Thursday, August 02, 2007

Playing With The Birds

“Get the camera and come here!”

It was nearing dark last night when Julie called to me. I found her leaning on the deck rail holding a nectar feeder. A hummingbird was sitting on the feeder alternating between taking an occasion drink and staring up at her face. After a few moments the bird hovered about two feet in front of her before moving closer for an eye to eye investigation. A few minutes of patient waiting and the bird – or another that looked identical – returned and repeated the process.

Curious Hummingbird
Curious Hummingbird (Larger version)

I never tire of watching and playing with animals. I have a black and white photo of myself at about age two holding a dog that I cannot remember. My first memorable dog was Curly, part Cocker Spaniel, who became my constant companion before I started school.

My last dog involves a sad tale of betrayal. Tippy was just weaned when I got him. He was never the most intelligent dog which may have had something to do with an accidental fall on his head to which I and my fumbling hands were party. Though not bright he was overly friendly and never met a stranger.

Hummingbird taking a closer look
Taking a Closer Look (Larger version)

I left for college and he did anything that popped into his mind and went wherever he chose. One weekend I returned home and he wasn’t there. About two hours later, I was in the kitchen and asked my mother if she had seen him in the last day or two. She began to cry. Most people might assume he had died in an unfortunate accident but not me. I watched her cry and said “You gave him away, didn’t you!?”. She shook her head yes and the last dog I ever owned became a memory.

But, to her credit, Mom did teach me a valuable skill. When I was pre-school age a stray cat came around the corner of the house into the side yard. I wanted that cat but couldn’t get close enough to grab it. Mom engineered a plan and told me what to do.

Up Close and Personal Hummingbird
Getting Up Close and Personal (Larger version)

I went to the garage up the hill behind the house. The building was filled with dust, tools, an old Indian motorcycle and other items. After a search, I found a small piece of wood, a wooden crate and some rope. In the side yard the crate was propped upside down by the short block of wood that was tied with the rope which stretched across the yard to the corner of the house. I placed a bowl of milk under the crate and I had a low-tech cat trap that worked flawlessly – except for one minor detail. The box that wasn’t long enough for the cat’s tail.

Have you ever reached under a box to grab a frightened cat that has just had his tail hammered by a wooden crate? I wanted that cat and a few claws weren’t enough to deter me. I held on in spite of the pain and blood.

He and I became good friends and he became my first biology teacher. A few months later he had a litter of kittens and I learned that Bugs was a she. She had her litter somewhere in the barn away from the dog. The kittens grew up wild and free. I used the crate, stick, rope and milk bowl trap to catch them.

My children had cats, dogs, chickens, rabbits, pigs and other animals and the fun and play continued. At the creative age of 16 my son put a hole in a piece of bread and threaded the cat’s tail though it. The cat was trying to figure out what was affixed to his tail when my son dropped the cat in front of the dog who was always hungry. Unlike the cat, the dog and I count this among our pleasant memories.

I no longer own pets but my life is richer than ever with the wildlife that entertains, teaches, befriends and mystifies us.

At breakfast this morning, Julie was talking about the movement of some small muscle or vein in the top of the birds head as it fed at the feeder she was holding last night. “Tonight you’ve got to try it!” I might do that. I’d like to play with the birds.


Blogger Anvilcloud said...

Wow! I've never tried holding the feeder.

8/02/2007 12:49:00 PM  
Blogger Buffalo said...

My brother had several hummingbird feeders. Those little feathered creatures gave him a great deal of pleasure. I have a picture of the grizzled old Marine veteran of 3 wars sitting on the porch cooing softly to his "god damned, greedy, put me in the poor house, birds."

8/02/2007 03:35:00 PM  
Blogger Whitesnake said...


8/03/2007 02:21:00 PM  
Blogger Mysti said...

Fantastic images and wonderful shared memories.

8/03/2007 05:29:00 PM  
Blogger Christa said...

I never tire of seeing hummingbirds. What a delight that you could see them so close!

8/09/2007 05:52:00 PM  

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