December 14, 2008

Feathery friends

One of the natural treasures we have down here, in addition to an abundance of cactus and Mexican food, is hummingbirds. When we first got here we put up hummingbird feeders but no one ever came. (It is sort of like having a garden party but no guests arrive.) We have tons of hibiscus bushes in the yard which drew the hummingbirds like magnets so we would see them everyday, but not at our feeders.

The first hummingbirds that we saw daily during the hot season, Xanthus hummingbirds, did not seem remarkable to look at since they were not boldly colored and didn’t seem to be very personable. They are a native non-migratory species. Oh well, we said, maybe when the migrating hummingbirds come from up north we will have knowledgeable birds who understand these things. Maybe they will show these Xanthus dudes what it’s all about. One day I was standing next to a feeder when a Rubythroat showed up—we like to think it was the first one in town. The bird actually did a double take, like wait a minute I’ve been here every year and there was NEVER a feeder here, HOW amazing!! It zoomed right up to the feeder and looked at it, then moved back a foot and looked at it, then it zoomed back and started feeding. And that was the beginning of the famous Santa Rosalia turf wars.

More hummingbirds showed up and started contesting ownership of our two feeders which are about 15 feet apart. They would spiral up 50 feet in the air using their beaks against each other like Jeddi swords. This went on for a while, then one day a swarm of bees and a beautiful Streak-backed Oriole showed up to partake. The hummingbirds were overwhelmed by the bees as each feeder would have a mass of about 50 bees on it who could effectively keep them away. The bees would suck the feeder dry in one day. The oriole would sit on the feeder and parry bees off with its beak for about a minute, before it would also be driven off. But it was persistent and would come back right away.

Our most recent hummingbird guest is Costa’s hummingbird, and a beauty it is too. A tiny little guy with bright purple bib and brilliant green elsewhere. It turns out Costa’s hummingbird is limited to the Baja peninsula and a small area around Guaymas on the mainland. In the last few days the bees have suddenly and mysteriously disappeared, so we are back to two hummingbird sentinels guarding each feeder and driving enemy combatants away.

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