Real Life Nature Programs

This evening I was out in my backyard doing my usual tour to see if anything was suffering or dying after the heat of the day, when I heard a strange noise. My first thought was that it was a frog. Since I live in a desert state, a frog is really really unlikely so I tried to locate the source of the sound. It was a hummingbird. He was hovering a foot over our wisteria vine and making little dips along with a chirping noise.

Then as I watched he flew 20 feet upwards and then in a long swooping glide passed only a few feet above my head and back to his high altitude. He dopplered me this way several times while I just watched in amazement. This was obviously some sort of mating display. At the end he perched on my wisteria seeming very pleased with himself indeed. It was like a nature video in my own backyard. If Mr. Hummingbird manages to convince a female of his prowess, then maybe I’ll get a nest in my yard too.

Another amazing feat of nature I got to witness recently was while I was hiking during my recent vacation. Howard and I kept passing branches which had large webbed clumps stuck to them. We both associate webs with spiders and so we steered really clear of the clumps figuring that we didn’t want to meet any spider who could make a clump the size of an orange. But later on there was a clump right next to the path and I leaned closer to take a look. It was full of caterpillars! Lots of them, they were all wiggling back and forth to spin this little community home. As I watched, a wasp flew up, bit one of the caterpillars, and flew off with it. Again, something out of a nature video.

Really amazing stuff nature. I think we should have more of it.

7 thoughts on “Real Life Nature Programs”

  1. I disturbed a small brown bird last sunday. She had made a nest in the box of spare bicycle tires and training wheels. It has 4 eggs in it. I went out to check it today and it didn’t seem warm but there were suspicious rustlings in the shed so hopefully I didn’t kill the eggs when I discovered them. But the timing sucks. Pirate just decided she wants to learn to ride a bicycle. She needs the training wheels.

  2. Good news

    If there are 4 eggs and the mommy bird is small, then you’ve probably only got 2 or 3 weeks until the baby birds have feathers and are flown. Baby birds grow up fast. And your girls get the opportunity to peek at the process.

  3. Re: Good news

    More like embryos by this stage, I suspect. Eggs with embryos aren’t nearly as easy to down as the unfertilized ones.

    Then again, I don’t have Schlock in the family, so I wouldn’t have quite the same perspective on eating someone’s young. 😉

  4. Re: Good news

    If the eggs actually hatch… But this is North Carolina and a swamp. It’s way too hot to be outside looking at birds and when it’s cooled down then the bugs are out.

    I’ll take photos if the eggs hatch. Right now the girls are more fascinated by the stupid red-headed woodpecker who thinks he can get through the metal roof of a shed.

  5. That U-shaped flight is a classic courtship flight. They’re so cool! Did any of the children get to see it?

    The males defend their feeders indiscriminately – all comers are driven away, be they male, female, immature, whatever … fights ensue. Except now an then a female won’t be chased away, but gets a courtship flight instead. I wonder how they know which female is interested and which isn’t. Maybe they fly differently? One male sits on a specific twig (which has a clear view of the feeder and its approach paths); any intruder is dived upon before it even makes it to the feeder. But he’ll sit there and watch some females feed, then zoom over and do courtship flights. Interestingly enough, he’s always outright ignored. The object of his attention is just slurping down the sugar water and flies off, never even acknowledging his existence. Which in itself is perhaps a sign: normally the females will do battle, however brief, for the feeder.

  6. We have a feeder in our backyard, and we get to see a lot of this behaviour. We had a male for a while who guarded that feeder like it was his own little treasure vault. Some of the other birds got really inventive. One would wait ’til he launched to chase off another bird, then go and drink.
    Incidentally, I don’t know what the “science center” scene is like in your town, but ours showed a film called “Bugs!” that was rather fascinating. It also drove home how truly revolting insects are.

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