Thursday, July 9, 2009

Strong Squirrels, Determined Frogs, and Hummingbird Wars

I saw the cutest thing a few days ago. When I changed the corn feeder for the squirrels there was still a few rows of corn left on the cob, so I left that cob on the picnic table assuming the larger birds would take care of it. As I was bird watching out the window I noticed the tiniest male squirrel checking out the corn cob. He tested it a few times, grabbing it with his teeth and sliding it along the table, then decided it was worth the try and knocked it to the ground. He dragged it across the leaves and twigs and to the tree, then tried to lift it in his mouth, but it appeared to be a bit too heavy. So, he jumped onto the tree and clung to the bark upside down, grabbed onto the corn cob with his teeth and tugged the cob all the way up to the tallest branch. He hesitated a bit as he debated his next move, then decided to take the chance and bit the corn cob in the middle, held it into the air, then leapt onto a nearby branch. He made it! I was so happy for him that he didn't fall! That tiny squirrel somehow managed to carry that corn cob through the twisted branches of the sprawling backyard oak, onto another tree behind our fence then deep into the forest. I am assuming he managed to tuck it into his food pantry at his home.

I also noticed that our hummingbird usually has only two birds at a time feeding from the tiny flowers. Hummingbirds are very territorial. They are such teeny, tiny creatures, but always scrapping for a fight. So, on a hunch, I decided to buy three more hummingbird feeders and I set them up on opposite sections of the house. This morning, I walked quickly from window to window to see how they were doing and counted fifteen hummingbirds flitting about. I love these tiny creatures. They are not shy. If I walk outside when they are ready to feed, the eat anyway, often buzzing by my head.

It's a strange feeling to be buzzed by a hummingbird. You can actually feel the flap of their wings. Their wings move at 90 beats per second! They can also fly backwards, which they do surprisingly often when approached a food source. It's sort of a backward/forward motion as they test the area to see if its safe and decide if they want to land. Although it appears as if they suck the nectar up with their beak, they actually have a grooved tongue, like a trough, and kind of scoop it up and sometimes tilt their heads back to let it drip down their throat. Hummingbirds feed on bugs, too, which is nice for gardeners.

A frog has made his home on top of one of our hummingbird feeders. At first, I thought he was stuck up there. I couldn't figure out how he got there in the first place! I gently removed him and put him in a potted plant where he could bury himself during the hottest part of the day, then I went back outside a few minutes later and the frog had left the plant and returned to the feeder! Because it is filled with sugar water, the feeder also attracts flying insects and I think he's looking for food. It is beneath a hanging plant, too, so the frog is sitting in the shade during the hottest part of the day. My husband waters the planter every morning now as he leaves for work so the frog can have a drink. You can see his picture to the right.

No more red wasps. I was swarmed twice for a total of 18 stings before we figured out it must have had something to do with the lavender oil I blend into my body lotion. One good thing came out of the many red wasp incidents. When I called my husband to tell him I was swarmed, he called a neighbor who was closer to the house, and she called three other neighbors, and within just a few minutes my house was filled with neighbors checking in to make sure I did not have an allergic reaction. Because we live on such a large piece of land, I thought we were distanced from our neighborhood friends, but I guess we are only a heartbeat away. I still see a red wasp once in awhile, but I suspect they will move on to a less hostile environment.

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