Disasters -- natural and otherwise
But you have to be a post not to be fascinated by the hummingbirds that are here now.
Those little guys eat 600 times their weight every day - and that's not saying much. The tiny packages of feathers and bones probably don't weigh an ounce.
Two feeders in our back yard are drained dry nearly every day by the hummers - to my untrained eye they appear to be female rubythroated hummingbirds.
It's next to impossible to count how many are darting from the feeders to the palm trees and bougainvillea bushes nearby, but my best guess is that there are at least 12 that visit every morning and evening. (Here's where I need Tony Amos' expertise at counting birds!) They must come by during the day while we're away, judging by how rapidly the feeders are depleted.
Hummingbirds are proof-positive that dynamite comes in small packages. These guys are aggressive! They whap each other audibly, I'm guessing with their wings - they move so fast you hear them rather than see them. It's amazing they don't break those delicate beaks as they jockey for position to feed, shoving one another away from the feeders.
They just might be showoffs, too. I notice they really swarm the feeders when we're sitting on the back porch reading the newspaper in the morning, and when we're having a cold one on the back porch as the sun falls below the western horizon in the evening.
The hummers have provided fascinating entertainment for us - and we're not experienced, official birdwatchers like Nan Dietert and Lyndon Holcomb. They go bird watching almost daily, then they compare notes for the column, For the birds, that Nan writes for the South Jetty.
Every week when I read the column I wish I had the freedom to "go bird," as Nan enthusiastically encourages readers to do.
That's on my "to do" list.
For now, I have to rely on my back yard.
In addition to the hummers, our back yard is frequented by the birds that have been attracted in huge numbers by the fresh water ponds that are part of the Newport Dunes Golf Club. Since those ponds were dug about two years ago, we have been treated to an incredible array and number of birds.
In the past few weeks, a group of seven to eight white ibis have been feeding on the shoreline across the canal from our back yard. Roseate spoonbills stream by every evening. We regularly see great blue and great white herons, night/green herons, whistling ducks that are year round residents, terns, doves, mockingbirds, brown pelicans and, as of this weekend, the white pelicans have returned for the winter. On occasion, we've seen a turkey working the shoreline.
We're waiting for the ducks that will be coming down with the first norther. The first year the ponds were here, we'd set our watches by "duck time," when the ducks would rise off the ponds, fly straight toward us, then make a sharp left turn toward the East Flats. In the silence of a cool, still fall evening, we could hear the flutter of thousands of duck wings. It was damn close to a religious experience, and I mean that in the most reverent way.
Nature provides a stage that can't be equaled, and performers that have no rivals.
Check it out.