Welcome to my World

Welcome to the domain different--to paraphrase from New Mexico's capital city of Santa Fe which bills itself "The City Different." Perhaps this space is not completely unique but my world shapes what I write as well as many other facets of my life. The four Ds figure prominently but there are many other things as well. Here you will learn what makes me tick, what thrills and inspires me, experiences that impact my life and many other antidotes, vignettes and journal notes that set the paradigm for Dierdre O'Dare and her alter ego Gwynn Morgan and the fiction and poetry they write. I sell nothing here--just share with friends and others who may wander in. There will be pictures, poems, observations, rants on occasion and sometimes even jokes. Welcome to our world!

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Hummingbird Summer

Until I moved to Whetstone, Arizona in the spring of 1984, I never had much experience with humming birds. We saw a few in Marysville, CA but I did not feed them. I think they were mostly Anna's but am not even sure of the variety. However, Whetstone, at the junctions of highways 90 and 82 north of Sierra Vista was a great place for birding of many kinds. The Huachuca and Chiricahua mountains in Cochise County are considered the hummingbird havens of the US. More varieties of these amazing little birds are seen there than anywhere else in the US. They are mainly a tropical species but about a dozen kinds have been seen in southeastern Arizona.

At Whetstone I began to put up feeders my first summer. I also put out water and seed for other birds. We had two varieties of quail, three or four kinds of doves, many sparrows, finches and the Pyrhuloxia, or desert cardinal as regular visitors. Several kinds of Orioles, Vermilion flycatchers, Phenopepla, several grosbeaks and other more rare breeds also appeared now and then. I became an avid bird watcher!

But the hummers most fascinated me. Over the twenty years I lived there I saw many Black Chinned --the first to arrive in the spring, Allen's and Rufus, Anna's,  Broad Billed, Broad Tailed, a White Earred or two  and an occasional Blue Throat and Calliope, the largest and smallest of the breeds that visit the area. One Magnificent and a couple I never positively identified. The females and young are very hard to differentiate but the males usually have distinctive markings.After a few years I had birds returning who knew where the feeders were supposed to be and they became almost fearless. I could stand within a foot or so of a feeder and they'd buzz in right by my face. If you wore a red cap, you were likely to get dive-bombed and several almost tangled in my hair! I started to know about when to expect the early ones and when others would arrive.

Late in August or early September was a heavy migration time as those who had nested farther north began the first part of the long trek south. That was when I could not keep feeders filled and even five or six would all be surrounded by mad whirls of birds from dawn to dusk. I took to calling this two or three week period humming bird summer. That's when we saw the most different kinds but usually the Rufus--the only red backed hummer--and the Allen's, similar but with a green back, dominated.

One late fall day, near Thanksgiving as I recall,  I saw a little one perched on the fence and it stayed there for at least twenty four hours. Later I learned this is common. (See picture above! And yes, I was that close! Did not use a telephoto to capture this.) The birds go into a near trance to rest and build strength before they head out for the longest leg of their autumn journey. Then they 'tank up' on food and fly, going as high as they can and slowly drifting lower, hopefully maintaining an adequate altitude until they are near their tropical winter residence areas. I still wonder about many aspects of their lives but never cease to enjoy them. Rufus at the left--no green on these guys, at least the males!

Here in my new home, we saw a few around the morning glories on the patio trellises after we got here in early October including one very tiny guy that was probably a Calliope but not positively identified. This spring I put up feeders in early April (later than in Arizona) and waited.  Finally a couple showed up, apparently Black Chins. Gradually a few more, at least two pairs and then their chicks, normally two per breeding pair. Then the last few days there are suddenly more and more--I've glimpsed a Rufus and others but most are just the bland gray-dusky green of the females and young ones not yet into mature feathers.We have a trumpet vine that they like and they also favor the gladiolas. I took out the morning glories as they died off in the winter and were brown and ugly! Climbing roses will fill the trellises in time but have not gotten there yet. I don't think roses are a humming bird favorite but they will visit most flowers. Still the nectar feeders give them a good source of food.

Anyway regardless of the date it is now officially humming bird summer in Alamogordo! How long this will last here I do not know but I'll keep my feeders full and perhaps add a couple more--I've had two six port feeders up so far-- and watch the dogfights and incredible aerial acrobatics with much joy. My little totem birds have found me.(The name WindDancer that I sometimes use is an old Native American term for these little flying jewels!)

An aside, I used to get some calendars with hummer pictures on them. The best photos were by a gentleman named Russel Ogg. He was legally blind but set up a system of light beams to active his cameras and took some phenomenal pictures of these wonderful little birds. You can google his name and probably find some of  his work which I do not feel I have the right to share here. I just did some more research and learned he passed away in 1990 but some of his photos are still out there. They were amazing!! But here, my poorer quality shots have to do! Happy hummingbird summer!

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