Archive for June, 2010

 I noticed several weeks ago that the hummingbirds were showing a preference for the vertical feeders over the flat feeders with a perch.  With the garden beginning to take shape and plants being moved around I relocated the bird feeders to minimize their interference with the planting scheme. I took the opportunity to retire the flat hummingbird feeders and replace them with two more vertical feeders which bring the total number of hummingbird feeders to six.

 

I fashioned a new hummingbird feeder pole by binding two separate poles together using several self-locking plastic-ties. The result was a single stand with four hanging hooks. At the time I didn’t have a tool to cut the plastic-ties flush to the pole which left a 6 inch plastic-tie extension out from the pole. I reminded myself to take care of the cosmetic work later.

Several days passed and I kept seeing the plastic-tie extension and kept reminding myself to cut that thing and clean it up. As I was about to do just that, I noticed a hummingbird which had been feeding at one of the feeders flew down to the plastic-tie and promptly took a seat, looking around like he had just been upgraded to first class. “Wow,” I thought, “take a look at that!” The more I watched the plastic-tie I observed a number of hummingbirds taking advantage of the plastic-tie perch. Being a well-trained American with deep roots in, “more is better,” I had an obligation to add more plastic-tie roosts.

     

The plastic-tie in question is blue in color, so of course, I thought it would only be appropriate to add a plastic-tie in the hummingbird’s favorite color – RED! Instead of locating a pair of scissors to trim the blue tie, I located the package of plastic-ties and promptly grabbed a red one and headed for the feeder. The pole presently only has two plastic-tie perches. To date the BLUE tie is preferred over the RED tie by the hummingbirds. This could however be a placement issue rather than a color issue. The blue tie is located below the hanging vertical feeders whereas the red tie is located higher on the pole amongst the hanging feeders. I suspect that the red tie amongst the feeders is not an ideal location since every inch of that area is viable contested air space by the territorial hummingbirds. I speak from experience having been in the middle of such contested air space while refilling the feeders. My head seems to be a favorite gathering point for hummingbird conflicts with hummingbirds setting up on either side of my head while they determine their individual strategies.  It has become aware to me that the hummingbirds know who their feeder re-filler is. Now when I refill the feeders the hummingbirds merely work around me on the other feeders, unless of course, some kind of disagreement is occurring at the time. I plan on relocating the red tie to a closer proximity to the blue tie. I promise not to get carried away with, “more is better,” by placing a plastic-tie every three or four inches up and down the pole.

The hummingbirds have also been using the oriole feeder on a regular basis. A pair of Hooded Orioles are now making brief daily visits to the feeder. They are very wary but seem to becoming more comfortable with the feeder.

FATHER’S DAY BIRD COUNT

I spent several hours last Sunday morning doing a Father’s Day Backyard Bird Count. I had hoped to capture all the seen or heard birds with a photograph as well. In the two hours of counting and photographing I was able to record 25 species photographing 21 (List below).

BIRD LIST (Bold-faced font indicates photographed bird):
Snowy Egret, Great Egret, Turkey Vulture, Cooper’s Hawk, Red-shouldered Hawk, Red-tailed Hawk, American Kestrel, California Quail, Mourning Dove, Anna’s Hummingbird, Costa’s Hummingbird, Western Scrub Jay, American Crow, Common Raven, California Thrasher, Violet-green Swallow, House Sparrow, American Goldfinch, Lesser Goldfinch, House Finch, California Towhee, Black-headed Grosbeak, Hooded Oriole, Red-winged Blackbird, Brown-headed Cowbird.

NOTE:
Now, I’m not saying that all the photographs are post card quality, but in just about all the cases the birds can easily be identified. Below are some of the photographs representing the range of quality and representing 12 of the 21 photographed.

  
 
   
  

The Adventure Continues . . .

Jim, Judy, and VELCRO

CA Quail feather & Ant in our Extended Backyard

We are still in the settling-in process and have been working on the house and gardens. We are fortunate that there is no timetable or schedule for the completion of our settling-in to our new environment or for anything else for that matter. It is surely a nice feeling, I must say. I’m enjoying the casual approach while making new discoveries that draw me away from the daily unscheduled settling-in chores.

Our extended backyard (X-BY) has become a wonderful study area for my settling-in distractions. I’ve been visiting the area several times a week to see if I can locate any new critters or plants, and to note the changes that have occurred since my last visit. On my visit yesterday I was particularly interested in seeing if the Dudleya flowers had come into bloom since my last visit. The flower stalks had been developing for over a month and on my last visit earlier this week the buds appeared to be on the verge of blooming. It was nice to see on this visit that both the Chalk Lettuce (D. pulverulenta) and the Lance-leaf Dudleya (D. lancelota) flowers were in bloom and accepting the visiting Anna’s Hummingbirds harvesting their subtle reddish flower clusters.  

  
Chalk Lettuce flowers, Lanceloate-leaf Dudleya flowers – Click on photo for larger image

 
Anna’s Hummingbird feeding on Chalk Lettuce (D. pulverulenta) flowers. Click on photo for larger image.

Now when exploring the X-BY I am hoping to hear a fire engine heading up Clinton Keith Road in my direction. Yesterday there were several distant fire engine sirens heard but none were close enough to elicit a response from the resident coyotes. After being surprised and startled during my first close encounter with the coyotes and their reaction to the fire engine siren, I have been looking forward to hearing coyotes up-close again. One morning last week as Judy and I were getting in the car when a fire engine with its siren blaring passed close by and we clearly heard the coyotes in the X-BY yelping and howling in response.

I have been spending more time scanning the hillsides and canyons on my X-BY visits now that I know both coyotes and at least one bobcat are residents. I’ve met several other neighbors recently and all have mentioned the bobcat which apparently roams freely in the neighborhood when it chooses. None of the neighbors had seen the two cubs that paid a brief visit to our front porch before being scurried off to safety by mom several weeks ago.

A pair of Costa’s Hummingbirds arrived at the feeders yesterday for the first time. They are now visiting the feeders on a regular basis after spending some time observing and learning the pecking order at the feeders. They seem to have overcome the constant intimidation by the surely disrespectful Anna’s Hummingbirds. It was interesting to note that the female Costa’s HB was the first to arrive and put up with the Anna’s HB abuse. Once she started feeding on a regular basis, the male proudly showed up and commenced feeding. . . . Go figure?  We also added another bird to our yard list this week – A Prairie Falcon flyover, a handsome bird indeed.

  
Female Costa’s Hummingbird – Click on photo for larger image.

 
Male Costa’s Hummingbird – Click on photo for larger image

 
Boreal Bluet Damselfly & Acmon Blue Butterfly – Click on photo for larger image

Our newest settling-in distraction is absolutely wonderful. We finally found someone to look at the above spa that came with the house. We know nothing about spas and weren’t sure it even worked. After checking the spa out, Paul from Breeze Pool Service, deemed the spa to be in working condition. Two days ago the spa was initiated as we watched our first sunset from the spa – Very Nice!

VELCRO is doing fine and beginning to return to a more comfortable level now that most of the major work on the house and yard has been completed. All the noises and activity that come with repairs and installations were keeping VELCRO hidden in the deepest part of the deepest closet in the house during those activities. VELCRO and KARTER seem very comfortable with each other though their relationship is an inside/outside – looking-out/looking-in situation – kinda like ying & yang, I suppose!

The adventure continues . . . . . .

Jim, Judy, and VELCRO

 

I had nearly forgotten about how impressive western dodder was when we moved east. The sight of chaparral plants slowly and methodically being consumed by numerous deep-yellow tendrils this spring jiggled my memory. As spring progressed, the density of the dodder increased and so did my curiosity. It was time to renew my acquaintance with dodder (Cuscuta sp.). Witches Hair, Devil Ringlets, Hairweed are amongst the many negative, but somewhat descriptive, common names of the plant dodder.

Dodder is actually found throughout the temperate and tropical regions of the world. I am sure that I came in contact with less impressive dodder species in both Ohio and Pennsylvania but it was the western dodder that  is so impressive and provoked my curiosity. Dodder was originally placed in its own family, Cuscutaceae.  Genetic studies since have concluded dodder is related to the Morning Glory family, ConvolvulaceaeDodder is now rightly reunited with its family.

It’s my guess that, some time way back when, a morning glory tendril was sent out to a nearby plant to secure its parents plant location. Once the tendril had securely snarled itself around the stem of the other plant and watched the flower and leaves travel on out of sight, the tendril probably wondered why it was being left behind. Getting together with other morning glory tendrils in the immediate area, the tendrils eventually decided that they could easily come up with a more efficient design. No chlorophyll factories, minimal root systems, no heavy flowers to maintain and support. The new design would be 91 percent tendrils, 3 percent roots, and 6 percent flowers. And after a certainly large number of dead-end models dodder was born. Today dodder survives in 100-170 different forms worldwide.

   

Dodder is a parasitic plant with only several species producing minimal chlorophyll. Dodder lives entirely off the nutrients of its host plant. The numerous tiny dodder flowers produce one seed each after blooming in late spring or summer. The seeds of dodder can survive 5-10 years. When a seed germinates in the spring the emerging tendril must find a host plant within a very short time or the dodder will die. Once a host plant connection is made the dodder’s minimal root system dies.

  

It seems obvious to me that the tendrils did come up with a very efficient system for sustainability and they made it all about tendrils. GO, tendrils! I still wondered how after the seed germinates the lone tendril finds a host plant. I expected that it was most likely “random floundering” by the tendril. Success would hinge on whether the tendril was lucky enough to hit the host plant on a lucky flounder. Little did I know that the Tendril Advancement Society (TAS), formed in the late stages of dodder development,  had already drawn up plans to solve this problem as well.  A report published in Science (Vol. 313; Sept. 29, 2006) demonstrated that dodder used airborne chemical cues to locate their host plants. Those darn tendrils are very clever – WOW!

The literature indicates that dodder seldom kills the host plant, albeit, dodder surely provides the host plant with a very miserable growing season. The host plant provides dodder all the room and board at no cost to the dodder. It’s kind of similar to having a non-contributing family member moving in to your home for a year and constantly complaining that the TV remote won’t work.

 I cannot attest to the non-lethal aspect of dodder on the host plant but have staked out a couple chaparral plants to check later this season and again next year.

Does this nasty plant have any positive benefits? It appears that it does. Chaparral Dodder (Cuscuta californica) is the preferred host plant for the larvae of the Western Brown Elfin butterfly. I will be interested to see how the TAS deals with this problem which I am sure is not a welcome event.

Photographs of the dodder species Cuscuta californica by Jim Lockyer

The Adventure Continues!

Jim, Judy, and VELCRO Lockyer

The Anna’s Hummingbirds have picked up their feeding activity in recent days as they introduce the newest members of their family to the feeders. It has been interesting to watch the adult/offspring dynamics with regards to the feeders. Occasionally a young bird failed to display its respect to the adults and would occupy a feeder when it shouldn’t have. The adult birds would promply chase the youngsters off the feeder scolding them as they vanished out of sight.

In one incident where a youngster fed out of order an adult bird chased the youngster off, but this time, the adult continued to hover over the youngster and kept the young bird well below the feeders. This action continued and as the young bird attempted to move towards the feeders the adult lowered and guided the young bird away from the feeders. I suspect that the adult and young bird were probably related. This appeared to be a case of mom teaching the youngster a few table manners.   

  
 

The adult  female Anna’s Hummingbird drinking water at the fountain almost appeared to be more for sport than necessity since a bird bath full of water was only a few feet from the fountain. The bird would position itself in various positions around the falling water seemingly to calulate the angle of attack and capture. After much analysis the bird finally made a number of passes successfully capturing the water.

   

One of the youngsters held at bay by the adults took refuge in Judy’s HarryLauder Walking-stick tree blending in quite well with the disruptive background of the tree.

 

 

OTHER FEEDING STRATEGIES

A new combination take-out restaurant opened close to our home recently – Kentucky Fried Chicken/Long John Silver’s . . . . YUM, YUM!

After a long day today, Judy asked if Kentucky Fried Chicken sounded good to me for dinner. I gave my standard answer, “I don’t care!” A response which provides no answer or information to the question asked.

We have been very good about eating healthy since our arrival in California. When we first arrived we gorged ourselves on In-and-Out burgers and fries since Judy could order gluten-free items there. It is a great franchise  and we highly recommend In-and Out, we simply have burned-out from overuse.

I gave Carl’s Jr, Jack-in-the-BoxDel Taco, and Der Wienerschnitzel each a one time try soon after our arrival to California. All of those venues immediately fell into the YUCK! category and there will be no return visits.

I arrived at Kentucky Fried Chicken/Long John Silver’swith only one customer in front of me. She was taking an enormous amount of time ordering and I kept thinking here is another unorganized individual that can’t make up their mind and requiring a lot of coaching. As she finally finished her order she asked the clerk if they had a take-0ut menu so she wouldn’t take so much time next time. The stoic-faced young male clerk simply said, “No!” I mentioned to the woman that there was a menu online and she thanked me. After all, Icame prepared to make my order simply and quickly with my printed-out online menu. I had done my research – I was ready!

May I have your order please, here or take-out,” the expressionless clerk asked? “Ah, take-out,” I stated. “Order please,” the monotone personality asked? After looking up at the very confusing order menu, split down the middle, Kentucky Fried Chicken on the left and Long John Silver’s on the right with “SIDES MENU” bridging the two exclusive entities I realized that my printed-out online menu was going to be no help at all.  I crumpled it up and placed it back in my pocket.

Judy wanted some Kentucky Fried Chicken so I placed that order and selected the “sides” and drink and HAL(2001 Space Odyssey) spoke once more, “Anything else?” Since I hadn’t ordered my meal and was leaning towards the fish side I said, “Yes!” I explained that I would like to order a fish platter and what were the options? “Do you want to pay for this order first, and your next order separately,” HAL asked? “No,no one order please, and where do I find the sides for my fish order?” I was instructed that the sides were the same for both the chicken half of the menu and the fish half of the menu. That’s when I recalled that the sides menu did bridge the KFC/LJS selection menu apparently it had a purpose. Both the KFC and LJS menus offered chicken, but it wasn’t the same chicken. The KFC chicken looked like chicken, bu the LJS chicken looked like the fish, which really didn’t look like fish at all. I finally finished placing my order, after taking up just as much time as the woman ordering before me had, and paid for my order, HAL handed me my receipt, “YOU ARE ORDER #38, THANK YOU, NEXT!

Judy’s selection was typical KFC and looked delicious. My selection was “fried stuff” and once I found the fish and removed it from its encrusted case of fried stuff,  it was somewhat edible. I always thought Hush Puppies were shoes that I wore and had to buff up with a special little bag. I’m sure the shoes were named after hush puppies food item (similar color and shape?) and I don’t find the food version to be something I would go out of my way to seek, but then I don’t like hominy either. If there is a next time I will stick to the KFC side of the menu!

Perhaps simple sugar water presents the best feeding strategy but then that seems to come with its own complicated set of rules and hierarchy.

The Adventure Continues

Jim, Judy, and VELCRO