Backyard living

We have a bird feeder near the back patio for our little feathered friends, wrens and finches, along with a hummingbird feeder. I leave enough leaf litter for lizards to hide and we have two varieties with a dozen or so babies this year. We’re too inter-city for javalina but coyotes visit the neighborhood on a regular basis and we are serenaded almost nightly, which can become tiresome when local dogs join the song fest.

Our indoor cats are entertained by lizards on the patio and if I’m late for the afternoon feeding, doves will come up to the sliding glass door and peer in: “Where’s the guy with the food.” Three cats will be hunkered down in stalking mode, hiding behind drapes and chairs. One will occasionally swat the door when something gets too close.

The LBJs (that’s little brown jobs for non-bird watchers) are fun to watch and are polite when it comes to feeding, taking turns in the feeder and waiting patiently for their turn. Uninvited guests are doves that hog the feeder, peck at each other, and are general nuisances.

Our resident hummer is  named Horace although it could be Hortense. He is sea-foam green and spends much of his day in the neighbor’s tree watching over his feeding station. I have not found his nest but I think it may be in a tree several houses away. Hummingbirds can be territorial and Horace is among those, quick to repel daily visits from several interlopers. Their flying ability is the envy of fighter pilots. More than once they have used me for an obstacle and made nine-g turns around my head.  I have watched two of the interlopers tag team Horace; one comes in to feed and Horace chases him off, leaving the other to have an uninterrupted meal. One is an intense forest green, another has a fiery red head, and another has a striking emerald head.

Horace hits the feeder several times an hour and retreats to his observation post or heads home for a short visit. He will usually allow me within about five feet of the feeder while he is dining if I remain still, although he watches me constantly. If he’s hungry and I’m encroaching in his personal space around the feeder (usually pruning or watering) he will buzz me close enough that it sounds like a bee in my ear canal. If I still don’t vacate the immediate area, he will fly up to my face and yell at me in hummingbirdese.

Our neighborhood hawk is the most fun to watch.  He seems to know when it’s feeding time and swoops through our yard once or twice a day seeking  a dove for his own fine dining. He comes in below the level of the fence where he is unseen by the smaller birds and pops up like an A-10 Warthog or an Apache helicopter to assault the yard.  He is often successful as evidenced by the number of dove feathers in our yard. On some of his unsuccessful attempts he will flare out to land on the fence and look for stragglers. I’ve tried talking to him a few times but he’s not much of a conversationalist.

This morning he attacked over the rear fence, made an unsuccessful pass through the yard, and circled back to the tree behind us. Horace was irritated at such rude behavior and dodged around our yard and the tree several times, chirping all the while. He finally flew within a foot of the hawk’s face and proceeded to scold him (her?) in no uncertain terms.

Sitting on the patio with a book and a cup of coffee is relaxing especially when the birds are feeding and Horace is chasing other hummers around the yard. Then comes the rattle of wings as doves take to the air in panic followed by the muted swoosh of the hawk gliding in on the attack.

But then I’m easily entertained.

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