Thursday, August 02, 2007

Five in the Morning

For whatever strange reason, I woke up at five in the morning. And I mean woke up---I truly was awake. A state of being I usually don't attain until far later in the day with a number of hours between the opening of the eyes and an engaging of the brain.

Finding myself in this odd state at 5 AM, I decided to put it to good use and check out the fauna in the area at this unfamiliar, at least for me, hour.

I did begin to have doubts about the wisdom of this decision, when upon coming out the back door I petrified a Hummingbird who'd been on her way to the feeder.

And second thoughts only grew when M. Goldfinch landed on his Sunflower, saw me, gave a start, as if he thought my presence at this time of day was completely wrong and then flew off with what I imagined were visible heart palpitations.

Having gotten finally situated. I waited for more birds---and waited--and waited some more. Where is everybody?

Well, my only conclusion is that they are used to me being present later in the day, but my presence early in the day is just too strange for comfort. They'll have to think about it from afar before actually reappearing.

So not wanting to waste the supposed best light of the day, I begin looking at flora. Now their cognitive processes and sensitivity to the unusual are not all that sensitive---otherwise they'd have legs or wings to get away.
Ah, look at that. So this is the hour when squash blossoms are opening. Click.

There is a squirrel three lots away but upon sighting me, he scrambles with a sibling to behind a tree.

Here we go. Not flashy but a mature female House Sparrow and her brood of five fledglings arrive on the seed patio.
I take a photo of the little House Sparrow above, who looks to me as if she's wearing yellow lipstick and white eyeliner. I realize that I may only think I'm awake.

The little group startles up into the Maple tree. Okay, good. That fledgling looks normal and while she stares at me her siblings preen and hop from branch to branch. A dog passes by and the whole group is up, over the roof, and plunging into the Spruce on the other side.

Now what?

While I've been watching the sparrows, the young squirrel from down the way, has sprinted over for breakfast. He looks at me; I look at him. His eyes widen and he skitters over to the other side of the picnic table where the seat obscures his head. He's obviously decided that if he can't see me; I can't see him. A failure in reasoning rampant in many young humans as well.
Ahhhhh, there is the new resident baby bunny. Another little four incher only slightly obscured by the neighbor's new plastic fence. A fence which became necessary due to the new tiny baby bunny being able to slip through the current one. He looks as if he may be thinking about doing just that.

But instead, he hops over to a little patch of sun. The sun warms him and he looks as if he's just about ready to doze, though fighting it to keep an eye peeled just in case.

It's been a very dry year here but the burgeoning Blackberries are still an inch long. Summers.

Now you've all seen the Seed Patio, it's rather one giant feeding tray with a range and assortment of seeds in all sizes and shapes. (I admit it. It didn't start out that way, but the squirrels get up in the feeders and paw through for their favorites and well, you see what happens. )
But back to the thought, the Seed Patio is quite an avian seed eaters buffet but I've begun to notice that if there is a crust of bread lying around, House Sparrows, particularly the young ones always go for that first.
No wonder they adapt so well to cities and places of human habitation. They actually like and are able to live on white bread.
The young sparrow above has spied the bread and is looking with true focus. She goes for it. Grabs it with her beak, flips it around, and breaks off small beak size portions.

Ah oh, I've been noted. She grabs her crust and attempts an escape flight. First hop didn't get her off the ground. She tries again and is gone.
I'm back to no birds again.

But you know, the light truly is quite nice on the flowers at this time of day. The Black-eyed Susans look sprightly as usual. And on the left is Great Lobelia, Lobelia siphilitica, a native plant in Campanulaceae, the Bluebell family, its violet flowers are just about to open.

Then there is the friendly Phlox, also a native. Both it and Black-eyed Susans are nice flowers...

but somehow together they are even better.

And now my favorite of the morning, the curving warly pods of Common Milkweed, Asclepias syriaca. Yes, "warly". It's the botanical name for the texture of these seed pods. Rather nice how the word sounds the way the surface of the seed pods look, don't you think?
And today's weird factoid in the Nothing is Stranger than Nature Category, it turns out that earth worms were extirpated from North American during the Ice Age. Think about it. No earth worms. Zip.
You'd dig in nice moist earth and there would be none of the little pink guys curling in and out of the earth on your shovel. What did you bait your hook with for fishing? How did you know the earth was fertile and healthy?
Geez, what about the Robins? What was their main food source? Of course there weren't all that many lawns so there weren't all that may Robins. But now that I'm thinking about it, perhaps it wasn't just lack of lawns, it could also be the lack of worms keeping down the Robins.
At any rate, if there weren't any then, how come there are some now? Well. in the 1600's and 1700's the Europeans came over. And when they came to their New World they brought their plants. And their plants lived in European soil while making the crossing and in the European soil were WORMS. Worm casings then traveled across the continent on the hoofs of horses as well as in pots and as the Europeans traveled across the continent a worm population traveled and grew across the continent as well.
How many million bijillion earthworms are there in North America? And if they all came from what had to have been a reasonably limited number of earthworms brought in only three or four hundred years ago...
Now that's some rate of reproduction.
Donegal Browne

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