Wata Treat: Mother Hummingbird Takes A Break At The Fountain

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:

And Then There Were Two!

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):

Backyard Hummingbird Update: Chick Ahoy

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.

Mystery Botany Theater

A fellow by the name of Joshua Siskin who writes a great greenery column for the Daily News solved a couple plant mysteries of mine last year. I accidentally stumbled upon an article of his last May detailing bear’s breeches (Acanthus mollis), which happens to grow in our front yard and which I’d spent years wondering what it was. Having crossed that weird plant of my “WTF Is This” list thanks to him I then wrote him directly with a photo of another even stranger thing growing on the north side of the house about which I’d had an equally clueless

Almost right away he wrote back that it was rice paper plant (Tetrapanax papyriferus), and I responded with my profuse appreciation for allowing me to exploit his encyclopedia botanical knowledge.

Which brings us to the tree centrally located in our backyard whose species I’ve always scratched my head about, and which when talking or writing about I never fail to identify as “the tree centrally located in our backyard.”

Since the tree is in the midst of blooming at the moment and festooned with hundreds of thousands of tiny blossoms that combine to provide the air with a lovely light scent (while also hosting the nesting hummingbird I’ve written about previously), I decided to bother Mr. Siskin again with a photo in hopes he’d know what it is.

He didn’t. Well, he thought he did, but he was wrong.

“It’s probably Michelia,” he wrote. And of course I bellyflopped into the internet and swam through all sorts of stuff on the estimated 50 species of Michelia trees… none of which looked at all like the tree centrally located in our backyard.

So I wrote him back wondering if he might be able to narrow it down to a specific member of that branch of the magnolia family.

He wrote back that it could be “chamaqua,” referring to it as one the most commonly grown.

Trouble was I googled “Michelia chamaqua” and google came back with the numerical equivalent of such a thing not existist: zero hits. Goose egg. Closest to “chamaqua” was a species called “champaca” but I’d already known that wasn’t this tree.

So I wrote him back one final time thanking him for his, but that it was time for me to throw in the trowel because “chamaqua” was a dead end.

He responded with a request for a photo of the flowers. So I sent him this macro I’d shot and advised him that they are reeeeeeally small; each blossom is no more than a half-inch across (click to biggify):

“An apology is in order,” he wrote back. “I believe the tree in question is a Victorian box (Pittosporum undulatum).”

Diving into the Google pool again I found he indeed nailed it, and I wrote him back again thanking him and dismissing the need for any apology.

Birdbaths: They’re Not Just For The Birds Anymore

Literally the moment I got home from yesterday’s bike ride, I found a thirsty squirrel scoping out the birdbath from the adjacent fence, and managed to get my cam out and capture the squirrel figuring out how to alleviate its dehydration, brought on no doubt by the extended lack of rain around these here parts. I’m not sure how the setting got switched to black-and-white mode, but the exceptionally bad vid’s viewable here along with my goofy narration.


The Time Had Come To Harvest ‘Em

I’d been eyeballing the increasingly sorrier looking butternut squash patch, which at its flourishing leafy height mid-October looked like this:

But for the last couple weeks in large part because the nil amount of light now coming from a sun sliding so low across the southern skies the patch has been working its way down to looking like this:

So I went to work this morning and now it looks like this:

My crop yield was lucky seven, albeit with the smallest four still being far from ripe:

There’s conflicting info on the internest about squash ripening off the vine, with some resources saying yes they do, some saying hell no. My instinct is the quartet won’t be orange’ing up anytime soon.

And of course I weighed them (smallest to largest, in ounces):

  1. 07.75
  2. 08.00
  3. 17.25
  4. 21.25
  5. 32.50
  6. 34.625
  7. 55.25

For a total of 176.625 ounces, or 11.04 pounds. Not bad. In fact, I’m pretty damn impressed.



Backyarchaeology: Casing Closed

Three years ago — almost to the freakin’ day — I was surprised to unearth a spent bullet (pictured above, click it for the bigger picture) from our backyard that never ceases to amaze and mystify. Back then I dwelt a spell not only the projectile’s potential caliber, but also the probable circumstances and potentially chilling results that might have transpired for it to have been fired — and at what… or whom!? Let’s hope it was a what and not a whom!

This afternoon, I didn’t even have to dig to find what I did. I just happened to look down at the ground after pulling a fossilized palm frond down from the fig tree branches it had hung in for who knows how many years, and laying there as if it had been strategically placed was what I first thought to be the end of an old fuse. But after cleaning off the years of crud from the surface around its base the telltale “38 S&W” was revealed along with a deep centerfire indentation left by a firing pin, meaning what I discovered could very well be the spent 38 caliber Smith & Wesson casing for that bullet — or if not that specific bullet, maybe another one… waiting to be found (click the thumbnails for the bigger pictures):


Pardon the pun, but I’m just blown away.