Thursday, January 26, 2012

Is this cheating?

Keeping a feeder not only up during the winter but also warm enough to keep it from freezing so that a wandering western hummingbird can sugar up when she needs to? In the Mid-Atlantic? In January? Hmmm, I think it just might be... (Although she's decided she doesn't like this feeder under the heat lamp anymore.)

One does have to wonder about this Rufous Hummingbird who showed up in Goshen, New Jersey, USA, in late-October: fourteen (14) weeks ago come January 28, 2012. (Here you can just about see rufous tail feathers that make her not-a-ruby-throated. A Ruby-throated's outer tail feathers would be green.)

She's only spotted for a few minutes at a time only a few times a day at the three feeders the nature center has out. Presumably she's elsewhere most of time--someone else's feeder? A protected garden? How far away? But as she does not appear to be relying heavily on the feeders, it follows that she might be getting food another way as well.

We have had native honeysuckle blooming (albeit in very small quantities) up until the last week or so, and on balmier days winged insects are definitely out and about. (Hummer diets can consist of at least half insect protein, especially in the breeding season when there are growing young to feed.) Keyed in as you can become to hummer motion after watching them a lot, I was able to enjoy her "hawk" the nature center's meadow--swooping up from a perch to grab bugs out of the air like a wee flycatcher--the first month she was here. And her flits out from the holly and back on a (relatively speaking) balmy January 26th likely meant she was doing the same.

Best photo yet. If she'd stuck around for it. 

(Invisible hummingbird! Argh. Handheld point and shoot through glass and rain. They're hard enough to photograph when conditions are good...)

Having feeders up might be a contributing factor to her still being here and still being alive (although Rufous Hummers nest up the Pacific coast into Alaska, so they are tough little birds by nature). But since we don't really know what causes individuals of the western hummingbird species to wander so widely from their "normal" migration routes and wintering grounds in the first place (bad GPS?), or what prompts a bird to stop here and not there or when to stop (finding appropriate habitat--food, water and shelter--would probably and obviously be main factors), we can't say definitively that she remains here solely due to the feeders.

After all, none of the hundreds of ruby-throated hummers that stopped in Cape May County to fuel up during migration stuck around…

And what, exactly, constitutes "normal"? We're starting to wonder if we are within the normal winter range for this species... Above is a map snagged from eBird showing reported December to February sightings of Rufous Hummingbirds for the last ten years. Even if each square only represents one sighting/one individual and may be a near-insignificant percentage of the US's breeding population, it's still something.

One little bitty bird, so many huge questions. Ain't Nature grand?

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Photographing Cats...

Can be a bit trickier when they are not asleep.

A dangling, twitching tail... Too much for any cat to resist. Sephy started this small tussle. I must say, Sable was much more tolerant than usual about having her tail pulled.

Who, us? (Only cats do affronted dignity so well.)

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Let Sleeping Cats Lie.

And snap as many photos as possible while you can...

Before your subject starts to get annoyed...

Or bored...

(or really bored...)

Or distracted...

Or starts to think their person is a bit insane...

If you persevere, you are bound to get some keepers.

A sunny Sunday morning in January provided a great opportunity for some portraits of Abbott, Cassandra and Persephone.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Winter According to What?

What a weird season this is turning out to be...

As we start the second week of the new year (2012?! *gulp*), it mostly looks like winter out there. Mostly. But then you look again...

Okay, so a warm winter's day can usually coax daffodils and irises (here, invasive but lovely yellow flag) out of the ground even if it isn't in their best interests to do it.

But fennel?

And coral honeysuckle? (Native; you must get this stuff! The plants coming up through the mountain mint on the sunny south side of the nature center were even sending out new leaves.)

Blooming honeysuckle and warm spells that continue to produce flights of flying things great and small (from gnats to bats) might explain the continued presence of an immature female Rufous Hummingbird (a species well known to wander widely from its western range) in Goshen, New Jersey, USA on December 23, 2011, when this photo was taken. She made it through a 14° night and its subsequent sub-freezing day, and was still present on January 6th.

In Winter's defense, it was flurrying--snow: frozen precipitation--today, January 9th.