Wednesday, October 21, 2015

The Tweedle Of Doom

I am working in my garden when all of a sudden I hear the distinctive, furious tweedling of a pissed-off hummingbird. Or, as I like to call it, a hummingbird.

They're all pissed off. They start out life with just a couple of cells like everyone else, but by the time they've hit the eighteenth cell division or so--at which point we have achieved about two-thirds of a hummingbird--our hero has discovered he's jammed into a pellet the size of a Tic-Tac and there's not going to be a lot to him. He's pissed.

I kind of know how he feels. I remember a soaring, optimistic time when I actually seemed to be growing. The annual pencil marks on the door jamb were getting farther apart for a while, and then the increments began to ratchet down, until finally the last mark just got darker and darker. I had beached myself somewhere just south of 5'4", and I said "oh well" and "that's that" because I am a pragmatic person, but the hummer takes it personally.

He has about two weeks in the egg to think about it, and he thinks if he ever gets out of here, there'll be hell to pay. By the time he has hammered his way out of the egg, he is a model of obstrepery. He takes a good look around, which takes hardly any time at all, and assesses the situation. The situation is that he has hatched with all of the attitude but none of the feathers of an adult hummingbird, and, in his last act of discretion and diplomacy, he bides his time. And then it's all Goodbye, Mama, and Who The Hell Are You People?

He isn't interested in making friends. And he'll be go-to-hell if any of those other pointy-headed bastards are going to dip their diddlers in his flower patch.  Mine, mine, mine. That's the hummingbird motto. And then he cuts loose with the Tweedle Of Doom followed by a sound like the sharpening of the bill against a steel: tweedle tweedle tweedle, snick...snick snick.

He needs the nectar from the flowers, or from the feeder he has yet to thank me for, in order to power his remarkable wings. What he's really after is spider meat. If he's got enough fuel for the wings, he can delete a spider from her web before she has a chance to mount an objection. He'll get what nectar he needs and park himself on a nearby branch to conduct personal hygiene and stand guard. Anyone approaches his stash and he's all over his ass, and off they go like the Blue Angels in an air show. If they had any concept of sharing, they wouldn't need so much damn fuel. Tweedle tweedle tweedle, snick...snick snick.

I wouldn't take him on. I know he's an Anna's Hummingbird, but I'm keeping it to myself. He isn't claiming allegiance to anyone.

40 comments:

  1. You are downright statuesque compared to me (5 feet even). Maybe that's why I seem to get along okay with my hummers: we're just runts in a world of tall creatures. While I seem to be tolerated (they perch nearby while waiting for me to re-hang their nectar feeder or fill the birdbath), they do fight among themselves if more than one shows up simultaneously. It's all part of that infamous Napoleonic complex.

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    1. It's true I'm not extremely short, but Dave doesn't even consider me "regular-size."

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    2. Aren't you what the candy bar makers refer to as "fun size"? ;)

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  2. Size aside, you'd be pretty mad too if the high point of your day was eating a spider.

    Hummingbirds need to rein in their 'tude, though. Given their odd noise and habits and their sheer teenyness, we might feel tempted to demote them to the category of bugs.

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    1. But aren't spiders just weeny little crabs? I eat them quite often, and they are delicious. Perhaps it is the same dynamic with the hummers/spiders (only without plunging them into boiling water first)? Maybe they just need more Old Bay seasoning....

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    2. I've got a spider outside in the front that is so fat you could get steaks out of her.

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    3. YOU EAT SPIDERS!!!! Augh! I will allow you to harvest and munch on all the spiders in my yard and garden!

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    4. Wait a minute. Your response is to agree that spiders are edible? That's your response to mimimanderly eating spiders quite often because they are like weeny little crabs?

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    5. It is not clear, my Editor Friend, that mimimanderly eats spiders. She might eat crabs. In fact I'll just bet she does eat crabs. And we all know spiders are edible. They're mostly drumsticks.

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  3. Murrbrewster, hilariously funny nature writer. Accurate, too.

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    1. Thanks! I wish someone would publish my bird book, and then I'd write other science books too. My agent agrees, but she hasn't had any luck so far.

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    2. Did you hear Terry Gross's interview with the two bird experts / authors last night on Fresh Air? If not, I really recommend listening to the October 20 podcast on this link: http://www.npr.org/podcasts/381444908/fresh-air
      Great recordings of birds as well.

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    3. That was good! I've heard that lyre-bird clip a bunch of times and it never gets old, BTW.

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  4. If you are small you have to carry a chip on your shoulder or you will run over or totally ignored....snick, snick, snick.

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    1. They're all small, but since I have a feeder super-close to my writing window, I've had the opportunity to notice what a huge variation in size there is in the same species. There are skinny little runty ones and some the size and shape of golf balls.

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  5. Gee, from where I stand they seem so cute. Who knew?

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  6. If they didn't expend so much energy flying around, dive-bombing each other to defend a feeder, they wouldn't need so much nectar! They remind me of the old black and white films of fighter planes in WW1.

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  7. All we have here are the Ruby-throat variety. They are the same way, but I believe it can all be attributed to small bird syndrome.

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    1. Guess what? We get to keep ours all winter! It's awful when we get a real cold snap. The nectar freezes. You try to get a fresh warm batch out every day and wonder if anyone made it through the night.

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  8. What great photos!! How long did you have to wait to get those?

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    1. Oh golly. I have about five thousand of them. I take pictures out my writing room window instead of, you know...

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    2. OH the nest pic isn't from my tree, unfortunately.

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  9. I was short for a long time. I had ambitions about reaching the lofty height of five foot two. Waiting, waiting, waiting.
    And then the GroPlus kicked in. I was five foot two. Briefly,as I rocketed up to my current height of five ten or so.
    My btohers didn't grow. I am taller than all of them. I had assumed that they suffered from little man syndrome - but hummingbird aggression covers it better.
    thank you.

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    1. Most people were short for a long time. Do your brothers's tongues wrap around the back of their heads? That would be further evidence they are hummingbirds.

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  10. No hummers on this island continent. But up here in the tropical bit we have a close equivalent - sunbirds. They've been hanging around a bamboo wind chime thing outside the kitchen window and I thought they might be nesting there again.But, no, they are just eating the tiny spiders and nicking bits of web for wherever the nest is being built. It's probably somewhere too high for a 157cm gal to see...

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    1. Holy cow, do you people measure yourself in centimeters? REally? That seems like so much to have to keep track of. Now to look up sunbirds...

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    2. Ah, but so easily restated as 1.57 meters. Can't do that with the Imperial system.

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  11. I get so excited whenever I see the hummingbirds in my gardens. I have a "couple" that always are together in the garden. LOVE!!!

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    1. You may have a couple but I can hardly believe they're together.

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  12. Never have I read such an amusing description of a hummingbird. Now I know how to translate the Anna's song into English. If you think they're territorial and feisty, just wait until a rufous hummer comes along, boy oh boy. (Oh, and are you sure your lead photo isn't a Costa's?)

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    1. Quite sure! And I have a bunch of cool Rufous pics from my sister's place in Colorado, not that they don't come here. I've only ever seen one in my yard. Yeah, they're a piece of work too.

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  13. You make hummingbirds sound like the Danny Devitos of the bird world!

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    1. Taxi Danny, not Cuckoo's Nest Danny. Yesss.

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  14. I always thought they were such sweet little birdies; now you tell me they're obstreperous? Huh.

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    1. Just you watch. If they look sweet, you're only seeing one of them.

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