2022—Summertime Snooze

A few days ago, I posted a photograph of this Anna’s Hummingbird on a perch in the Xylosmas. At the time, I thought it was a juvenile male but now I’m thinking it’s probably a mature female. Whichever it is, this part of the shrub makes the perfect watch tower as well as a napping post. I walked around this bird to see if I could get a better view and to see if the gorget would reflect color but I struck out on both accounts. Most of the time I watched, though, the hummer seemed to be napping. It was a warm afternoon, perfect for a summertime snooze.

2022—Bath Time

The male Anna’s Hummingbirds seem always to start their day with a bath. I’ve photographed this male Anna’s at the urn fountain several times in recent weeks early in the morning but this is the first time any color was reflected on his gorget. How the light strikes the hummingbird’s feathers determines whether the gorget has color or not. The changing angles of the bird’s head alters the color that is reflected back so the gorget seems to change from one shade of red to another in an iridescent display. Sometimes with the turn of the head, the colors completely disappear and the gorget looks black. Only a slight shift can create a dazzling display and the hummer appears to have a pink neon helmet. The placement of the lip of the fountain dictates where the hummingbirds bathe and because of that, there is seldom much light reflected onto the bird’s gorget in the early morning hours. I was thrilled to see a little bit of color the other morning for this shot.

2022—In Full Sun

When the flowers are in full sun, I usually don’t even try to photograph the hummingbirds. When I saw this young female Black-chinned Hummingbird at the California Fuchsia in full sun, for some reason I grabbed my camera and opened the patio door. She stayed for the longest time with her back to me feeding on the fuchsia blossoms hanging over the side of the cobalt blue pot. Then, she turned and hovered at the purple salvia right next to it. It seemed like the perfect shot and I like the results. I’m really getting spoiled by my backdoor photo blind.

2022—Bella! Bella! Bella!

Bella is my brother’s English Cream Golden Retriever. Bella spent four years as a breeder and produced four litters before retiring and going to live with my brother Art. Unfortunately she had some difficulty acclimating to her new life in a house instead of a kennel. Part of the problem was that Art travels so much and Bella had become extremely attached to him so she acted up when he was gone. After a few months, he decided that Bella needed a more stable living arrangement so my other brother John agreed to take Bella. John doesn’t travel so it has been easier for Bella to adjust to her environment and her anxieties have diminished significantly. She dotes on John and is as attached to him as she was to Art. While this adoring look might make you think it was an indicator of undying love, John was holding a treat when I took the photograph.

2022—Keeping Watch

In the last couple of days, there is slightly more hummingbird traffic in my garden now than in recent weeks. By that I mean maybe five but since I usually have just one, that’s a big difference. With the increased traffic, the feeders are emptying faster than in recent weeks. The hummers are usually not at the feeders or the flowers at the same time because one of the dominant hummers keeps an eye out and chases interlopers away. Lately, sometimes that’s a female and now there’s a male. I have identified an adult female Black-chinned Hummingbird, a juvenile female Black-chinned, a male Anna’s Hummingbird, a female Anna’s, and this, a juvenile male Anna’s. I think he is establishing territory and has found a good spot from which to survey the feeding stations. He’s chosen a lush Xylosma shrub which is more like a tree, full, dense, and about 25 feet tall. He stayed for quite a while the other afternoon and I captured a half dozen blinking sequences which I always find fascinating. It was as if he wanted to take a nap but had stay awake to keep watch.

2022—Hover Feeding

Hummingbirds are amazing creatures that can hover in place while they sip nectar from a blossom. It was a bit breezy when I took these photographs and the California Fuchsia stalk swayed slightly but the eye of this hummingbird (I believe it is a juvenile female Black-chinned Hummingbird), her head, and the blossom into which her beak is inserted barely moved while the stalk swayed.

2022—Survivors

The unrelenting heatwave continues to decimate what remains of my lawn (I have long since stopped watering my front lawn due to the severity of the drought here). My Rube Goldberg version of a drip sprinkler system that provides hydration to the plants in baskets and pots on my patio allows a few survivors that provide sustenous to the Hummingbirds and various species of Bees. Sadly, though, I have lost several of the flowering plants in hanging baskets because of my faulty drip installations in some of the baskets so when I returned from a few days away in the midst of the 100° plus temperatures at home, I was happy to see that there were some survivors. The California Fuchsia, the current favorite of the hummers, is in full bloom with its silvery foliage and bright orange trumpets. The colorful Lantana, a carryover from last year, continues to flower. And one of my many varieties of Purple Salvia is also in full bloom and attracts both hummers and bees. I’m torn about when to replace the dead plants with predictions for the coming couple of weeks at 100°+ for much of the time. At least I can enjoy the color that does remain in the yard and for now there is still enough to satisfy the birds and the bees so I think I’ll put it off until the high temperatures start coming down.

2022—Volunteer

Sunflower seeds that spill from the feeders usually are consumed by the squirrels or larger foraging birds but this year for some reason several have sprouted in pots on the patio. I didn’t realize that even though they are shelled, they are still viable and this one is now in full bloom, small as it is, protruding from the middle of a basket of million bell petunias.

2022—Gravenstein

My brother baked me a Gravenstein Apple pie for my birthday. His flaky delicate crust, a combination of butter and lard, filled with the absolute best pie apple, the increasingly hard-to-find Gravenstein, was the best birthday present he could have given me. John’s Gravenstein Apples came from his own apple tree but Sonoma County’s delicious heirloom apples are in danger of disappearing. It is grown almost exclusively in Sonoma County, California (and in Nova Scotia). But it is very delicate and perishable so it does not travel well and its growing season is very short. It is in danger of becoming extinct because of the conversion of many apple orchards to vineyards. As a result, its production is now at historic lows with only a handful of commercial growers remaining. I haven’t found Gravenstein apples in my local market for quite a while and I live only 100 miles from Sonoma County.

As far as I’m concerned, there is no apple that comes close to the flavor of a Gravenstein for pies and apple sauce, and it is a delicious eating apple as well, tart and sweet and crisp. Even Sonoma County’s beloved world famous horticulturalist, Luther Burbank, who developed, among many things, the Russet Burbank potato (think McDonald’s French fries), a hearty, blight resistant potato to help with the devastation in Ireland following the great potato famine, was quoted as saying, “It has often been said that if the Gravenstein could be had throughout the year, no other apple need be grown.” I took this photograph in my brother’s backyard. Most of the Gravensteins had been harvested and this is a pair of apples on a volunteer apple tree, a sport of the Gravenstein.

2022—Fueling Up

A female Black-chinned Hummingbird sips nectar from the tubular flowers on a Cigar Plant, Cuphea Ignea, also known as the firecracker plant, or Mexican cigar plant. There are several in hanging baskets in my garden and the hummingbirds enjoy feeding from them. I placed the baskets so that I can photograph hummingbirds at eye level.