Humming Along

I spent an indolent morning watching ruby-throated hummingbirds this morning. Male Ruby-throated HummingbirdI ate breakfast, then went out onto the patio with my camera. I sat down and propped my feet up. The humid air was warm, but there was a bit of a breeze and it wasn't uncomfortable. Many ruby-throated hummingbirds show up in our garden from July through October as they fly through on their way to the Yucatan coast for the winter. 

I breathed in the moist air and listened to the bugs and the many bird calls. Once upon a time, as I was recovering from an operation, I sat and recorded the bird species I could see by watching through the front windows. I counted eighteen different species in one day. The total number of bird species recorded at nearby Aldridge Gardens is 97, the last I heard. The official field check list of Alabama birds lists 433 species, including those who migrate through the state. Amongst all those birds, hummingbirds may be the most entertaining and also the most challenging to photograph!The prominent dots on the throat identifies this ruby-throated hummingbird as a juvenile male.The Ruby-throated Hummingbird beats its wings an average of 52 times per second and can move much faster than my pitiful reflexes. There are 320 different species of hummingbirds, and they each make a different humming sound, determined by how fast their wings beat.

The images in this post are my best efforts over almost two hours today. I did not stress over getting photos, however. I was outside to enjoy the morning until rising summer vapors drove me back into the air-conditioned house. It may appear there are two ruby-throated hummingbirds, an adult male and a juvenile male, approaching each other from the two sides of a pole. In reality, I cheated! These are two different photos juxtaposed to make it seem that way.

The white throat and white tips on tail feathers identifies this as a female. Note: Juvenile males also have white tips on tail feathers, so sex identification of young hummers can be difficult.

Hummingbirds will often return to the same bird feeder year after year. Ruby-throated hummingbirds may live as long as a dozen years, though the average is probably less than half that. I have had this old plastic feeder for probably that many years. I have tried other feeders, but the hummers seem to prefer this gaudy plastic one. For more information about hummingbirds, see my previous post A Hummingbird In My Garden.


Dog Days of Summer

The dog days of summer are here.

The steady rise and fall of cicada song greets me every morning when I step outside. It is the sound of an Alabama summer, deeply entrenched into memory from earliest childhood, but I am so accustomed to it that I hardly notice. But I cannot escape the heavy air, already sweltering so early in the morning; it feels exactly like the steamy remains after one shuts off a hot shower. The air smells ripe and moldy. I cannot stay out long, and I wonder how people managed before the days of air-conditioning. 

Watering is definitely the biggest chore in the garden now. With the high heat, many plants, especially those in pots, need a daily supply of water. Fortunately, we have not had a drought this year, and I look to the heavens in hope that watering duties may be suspended for the day.

It is amazing how one minute the sky may be bright blue, then moments later dark clouds are forming as hot, moist air rises rapidly into the atmosphere, fueling a thunderstorm.Torrid air collides with cooler air high above, and the unstable air tumbles violently. Above the freezing line, frozen raindrops crash into each other, creating electrical fields. Soon all this produces a boiling heap of black clouds, high winds, heavy rain, thunder and lightning and sometimes hail, on average releasing the energy equivalent of a 20 ton nuclear weapon: a typical summer thunderstorm, and I am relieved of watering chores for another day.

I took the following photos in my saturated garden after a recent thunderstorm: 


Close-up, Agapanthus

Anthony Waterer Spirea bloom

Unidentified mushroom

White Pine (Pinus strobus) needles

Southern Magnolia seed pod

Another storm is pounding away as I write this. Whatever the weather wherever you are, be cool!I took this photo a few years ago of Lucee, a friend's dog who definitely knows how to enjoy the dog days of summer!