What’s that chatter?

August in this part of North Carolina is known for being exceedingly hot and excessively humid. But until this week, I didn’t know this sultry month was such a hotbed of avian activity.

I put hummingbird feeders out in March after social media posts declared they were on the way. Shortly after, a male showed up and claimed his territory. We’ve seen a few, here and there, all summer, and I’ve tried to keep the feeders clean and stocked with sugar water.

young male
There’s at least one young male in the bunch.

But this week — holy cow. The in-flight fights that have commenced! Around the flowering pear tree, in front of the porch, ON the porch — in a few instances, a few feet from my face. Migration is coming, and these hungry birds know it.

I now hear them chattering around the front yard before I see them, but see them I do. I wish I were a good enough photographer to capture some of that posturing and scolding, but usually I do well to snap a passable photo of just one of these fast fliers.

zooming in
These guys have been like little stealth bombers this week. Zip in, zip out.

I’ve seen at least one adult male, but have not been able to get a good photo. He prefers the feeder that’s closest to the porch roof.

feeder wars
Mine! Mine! Mine!
quick landing
I put several inches of sugar water in this feeder this morning., and it looks like it could use a few more.

These tiny ruby-throated hummingbirds won’t be here for much longer. They start migrating south in September. Until then, I plan to enjoy them, chatter and all.

hummer hiding
Zoom, zoom! This hummer takes a peek at me through the butterfly bush.

 

 

A serendipitous hike

My husband and I don’t get to hike much any more, but recently took advantage of some pleasant weather to explore near the Falls Lake dam. I took my camera “just in case.”

Usually, if I need it, I don’t have it, and if I have it, I don’t see many good photo ops. But on this particular day, as we walked down the trail near the dam, Bill spied a large water bird in a tree across the Neuse River. I tried to focus, but the bird was too far away to get a very good shot. Still, it was thrilling to zoom in on my camera and discover the bird was a great blue heron, as they tend to be shy birds and not easily seen.

We kept walking, and I was again grateful for his sharp eyesight as he spied several more birds fishing in the water. I couldn’t get a good shot, so we continued to follow the river. Shortly after, he saw another heron. I zoomed in and took a few shots before walking across the rounded, worn rocks to try for a better photo. Just as I got to the edge and regained my balance, the bird took off.

It was a great morning, and a good reminder to always try to bring along my camera.

IMG_20180616_202532
I was able to get a few good shots before this heron, which looks like a youngster, flew away.

 

 

You’re never too old to bathe in the forest

Two-thousand seventeen has been a busy year for us, with all the moving around. I relocated to West Virginia for five months to take care of Mom, while my husband worked on assignment in South Carolina. On weekends, we met in the middle to house hunt. Our old place wasn’t practical any more.

In between doctor and hospital visits, we found a new house. Bill moved onto a new job site, and in August, Mom and I and her cats moved into the new house, bought with her in mind. We’ve been learning to live with each other again, and working on settling in, ever since.

Some days we find a lot to laugh about, and on others, we move to our respective “corners,” but we try our best to make things work. Bill was home this week, and after I finished working on an online project, I went outside to try to talk Mom into taking a walk. Bill had beat me to it. I found him escorting her through the woods.

mom and the woods
Mom grew up running around in the woods, and she still enjoys it, at a somewhat slower pace.

She had a great time viewing the fall colors, being “back in the woods,” and managed the dips and hills in the uneven ground much better than I thought she would.

IMG_20171103_163754 (2)
Pines mingle with deciduous trees throughout the woods around our house.

I went back to the house to grab her walking stick my brother crafted for her, along with my camera. Some of the trees have lost their fall foliage, but others have just joined the show.

IMG_20171103_163956 (2)
I would name all these trees if I could, but we left Mom’s tree ID book back at her old house. One more thing to add to the list when we make a return visit.

We came in and ate some lunch, then Mom and I went out for another look. She sat and took a rest while I marveled at the color all around us.

riot of red leaves (2)
I do love the blues and greens of the ocean, but the colors of fall are beautiful, too.

I read this week that the Japanese use a term we loosely translate as “forest bathing” to describe a relaxing time in the woods. I think it’s a great term, as our souls were soaking up the beauty of all those colors today.

leaves closeup
Fall is my favorite season, and now that the most of the pollen has blown away, I can enjoy it.

Mom said she has had enough walking for a few days, but the trees are not far from the house. I bet I can talk her into another session of forest bathing over the weekend.

mom on well

 

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.

 

The downside of bird-watching

I’ve got a new zoo post coming, but in the meantime, I wanted to share what I found swooping down in my backyard a few days ago.

I saw some big wings rise up out back, but when I got to the door, I didn’t see anything. I was out weeding a bit later, and stopped, dropping the weeds, and stared. There it was – a hawk – right back there in the woods. I moved as quickly and quietly as possible around the front of the house to get my camera. I snapped a lot of photos, but these two are the best.

red-shouldered-hawk-one
This turned out to be a red-shouldered hawk – a new one for me.

When I reviewed all my pictures, I realized the hawk was chomping down on one of my little yard-birds. I’ll spare you that photograph.