Archive for June, 2010

I’m pleased to report that in the day after the miracle rediscovery at the mailbox, the baby hummingbird has stayed safe and sound and is still hanging out in the fruit picker serving ably as a surrogate nest/launch site.

I’m not kidding about launch site. The tyke’s been working its wings and could take off any moment. But in the meantime, I’ve pointed the webcam in our office away from the club chair and instead out the window at the bird. It’s not the sharpest image but it’s no worse than me holding a digicam/iPhone up against a binocular eyepiece. Plus it auto updates every minute, so for as long as the chick stays put you’ll be able to see how it’s doing.

Where I couldn’t locate the chick, of course one of the cats could. And after killing it Jig uncannily brought its little body inside to the dining room as if to let me know what happened. I found Ranger waiting patiently next to its body there on the rug and Jig up on the table.

Well, if I couldn’t have the chick alive, there’s at least a measure of solace in having the mystery solved and putting an end to beating myself up wondering what happened.

But the part of me that’s relieved in knowing that at least it’s no longer out there suffering doesn’t hold a candle in scope to the part of me that’s just utterly heartbroken, whch is  fighting with the part of me that curses myself for not camping out in the front yard and watching the cats for clues.

In short, yeah… I’m pretty much inconsolable.

But if I can get myself together and get my work done I shall bury the chick where I first discovered it on the ground Sunday. Bonus points if I do so without blubbering like an old fool.

UPDATE (4:26 p.m.): Oh My God. I’ve sat here at my desk with the corpse of what I thought was the dead hummingbird all afternoon trying to finish a project that was due at noon. And about 15 minutes ago after choking up for the 12,388th time  I got up to go get the mail.

So I walked down to the mailbox. Opened the mailbox. Extracted the envelopes. Closed the mailbox and looked down and hot fucking damn but if the hummingbird chick isn’t sitting right there alive and well and looking up at me atop the rock wall in front of the mail box as if put there by special delivery.

I stood there in shock for a full minute. I even rubbed my eyes. But the baby bird was still there and not a figment of my grief-stricken imagination. Even better, when I tried to scoop it up it flew away admirably for about 20 feet about five feet off the deck before running out of gas and coming in for a landing on the sidewalk. So it’s getting its wings but it’s not quite airborne material yet.

Long story short,  I scooped up the tuckered out bird and reinstalled it in the fruit picker — this time instead of dangling it from the tree I planted it down into the tall lantana hedge. As for the dead hummingbird chick still sitting on my desk. I have no idea where this one came from, but just the timing of Jig bringing it in is almost as mindblowing as the fact that the one I’d been mourning is not at all dead.

You try to steel yourself. You try to temper your hope. You say things like “well at least it has a better chance at surviving than it did.” But as you take action to ensure and continue such a tiny life — such a precious thing —  you can’t keep yourself from considering the positive outcome. From wanting it. Hard.

Then the reality comes when you check this morning while holding your breath that all is OK with the chick that at dusk yesterday had been comfortable in its makeshift nest. The chick that graduated to perching and preening and working its wings trying to build up strength and lift so that it could fly away and begin its life… instead at dawn today is just gone.

And all that’s left is the empty fruit picker dangling from the tree.

And all that’s left to do is a fruitless search of the ivy bed and the ground and the nearby tree branches — being careful wherever you step. Your ears strain for the slightest peep through the invading sounds of the neighborhood. Nothing.

Then the momma bird comes and you watch as she frantically flits around where her baby had been. She lights on branches for moments before taking flight again, calling. Landing. Flying. Calling. Calling. I pray she can zero in on her baby. But she can’t. No answer comes.

You wonder. Did it lose its balance and fall while sleeping? Did its patience finally fail for it to dare its inaugural flight out into the dangerous dark. Was it ambushed? Did it suffer? Is it suffering now?

I am.

I sob to Susan that no good comes from trying. But I correct myself quickly. I will always try. I can’t not try.  Even when my efforts fail.

It’s been an enjoyable couple weeks spying on the frontyard hummingbird nest through the porch spotting scope, watching as the chicks have grown exponentially thanks in full part to the momma bird’s tireless efforts.

Then came this morning when I looked through the eyepiece and found the nest, which as of yesterday could barely hold the two babies, seemingly empty. Immediately I looked directly below the nest to our front steps and found cat Pepper sniffing around the edge of the ivy, my worst fears as a hummingbird uncle realized.

Bolting down there I hoped I wasn’t too late and also wondered how in the hell would I be able to find such a tiny creature, especially if it had fallen from the nest into the deep ivy — a very real possibility.

A minor miracle: I quickly found the bird completely still in the narrow band of dirt between the rock walk wall and the ivy jungle. See it?

It’s basically right above that gap in the concrete in the center of the frame. And worst of all Pepper had been practically right on top of the helpless creature, saved from being a quick snack perhaps only by its instinctive ability to remain absolutely still.

Here it is a bit more close-up, after I put Pepper inside:

I’m not sure how long it had been there. I’m not sure if it fell trying to fly or might have been nudged out by its sibling, but none of that mattered. What did matter was that it seemed in good health, which was good news.

What’s also good news is that I’m an absolute genius. See, yesterday morning Susan and I made good on percolating plans to make a run to Lowe’s for a growing list of home improvement things we needed.

Not on that list was one of those high-fruit pickers — those contraptions that extend like 15-feet and at the business end of it have this wire basket used to snag and catch fruit from hard to reach boughs. But as we were making our way through the garden section of the store I saw the thing and realized it might come in handy to help get them back up into the tree should one of the chicks not be very successful in taking their first flight.

You should know I did not pat myself on the back at my foresight and confidently add the $40 item to our collection of purchases. In fact I probably changed my mind about buying it three or four times before sighing and dropping it onto our cart, with the rationalization that I could return it.

And when Susan saw it in the cart she just smiled that “I totally married a nutjob” smile when I told her its potential purpose — but she understood and didn’t object.

Needless to say as I palmed the chick and it responded by opening its beak for something to eat, I remembered the picker and felt totally and absolutely righteous and awesome.

Susan held the chick while I readied the apparatus and she remarked how she could feel the vibrations of its rapid heartbeat (about 250 times a minute) and was surprised at how much warmth it radiated. Momma hovered nearby wanting to know what we were doing with her baby!

Of course, I had it in my head that I’d put the chick in the cage, hoist it up into the laurel tree’s branches near the nest and it would hop out back home all safe and sound. Yeah, no. The baby bird obviously felt no urgency to leave this cushion-y comfy new place for the crowded conditions of its birthplace. So it stayed put. Which is why if you pass by our house you’ll see this long orange rod dangling from the tree down over the ivy (image after the jump) because I hooked one of the picker’s grabber claws over a smaller branch and so far things seem to be working out fine. Mom’s gotten used to the new digs and been by to feed the chick. And the chick itself is just kicking back.

We’re certainly not out of the woods yet. Not by a long shot. There’s all sorts of things that could go wrong. The chick could fall out again and this time into the ivy, and/or the other one still in the nest  above it could take a dive. The picker could slip from its perch and fall or even potentially be stolen by some unknowing jerk. Plus its new home could draw the attentions of squirrels or crows or possums or blue jays.

But like I said, so far so good. And whether for better or worse I’ve given the amazing awe-inspiring creature a chance it certainly wouldn’t have had on the ground.

Fingers crossed.

UPDATE (06.28): At 11 a.m., the wayward chick is still in its makeshift nest doing very well, having moved from the middle to perch on the perimeter of the picker basket. But its sibling, while partially visible in the actual nest higher up in the tree, has not moved all morning nor been visited by the mother hummingbird since yesterday, leading me to sadly consider that it may have died.


There’s still a prevailing sadness that the two chicks in the now abandoned backyard hummingbird nest died not long after hatching, but it’s lessened a bit when observing the nest in the frontyard, now barely able to contain its two chicks now practically as big as their mom who are forced to jostle for position in the increasingly confining nest:

The longest day of the year was this past Monday. Sure, it’s the first day of summer, but the summer solstice also signals that the days hence begin to get shorter, shrinking a bit each day and making fall seem like it gets here all the more faster.

As you may know I’ve had a cam set up and both webcasting and archiving images snapped every 10 minutes of the sunflowers we planted in Coyote Corner on June 7 and now have growing. As of this morning a righteous 85 seeds of the 100 planted have sprouted.

I’m pleasantly surprised by such a high-percentage of plants because Coyote Corner is not an entirely ideal place for a sunflower seedling to be. The plot only scores a few hours of direct sunlight each day and that’s somewhat filtered by the neighboring trees that shade the plot.

But anyway, from the accumulated images I’ve excerpted the sunflowers’ full day on June 21, literally via a snap about every 30 minutes from dawn to dark. I would suggest slowing the sequence down by advancing the frames with your arrow key (if that functionality’s available via your computer). It’s fun to see how much the sunflowers move over the course of a day.

I got on my bike yesterday for the rare commute to work in Westchester and back. Something I used to do on average 200-plus times a year, I now only have had to do twice since May 1, when I became a full-time telecommuter.

It’s pretty amazing what new things I discovered. There are sharrows on the streets, I found them on 4th Street between Commonwealth and Wilton. The Ballona Creek Bikeway entrance at Duquesne in Culver City has been fully renovated with fresh landscaping, and its decrepit chainlink fence has been refreshed with a stylish new barrier and gateway. Several streets have either been repaved and/or resurfaced.

Such awesome stuff is a reminder of how things can change when you turn your back for a moment couple months.

For the ride I also donned my sunglasses cam and at the corner of Venice and La Cienega boulevards captured a reminder of all the street theater I’ve been missing as well. Check out this foolish OG putting on an impromptu crosswalk performance while we all waited for a passing firetruck to clear the intersection (it’s particularly endearing when he mimes raising and pointing a rifle at the oncoming  fire engine):