life unfolds. One minute, I’m creating a blog because I’m bored and miss writing, and the next thing you know, I’m back to writing part-time for pay. On my off days, I sometimes travel to spend time with my husband, and I also drive out of state to care for my Mom.

Enter a couple of medical emergencies, and I’ve relocated to become a full-time caregiver, and the writing has just about stopped.

I haven’t quit taking pictures, however, although I’m away from my familiar photo-editing software. As things continue to improve, that should change soon, and in the meantime, I’m still learning — about my camera, digital photography, and life in general. I’ve had to give up my zoo trips for now, but I’m rediscovering birds. It’s amazing what a few seeds and a hummingbird feeder can bring to a deck or a yard! (See the young tufted titmouse, above.)

I have enough photos to write probably three or four posts, but it will be a few more weeks until I can starting blogging on a regular basis again. In the meantime, you can keep up with me @ddiljak on Instagram. Here are some of my recent pictures:

Monarch butterfly
This monarch butterfly (on milkweed) surprised me on a recent morning walk.
Ruby-throated hummingboard
Mom’s flowers, and the new hummingbird feeder, have attracted at least four of these fiesty beauties.
Flowring allium
An allium in Mom’s yard, opening earlier this summer.

Family is what you make of it

The first time Mom laid eyes on Shere Khan, she was answering an ad for a kitten who needed a new home. “He doesn’t like people,” the man said. Mom sat down, and Shere Khan promptly jumped up on her lap to say hello. She brought him home. He was to be a companion cat to Tiger, a lovely ragamuffin kitten my brother-in-law had found in a parking lot in Virginia, and brought him on a family trip to see my parents. Tiger ended up staying, but he was about to claw my Dad to death. The vet said he needed a playmate.

Enter Shere Khan.

upside down
Shere Khan’s motto: The more attention, the better.

The first time I laid eyes on the gray tabby, he was full of the usual kitten antics, but he had a new trick to share, one I found hilarious. He would sit back on his hind legs and rise up, front feet dangling, like a meerkat. He was warmly affectionate, and highly entertaining. I called him my Little Buddy.

Tiger was always more aloof. My sister and mother call him snooty. But I think he’s just a little shy.

lookin lovely
Tiger, bird-watching on the deck.

That was until last fall, when I started traveling to check on Mom, on a more-or-less regular basis. I tried each trip to make friends, and he eventually became less standoffish. He even stood still for some petting, now and then.

tiger playing
Tiger’s pretty fond of sleeping, but he and Shere Khan both like to play.

A few months ago, when Mom got sick, I essentially moved in to help her out. Both kitties got used to me pretty quick, and I’ve discovered most of Tiger’s hiding spots for sleeping. Shere Khan likes to curl up beside me and take a nap. He lets me know, either by staring, winding around my legs or by talking, that it’s time for me to stop what I’m doing and dole out some attention.

Watching them play is fun, but I’ve come to enjoy seeing them groom each other. While one is licking, the other usually has a blissful look on his face.

wash dah face
Shere Khan thinks Tiger does a purr-fect job washing his face.

I caught them at bath-time this afternoon, and they ignored me for a while.

aaah
Mmmmm. You got the right spot.

That is, until I turned on the flash.

tiger licking
Hey! I’m takin’ a bath, here.

Luckily, Shere Khan is quick to forgive. Like Tiger, I’ve been the recipient of several of his loving head-bumps.

headbump
Shere Khan gives Tiger an affectionate head-bump.

 

Going ape at the Greenville Zoo

I’ve never spent much time watching or learning about monkeys or apes. The first fact I remember learning about either was that spider monkeys bite (according to the neighbor down the street, who was happy to show hers off, as long as you didn’t touch the cage).

But lately I’ve paid more attention, and a recent stop at the Greenville Zoo, I stopped to watch several. The orangutan curled up in a blanket was adorable. I’ve seen them swinging by their great, orange, hairy arms before, but not snuggling like a toddler getting ready for a nap.

The red-tailed, or Schmidt’s guenon was, for me, something new, and I didn’t even notice its famous long tail. I was instead drawn to its colorful face.

red-tailed guenon
Red-tailed guenons are from Africa. Apparently, they are well known for making faces at humans.

The black and white ruffed lemurs were acrobatic, and excitable, at least when it came to dinner time.

Black and white ruffed lemurs are critically endangered, but do well in captivity.
Lemurs make good use of their limbs, and their tails.

And, I stopped to watch some gibbons, who, I learned are a noisy lot, too. Their calls can be heard two miles away.

Gibbon with teething baby.

My apologies to Walter

There’s really no rhyme or reason when I visit a zoo. I may have a certain animal in mind I want to see; if it’s been more than a few months since I’ve seen a big cat I may head in that direction first, but mostly, I meander around and stop whenever something catches my attention.

I was moseying along at the Greenville Zoo last month when I spotted a beautiful Masai giraffe. Actually, there were three, but one was really tall and sort of wandering out by himself, so I stopped. I looked. And he looked at me.

miles hello there
Miles seems to love attention.

I looked some more. And so did he.

miles mmm
Alas, visitors are not invited to feed the giraffes at the Greenville Zoo.

We chatted. Or I did. I think he asked me for some food. In his own way.

miles itch
Miles considers his next move.

I told him he was beautiful, and I would love to feed him, but it was against the rules.

no food really
No food, really?

He grew bored after a while, and walked away. I enjoyed our chat, and reluctantly, got ready to move on. But not before another picture or two.

miles profile
Miles looks good from any direction.

miles standing.JPG

I noticed the name of the male giraffe on a sign as I left, so I assumed it was Walter. I posted some pictures of him on Instagram and a zoo page I follow. But on reviewing the zoo website, I found that Walter, for breeding purposes, had moved on to another zoo. This, apparently, was Miles, who had been hand-reared before relocating to Greenville. That accounts for his open manner, I think.

Walter, I apologize. And Miles, I hope we meet again.