Thursday, August 26, 2010

August 26: Hypnotic Hummingbird

As I stood on the outside deck of a friend's mountainside home today, hummingbirds swarmed and screeched below me. Ten or more of these feisty little birds zipped around the feeders, chasing each other, perching nearby, feeding on the sugar water, and otherwise buzzing in and out of sight within the leaves of the surrounding oak trees. I haven't seen this many in one place in a long time. My friend says they have to refill their four feeders every two days now. Activity around the feeders has picked up in the past couple of weeks, and he and his wife think the birds must be fattening up to get ready for migration. We all marveled over how amazing it is that such little creatures can travel so far--although if you watch them in action, they certainly don't seem fragile in any way other than size. They can hold their own.

A chipping sparrow flew onto a branch below me. As I watched, a hummingbird hovered in front of it and dipped back and forth, tracing an arc in the air like a pendulum, over and over. I've seen hummingbirds perform territorial displays like that with each other, especially species out west, but I don't recall seeing one pull that on a bird of another species altogether. Perhaps it was simply checking out the sparrow, but it seemed more deliberate than that--like the hummer was trying to make a point with its ritualistic repetition. It swung in front of the sparrow a dozen times or more, but the larger bird didn't even seem to notice, and it certainly wasn't scared away by the hummingbird's display. Perhaps, as I was, it was simply fascinated.

Swinging a green gem,
your body, you hypnotize
a watching sparrow.

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