Tiny Warrior Hummingbirds

The Anna’s Hummingbird is Vancouver’s Official Bird, elected to the post in 2017.
I imagine they won by simply staring at the competition like this  . . .

. . . until they withdrew their applications.

All of that avian attitude is certainly in play this week as temperatures plunge far below seasonal norms and snow blankets the Vancouver landscape.

Every morning when I open the back door, I hear a loud and indignant tutting.

I would not be surprised to hear an accompanying request to speak to the manager.

You can see why the Anna’s Hummingbirds might be a bit exasperated. Over the past 70 years, milder winters, flowery gardens and well-tended hummingbird feeders have convinced them to expand their range from southern California to southern BC.

Some time in the 90’s they started to forgo the southern migration and stay here all winter. This week, however, I think they’re wondering if it’s too late to book that package holiday to the sun. They are not alone in that.

Luckily, they’re remarkably tough little birds. Delicate as they look, they have a few winter survival tricks up their iridescently-feathered sleeves.

Unlike other hummingbirds, the Anna’s isn’t solely reliant on nectar for sustenance. Insects, spiders and tree sap broaden their dietary options.

During the cold nights they enter an “energy save” mode, called torpor. During this mini-hibernation, their heart rate slows from a daytime rate of 21 beats per second to a mediative one beat per two seconds. At the same time their body temperature lowers from a toasty 107 degrees to 48.

In spite of their toughness, they could use our help this week.

While temperatures are below freezing for days on end, the insect and tree sap supply is out of commission. Waking up from their night-time torpor, they need breakfast ASAP to top up the energy banks and, right now, hummingbird feeders are their only option. Equipped with formidable memories, these little birds can remember the location of each food source in their territory, and if they get to the feeder in your garden and it’s empty or frozen, they will be very, very disappointed in you . . .

. . . and you certainly don’t want that!

Some tips for keeping your hummingbird feeder thawed and snow-free:

  • Keep at least two feeders so you can keep one in the house thawed and ready to replace the frozen one outside
  • Hang the feeder under cover if possible, or with a bird feeder dome over it to stop the nectar ports from getting snow-covered
  • External heat sources will help to keep the nectar thawed. Ideas include: a trouble light hung nearby, incandescent (the old-style heat-producing) Christmas lights hung around the feeder, hand warmers, mug warmer or aquarium mat (for lizards) taped to bottom of feeder
  • Insulating the feeder with old socks or bubble wrap can help

If the worst happens and you find a hummingbird in distress and too cold or tired to fly, contact your local wildlife rescue. More information here from Wildlife Rescue BC.

If you’d like to read more about these amazing birds, this well-headlined Tyee article by Kerry Banks is full of fun facts:
The Amazingly Cool Anna’s Hummingbird Scoffs at Winter|
Vancouver’s official bird is a sex-crazed, smart, supercharged recent arrival.

 

 

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© junehunterimages, 2020. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to junehunterimages with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Crow Therapy, January 2020

 

2020 has left me feeling rather hopeless so far. Everything I’ve thought of writing about seemed trivial to the point of being worthless.

As usual, it took a crow to get me to pull my metaphysical socks up.

It helped, I’m sure, that a day without rain permitted me and my air cast to venture out past the confines of the back yard.

It been early December since I’ve been able to get around far enough to check on the corvid situation and I was happy to get out and see Mabel and family, Art and the gang and Ada the young crow.

I’m not sure why, but it was Ada who adjusted my mindset.

I’d been thinking that posting pictures of crows and other birds on social media, even making art from my bird images, seemed just so inadequate. I should make more impactful, statement-making art.  I should quit taking photographs altogether and devote myself to action for climate, social and political justice.

Possibly all of those things are true, but Ada pointed out that sometimes the best thing you can do is keep on keeping on with the small, hopeful projects.

My photographing and writing about my local crows is unlikely to change the world.

I do have small, subversive ambitions. I hope that my words and images create familiarity with other species … leading to love and protective instincts … leading to action.

So, here is Ada.

She came down to see me and I put some peanuts down for her, but she was being intimidated by some more senior crows. She was tempted, I could see, to fly away and leave them to it, but she stood her ground.

You can see she gives a nervous little wing flap after the other crow caws above her, but ultimately decides to stick it out. She did get the peanuts in the end.

So, there you are. Just another little bird anecdote.

More coming in 2020.

If you feel you need daily #crowtherapy or #birdtherapy you can follow me on Instagram or Facebook, where I try to post at least once a day.

Ada also wanted me to pass this on. If you’d like to help out the countless creatures displaced and injured by the fires in Australia, you can donate to WIRES, an Australian non-profit wildlife rescue association. To help people who have lost everything in the bush fires, you can donate to the New South Wales Rural Fire service.

Festive Greetings and Tips

Wishing you all peace, joy and a reasonable amount of merriment this holiday season.

Geordie and Edgar are, as you can see, anxiously waiting for Santa. There is a rumour that the man in red is bringing them each a cosy new bed.

I am still in my cast of course, so no far-ranging adventures until the foot heals. Luckily Marvin and Mavis come by several times a day to check in and assure me that they’ve both been very good crows this year.

Marvin, the always magnificent

Mavis, the ever-marvellous

Edgar wanted me to share with you some of his top tips for the having the best sort of holiday season …

  1. Do lots of bird watching (or whatever brings you joy)
  2. Keep up with your napping schedule
  3. Listen to “Drinking White Wine in the Sun” by Tim Minchin (or your favourite holiday tune) and sing along
  4. Don’t worry about the dusting, or anything else that seems overwhelming and/or not fun. Domestic triage is key.
  5. Once the gravy is made, you’re entitled to a drink with rum in it

. . . OK, so those last few might have been me . . .

You can actually make up your own rules. I’m pretty sure Edgar’s good with that.

Best Laid Plans

One of my most vivid childhood memories is sitting beside my mother where she’d tripped and fallen on the sidewalk while rushing for the bus to go shopping. “More haste, less speed,” she said, through gritted teeth. She had a pithy saying for every occasion, my mum, and most them were/are very true. We never did go shopping that day, or for many days thereafter, as she’d sprained her ankle quite badly.

I had great plans for this festive season. Finish up the local sales events early,  leaving lots of time to update my online shop, go for long walks and catch up on the local crows and maybe even get some snowshoeing (ravens!)  in before Christmas. Leisurely holiday shopping in the local shops, baking,  …

Well, you can see how I was asking for trouble.

Like Icarus flying too close to the sun, here I am this festive season.

It seems to be a family tradition now, the pre-Christmas disaster. The worst was Phillip’s concussion from a bicycle accident a few years back. The most hilarious (although only in retrospect) was 2016 when Lily’s dog got sprayed by a skunk at 11pm on Christmas Eve.

The sore foot I noticed the week before the studio sale turned out to be a stress fracture. What with one thing and another, it took quite a while for the x-ray results and to get fitted for the stylish new boot, with a few days when I really could hardly get about at all.  I was starting to feel pretty sorry for myself.

But, another one of my mother’s favourite sayings was “worse things are happening at sea,” and this seems to fit well into that category. We do have the Christmas tree up, and as long as I can hobble as far as the garden, or even the deck, I have some spectacular company.

It was a bit wet this morning, but Marvin and Mavis were, as always, on hand to say hello.

Moist Marvin

Mavis

I think Mavis holds me partially responsible for the change in weather.

In the garden on the weekend, there was a positive Who’s Who of bird visitors coming by to cheer me up.

The most handsome Spotted Towhee

Towhees are new to the garden this year. Always a thrill to see that oh-so-stylish and dotty colour combination.

The world’s most winsome White Crowned Sparrow.

Sweetest Song Sparrow.

Cheery Chestnut-Backed Chickadee

Jolly Junco

I’m noticing that some of the juncos I’m seeing lately have more chestnut on their hoods than I remember in the past. I always thought they were more uniformly grey or black, so I wonder if there is some sort of avian gene pooling going on there.

Heavenly Hummingbird

For years we’ve had one single Anna’s Hummingbird visit the garden all year round. Recently she has found a friend with whom to squabble about the hummingbird feeder.

Natty Nuthatch

I’d never seen a nuthatch until this one started frequenting the garden a couple of months ago. I can always tell when he’s around by the honking sound. At first I thought it was someone’s car alarm going off!

Rosy House Finch

A couple of weeks ago I noticed a couple of house finches with eye problems in the garden. Internet research revealed that there is a very contagious eye disease that spreads among finches, and advice was to bring the bird feeders in for a week or so, meanwhile cleaning them thoroughly with a bleach solution (rinsing well.) I just put the feeders out again a couple of days ago and the birds are celebrating, but I’m keeping a close watch on the finches — and planning on cleaning the feeders every week from now on.

Fabulous Flicker

Flicker Face Off

Probably a stern Flicker look for her old nest rival, the starling.

And, when my foot is starting to throb and it’s time to head inside for a sit down, there’s even more great company in there.

Can I get you a cup of tea …?

Festive Feline

The human company is pretty good too!

Finally, in late breaking news, Marvin has declared that the City Crow Calendar, 2020 Edition has passed the all important corvid taste test!

Hmm, could use a little ketchup, but otherwise, not bad …

www.junehunter.com

 

 

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© junehunterimages, 2019. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to junehunterimages with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Crow Collective

In spite of local squabbles, crows will come together for a crisis. Instantly.

Border skirmishes, crow etiquette lapses, hereditary rivalries  — all forgotten in a corvid heartbeat when the alarm call goes out.

Peregrine falcon in the ‘hood!

People sometimes consider crows’ mobbing behaviour towards larger birds as somehow mean. The collective noun, a “murder” of crows, is referenced, darkly.

To me, it’s one of their more admirable features — having the sense to know that they’re stronger together, and the ability to put aside individual differences in the face of a common danger.

Raccoons, coyotes, eagles, hawks, falcons, owls and even their own cousin, the raven, are considered enemies by crows. All of these creatures will snatch and eat juvenile crows and/or crow eggs, thus earning themselves a permanent spot on the crows’ “naughty” list.

It’s not that they’re really naughty, of course — just doing what nature dictates — going out grocery shopping for the family. The same applies to crows when they feed on smaller birds, and on through the spiralling circle of life.

While nesting season is over now, and most juvenile crows are now smart and fast enough to stay out of the way of the falcon (who is more likely on the lookout for a tasty pigeon) the crow response to a “sometimes-crow-predator” in the neighbourhood is automatic.

Every crow drops what they’re doing and flies off to join the collective effort to repel the enemy. Their job is to convince the “threat” that crows are just way too much bother and get them to move along and become someone else’s problem.

Individual crows will swoop very close to the offending predator. Sometimes too close for their health. Generally, however, the bird of prey will make a pragmatic cost/benefit calculation as to whether it’s worth the caloric output to chase a provocative crow. Most often they decide to wait out the mob for a while and eventually move on to a quieter spot.

All in all, I think “collective” is a much better, and more descriptive, word for a group of crows than a “murder.”

Apart from group defence, another advantage of crow mobbing behaviour is that, if you pay attention, you can catch glimpses of things that would otherwise go unnoticed.

For other posts about crow-revealed nature sighting:

Raccoons: Wall of Sound

Owls: Owl Dreams

Owls and Poets: Owls, Crows, Rooks and Poetry

Ravens: Raven Tutor

Missing Dogs: A Christmas Miracle — With Crows

 

 

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© junehunterimages, 2019. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to junehunterimages with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Roving Crows

A raucous October has spilled over into a riotous November.

No, I’m not talking about the political landscape, just the local crows.

I’m planning to write some individual updates for my various crow acquaintances, but this post is more an overview of the current crow atmosphere.

October is always pretty wild, in a “woohoo the kids are self-sufficient and there are nuts and berries to harvest” sort of way. See last year’s post —Corvid Flash Mobs — for a taste. Usually things quieten down once the nuts and fruit are all consumed, but this year things seem to remain tense on the territorial front.

Almost every crow I come across has an eye to the sky.

Sometimes it’s a well-recognized crow-foe that has them on edge. We’ve had groups of young bald eagles, a Northern Harrier and the occasional raven causing crow alarms.

But the most common cause of crow nerves this fall seems to be other crows.

This fall has been particularly fractious on the crow territorial boundary fronts.

In the city, each half a block or so “belongs” to a crow family and, once the corvid Octoberfest is over, these boundaries are generally respected . Not this year.

I wonder if it’s because so many crow couples this spring didn’t succeed in raising any young ones, so they’re pressed by neighbouring crows who have extra offspring sticking around. Partly these new crows just don’t seem familiar with the “rules” and also they need more space for foraging. Eventually they’ll probably find a mate of their own and carve out their own territory, but in the mean time lots of them are still hanging out with mom and dad.

Marvin on guard at our gate.

Marvin and Mavis lost their nestlings to an eagle this year and they have Mabel’s growing family on one side and young  Ada and her parents on the other. Since our house is part of M & M’s territory, I get to see their efforts to repel “invaders” on an almost daily basis.

Mabel and family sauntering just a little too close for comfort.

Mabel and family throw caution to the wind and fly right into the Marvin and Mavis zone.

In this case, there was a lot of cawing and raised head feathers, but no actual hostilities broke out.

Marvin’s “Hold It Right There” look

Met with Mabel’s “Don’t Mess With Me” look.

Meanwhile, on the Northwestern front, Marvin and Mavis face incursions by the lovely baby Ada and her family. Constant vigilance, and much cawing, is required.

This morning, for example, saw a rather spectacular series of skirmishes in the borderlands.

One minute you’re just sitting, minding your own business and enjoying the view from a nice rotting old washing line post …

For all the flapping and pecking and pushing, no-one was injured and everyone flew off to their respective territories, ready to tussle another day.

I see Marvin and Mavis’s predicament repeated around the neighbourhood with borders being tested every day. Since the dog and I, on our walks, tend to be regarded as “territory on the move,” I’m being careful not to ignite peanut-driven civil war. This means few peanuts, dropped discretely and far from boundaries.  Even then, I’m finding myself being followed by the new generation of roving crows.

Ever have that feeling you’re being watched?

Stay tuned for more detailed individual updates on Marvin and Mavis, Mabel and Gus, the Pants Family, Ada and the Slocan Trio.

In the meantime, keep your eyes open for those short-lived, but very dramatic, territorial sky squabbles.

Was it something I said …?

www.junehunter.com

 

 

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© junehunterimages, 2019. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to junehunterimages with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Reading the Leaves. Again.

Election Day here in Canada.

I will vote today.

I’ll also listen to the news and devour opinion and analysis pieces as they pop up on my phone.

Then, I’ll go into the garden and take a few moments at the annually recurring therapeutic gazing bowl.

In case you need a few seconds too, help yourself …

Even if you don’t live in Canada, you might enjoy a short respite from news and politics and shouting.

You might catch a glimpse of the future in the ripples.

At a minimum, you can be hypnotized by the reflections and raindrops dancing together, and take a few deep breaths.

Just for half a minute.

If you need a longer respite …

Then back to waiting for results and biting nails.

Reading the Leaves part one was posted at almost the same last time last year.

Last Minute Thanksgiving Tip

People are coming over. You could spend days cleaning and tidying the house from top to bottom.

Or … you could just painstakingly dismantle the vintage chandelier and polish all the crystals instead.

Of course, this will take so long there will be no time for other cleaning/tidying … BUT the chandelier will so very dazzling that visitors will be completely distracted from less than perfect bits by the blindingly sparkly light fixture.

Most important of all, the job will mean wrestling the old painting ladder out of the shed. This piece of equipment is one of Edgar’s favourite things and he usually only sees it at Christmas when it’s hauled out for decorating the top of the tree. Seeing it so early made his day.

So, if you happen to be coming over here tomorrow, kindly avert your eyes from dust bunnies in corners and feast your eyes on the mesmerizing chandelier.

And try not to trip over the ladder … 😏

Oh, and and Happy Thanksgiving to all!

For more handy home décor tips see Home Décor For Nature Lovers

September Dreams

As we say farewell to September, it seems to me that we’ve seen fewer golden evenings than is usual for a Vancouver fall. More rainy grey September skies are perhaps what made those few gilded evenings more shimmering and dream-like.

By just happening to walk the dog early on one such lovely evening, I chanced upon a new autumn crow phenomenon. Usually at this time of year groups of roost-bound crows stop at the end of our street to “help” with the nut harvest of a neighbour’s hazel tree. This year, the tree didn’t seem to produce many nuts, so our area has been relatively crow-quiet in the evening.

I thought the crows must just be barrelling on through straight to the roost — until I found they were partying at an alternative fun and refreshments centre.

A short walk from us, there’s a street lined on both sides, for several blocks, with dogwood trees. At this time of year, the lovely blossoms are long gone, but among the brilliant fall leaves are bright, juicy berries!

I expect the clever crows have been harvesting this bounty every fall, but it took me until this year to notice.

On those nights when it hasn’t been raining, I’ve gone up there and watched them.

They seem to move in tandem with the fast fading sun, leaving each tree as it falls into shadow, and flying ahead to the next one still touched with light.

The crow crowd included this year’s juveniles, meaning it’s that happy time of year when the whole family can go to the roost. The young ones were learning the finer points of berry harvesting for the first time.

For some, the berries seem to be a taste that needs some acquiring …

Young crow with berry, like a soccer player in possession of the ball, unsure on next moves …

Older crows showed off harvesting techniques honed over many Septembers.

Now September is over and the berries are harvested. The dogwood street is quiet and the young crows are dreaming about how great they’re going to be at harvesting berries by this time next year.

 

 

http://www.junehunter.com

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© junehunterimages, 2019. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to junehunterimages with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Hummingbird Interlude

There’s really nothing like an Anna’s hummingbird bathing in a rhododendron leaf for a mid-week pick me up.

There you go.

Now you can carry on with your week.

Maybe dream about bathing hummingbirds tonight.

 

 

http://www.junehunter.com

© junehunterimages, 2019. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to junehunterimages with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.