Archive for February, 2012

I couldn’t resist putting my GoPro cam up on a monopod secured to a ladder so as to get a different nest-level perspective on the mother hummingbird during a feeding session with her two nestlings. I was happy to see that while the camera’s location about a foot from the nest drew the attention of the mother, it didn’t create a deterrent. Nevertheless, I took it down immediately and won’t risk it becoming one at this stage… although I might film again from this angle as the chicks (fingers crossed) get closer to fledging.

While doing some yardwork this past weekend I watched in amazement as our momma Anna’s hummingbird (see her at her nest in the backyard Victorian box tree feeding her two chicks) took a break away from her ever-demanding — and growing — babies by visiting the tabletop fountain I’d made a while ago¬†(from an old recirculating pump that pushes water in a cascade down two old watering cans) to quench her thirst and clean up a bit.

The next day, I set up my GoPro cam in front of the fountain and with my fingers crossed left it alone to record a repeat performance of what I hoped was the bird’s morning routine. Sure enough, here she is: first chasing off a yellow-rumped warbler that had dropped in for a sip, and then adorably going to town on the edge of the smaller watering can.

I don’t think it’s that often one gets to see such an extended display (it certainly isn’t for me), much less capture it on camera, so I’m doubly thrilled to have seen it and to share it:

Above is a shot taken yesterday from Broadway of the landmark Higgins Building on the southwest corner of Second and Main, looking east at its backside bathed beautifully Hopper-esque in the afternoon light. Susan and I had a wonderful excursion that started with lunch at Cole’s, and then a stroll up to this building so that I could express my requisite awe in the wake of my discovery that one of my heroes, Clarence Darrow, kept an office here while representing the infamous McNamara brothers who bombed the original Los Angeles Times building (at First and Broadway) in 1910 and killed 20 people.

Afterward we visited the Bradbury Building, Grand Central Market, and rode Angel’s Flight to the top of Bunker Hill, which we descended via Hope Street to go to the Central Library and pick up the new biography of Darrow by John Farrell I had on hold, Clarence Darrow: Attorney for the Damned. From the library we worked our way back to the Drkrm Gallery on Spring Street south of Seventh to check out an exhibit of Ansel Adams’ photographs of Los Angeles in the 1930s. Lastly we explored the incredible space of The Last Bookstore at Spring and Fourth Fifth.

But back to Darrow. I’ve been an unabashed idolizer of his (and subsequent skeptic of religion) since a 13-year-old when I checked out a copy of the play “Inherit the Wind” by Jerome Lawrence and Robert E. Lee from the LeConte Junior High School library, based on the 1925 Scopes trial in Tennessee, in which he represented the defendant who challenged that state’s anti-evolution law. The first monologue I ever did as an acting class student at Beverly Hills High School was one of Drummond’s (Darrow) from that play:

Yes there is something holy to me! The power of the individual human mind. In a child’s power to master the multiplication table there is more sanctity than in all your shouted “Amens!,” “Holy, Holies!” and “Hosannahs!” An idea is a greater monument than a cathedral. And the advance of man’s knowledge is more of a miracle than any sticks turned to snakes, or the parting of waters. But are we now to halt the march of progress because Mr. Brady frightens us with a fable? (to the jury) Gentlemen, progress has never been a bargain. You’ve got to pay fo rit. Sometimes I think there’s a man behind a counter who says, “All right, you can have a telephone; but you’ll have to give up rivacy, the charm of distance. Madam, you may vote; but at a price; you lose the right to retreat behind a powderpuff or a petticoat. Mister, you may conquer the air; but the birds will lose their wonder, and the clouds will smell of gasoline!” Darwin moved us forward to a hilltop, where we could look back and see the way from which we came. But for this view, this insight, this knowledge, we must abandon our faith in the pleasant poetry of Genesis.

Anyway, through a recent issue of Smithsonian magazine I learned via an excerpt from Farrell’s book that he had an office in the Higgins during the McNamara trial and afterwards during what was the darkest time of his life and career as a lawyer, when he was tried twice on charges of bribing McNamara jurors. The first ended in his acquittal, the second with a hung jury, and a subsequent deal with the district attorney was struck in which he agreed there would be no retrial if Darrow promised never to practice law again in California. Darrow then went on to some of his greatest legal battles — including the Scopes trial.

As I looked over the buildings features and details and stood in its foyer where Darrow had undoubtedly stood more than 100 years ago, I figured it might be lost to history where his office had actually been within, but that of course didn’t stop me from googling it and finding via the LA Times that it was on the southwest corner of the ninth floor, the windows of which — second floor from the top — are visible in the picture.

If it’s the end of February it must be time for my annual ode to the Star flower (Ipheion uniflorum), making its late February appearance in a patch under the wooden handrail off the front steps:

Thanks to my friend David who identified this flower for me when I posted about it last year.

Well, as is readily evident in the clip of this morning’s feeding session, you can count me happily mistaken in my previous presumption that there was but one Anna’s hummingbird chick in the nest in our backyard Victorian Box tree. There is indeed, two and both look hungry and healthy. Yay!

And just in case you might be wondering about my gum-and-duct-tape set-up to get this footage, here’s a snap illustrating just that (although I use putty — not actual chewing gum — to hold the cam lens to the spotting scope eyepiece; click it for the bigger picture):

Just like the proverbial pot full of water that never boils, neither does a watched backyard hummingbird chick ever get fed. So I duct-taped the cam to my spotting scope’s eyepiece, hit record and left, coming back long after the memory card filled up and the camera shut down in hopes that while away it might have captured the epically tireless mamma hummingbird providing its chick with a meal. It most certainly did.

As best I can tell from this clip, there’s just one chick in the nest, and since its head is about the size of the egg from which it hatched, I’d guess it’s been here about a week — much to my surprise, since I didn’t think there were even eggs in the nest yet.

I juuuuust missed filming what happened before this footage, but a hint at what it was can be found in how high she’s now sitting in the nest — because she ALREADY has hatched chicks that I observed her feeding (up until this I was pretty sure there weren’t eggs yet in there, nevermind hatchlings).

Anyway, I found her on the rim of the nest and a moment later a little beak came into view. Of course the meal was over by the time I returned to the scope with the camera and hit record to catch her settling down upon them.

And yes, I called “baby chick!” out loud as I went inside to get the cam. Don’t judge. Sure, it’s not the manliest reaction but given my awe for hummingbirds, it should come as no surprise.