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The Return of the Black-Chinned Hummingbird

May 9th, 2020

The Return of the Black-Chinned Hummingbird

As I shared in my Arrivals and Departures blog, there are many arrivals that I look forward to as I wish the northbound birds Godspeed until I see them again in the fall. You don't have to go far for nature travel - it could be right in your backyard. Just this week I was happy to see 2 different species of dragonfly in our backyard – one the unmistaken bright orange of the Flame Skimmer. And just a week or so prior, the first of the season’s Valley Carpenter bees arrived. The male, aka the “teddy bear bee”, with his gorgeous golden “fur” and the female, with her gorgeous iridescent wings, always delight us. As the UC Davis article describes, these beauties are pollinators, not pests so we hope that all can enjoy them.

(Click the "MORE INFORMATION" button below to see the richer, original version of this blog post with pictures and links)

Aside from these new arrivals and some different varieties of smaller butterflies, I am especially happy to welcome back the tiny but fierce Black-chinned Hummingbirds. I watched in shock as one tiny male, as if to announce his group’s arrival, harassed a relatively large California Towhee across our back fence. At first, he zipped back and forth at his back. When that wasn’t enough to get the Towhee’s attention, he flew to his face and zigzagged back and forth as the Towhee progressed along. Luckily for the Hummingbird, the Towhee chose to simply ignore this tiny little annoyance. Of course these moments only arrive – fleetingly – when I am without camera in hand. ;-)

​And so it begins… the next level of backyard entertainment for the summer. Nature travel at its best - when you don't have to go anywhere. We’ve watched over the ensuing days as they continuously harass their own species, as well as the Anna’s Hummingbirds and anyone else who dares to be in their “newly re-established” territory! They tend to enjoy the purple salvia and the cuphea the most. I remind my significant other of this fact whenever he laments how “overgrown” our backyard flower garden has become. He, too, enjoys the entertainment of our tiny winged friends and has acquiesced, going with the flow of the growth in the cover and food our backyard provides to everyone. The beauty, after all, is in the eye of the beholder and for me, the more birds, the more important the flourishing - albeit overgrown - flower wonderland becomes!

If you don’t know much about Black-chinned Hummers, like most Hummingbird species, their “backstory”, IMO, is fascinating. The way I know they’ve arrived is hearing their distinctive “squeaking”. Both males and females get quite vocal, always tipping me to their location even while camouflaged in our tree cover. (Shhh…don’t tell them I’m onto them). Another thing I’ve learned from different sources is their bold habit of nesting close to large predators. Yes – you can find this little hummer nesting right next to a hawk’s nest! From what researchers have indicated, this is a good way for the hummer to gain some nest protection from its own predators. This tiny little Hummingbird species, thanks to banding efforts, has also been discovered to live as old as 11 years! For their size and energy exertion, scientists wouldn’t expect such long lifespans. And from their “summer vacations” as far north as Canada, east to Oklahoma and of course here along the West Coast, every fall they migrate south to Mexico. I usually see the last ones in our yard in mid-to-late September, and notice their return around 16-21 April. I keep both an eye and ear out for their arrival.

To enjoy an intimate depiction of their lives, follow the lovely story of a female raising her brood in the gorgeous and entertaining award-winning movie, First Flight: A Mother Hummingbird’s Story, currently viewable on Amazon Prime. Filmed in the Las Vegas area backyard of documentary filmmakers, the mother and chicks' story is captured in the movie and a book as well.

If you love Hummingbirds as much as I do, you can visit the Eyes4Nature Hummingbird collection here. But I do hope you get to enjoy the fun of their antics live! And my heartfelt thanks to the wildlife rehabilitators out there who rescue even these tiniest of creatures! Happy Spring! Remember that this is the season of nesting, so be sure to do all of your tree trimming at a later time. You never know what birds may be using your trees and shrubs for their nesting needs. And as always, contact your local wildlife rehabilitator if you find a bird or newborn chick in need. Enjoy the season!!

Arrivals and Departures - and being thankful for what is

May 9th, 2020

Arrivals and Departures - and being thankful for what is

Are you paying attention to who has left and who is arriving in your yard? It may be subtle at first – the numbers diminish little by little. But soon, you’ll realize that you may not have seen a particular species in the backyard for some time. It’s funny – I often find myself a little sad when I don’t see my usual ‘friends’ in the backyard. Then I’ll stop, visualize them on a safe journey north or south, and return to a place of gratitude. Gratitude that:
1 - they spent the winter or summer in our backyard, and
2 - friends from last year – and maybe some new friends – will be arriving soon.
In fact, just the other day, I looked out just in time to catch a glimpse of the gorgeous copper of a Rufous Hummingbird enjoying the red salvia in the garden! It was a first for me and I was thrilled. These little surprises can bring joy into our lives when we make the space for it.

(Click the "MORE INFORMATION" button below to see the richer, original version of this blog post with pictures and links)

Another surprise encounter in the last week: a Nuttall’s Woodpecker visiting our mealworm suet. I hear and see Nuttalls regularly in our neighborhood while walking the dogs. But never in our backyard. Surprisingly, he clamored through a potato plant to watch the feeder and fight briefly with another bird for a spot at it. This time of year, birds are pairing up, hormones are racing, and little ones need to be fed, so it’s often now that we witness such odd behaviors.

Over the last two years, we also suddenly started having Orange-crowned Warbler visitors. I was delighted to catch a glimpse of one over our Cuphea, then saw it return, make its way through another cuphea plant and before I knew it, fought with the other birds over the mealworm suet. This year, it even dared to take on the hummingbirds, visiting the hummingbird feeder on our patio! I thought I was seeing things. Indeed, another one of this year’s surprises!

​Of course, this is a larger metaphor for taking stock of all of the nice surprises and messages in our lives. What magical moment did you have today? How about one that sparked a new idea at some recent point in your life? Maybe you could sit down right now as you read this and think about your last 24 hours. Your last week. Your last month. Just start there – maybe it’s only 2 to 3 things that you recall. That’s ok. Build muscle memory to do this on a daily basis and before you know it, you’ve started your own gratitude journal. In your head or on paper, gratitude is a catalyst for so many good things in life.

"What magical moment did you have today?"

So go ahead. Take stock. Open yourself up to the magic. Maybe it’s that new butterfly who just arrived. Or a new boss who suddenly cares about you and your career. It can literally be anything - from any part of your life. Wherever and whenever, cherish it and build upon it……and let the magic begin!

Other gratitude resources available on the original blog on my website.