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Hummingbirds: Rufous

“Both male and female S. rufus are territorial; however, they defend different types of territories.[9] The more aggressive males fight to defend areas with dense flowers, pushing females into areas with more sparsely populated flowers.[9] Males generally have shorter wings than females, therefore their metabolic cost for hovering is higher. This allows males to beat their wings at high frequencies, giving them the ability to chase and attack other birds to defend their territory.[9] The metabolic cost of short wings is compensated for by the fact that these males do not need to waste energy foraging for food, because their defended territory provides plenty of sustenance.[10] Females on the other hand are not given access to the high concentration food sources, because the males fight them off.[9] Therefore, females generally defend larger territories, where flowers are more sparsely populated, forcing them to fly farther between food sources.[9] The metabolic cost of flying farther is compensated for with longer wings providing more efficient flight for females.[9] The differences in wing length for S. rufus demonstrate a distinct sexual dimorphism, allowing each sex to best exploit resources in an area.”

I copied this straight from Wikipedia. Fascinating. Fair? For some reason, I trust their information for basic science, though I might be skeptical for more subjective knowledge. Around here, we call these birds “little bulldogs,” or more subjective epithets. I love them despite their aggression; they are beautiful, remarkable creatures. I am grateful to have the Rufous and the other two species zipping around the yarden all day, intensifying in the evening.

I’m grateful to have stumbled, after 29 years, into a spot in the woods where I have never stood before, a view I have never viewed.
I am happy to share my flowers, and grateful for the trust of the mangy doe. I wonder if she’s still pregnant, or if she’s already got a fawn. Her belly looks bigger than it did a couple of days ago. Her teats are enlarged; but not like the mother of twins, who hasn’t come into the yard for more than a week, though I did see her and the fawns just south of the fence the other day, which was reassuring.
I am grateful for green! So much lush growth. I love these rattlesnake pole beans.
I picked this load this morning, and this evening there are more ripe and ready beans. I picked even more a couple of days ago…
…so this afternoon I blanched the two batches…
…and bagged them for the deep freeze. I’m grateful for the knowledge and technology to do this.
I’m grateful that the Chimayo peppers are fruiting between monster tomato plants in the new beds.
I’m grateful for all the flavors of green growing in the garden right now, and for living through to another gorgeous sunset; and for a house to live in, and water to make rain on the garden and grow food in abundance.

Success

My big success for the day was capturing a phoebe fledgling at twilight with the new camera. Again, not such a crystal clear lens, but clearly a juvenile phoebe. Several of them and at least one parent were flying around the house this evening. If I should die tomorrow, I’m grateful tonight for my private success of raising at least one little bird, or helping to, anyway. We are a brutal species, in a brutal cycle, on this fragile planet. There were other quotidian delights today as well. These moments are not how society generally measures success.

The mangy doe grooms herself under the Buddleia alternifolia. Maybe she’s just molting.

Pollinators

Not a pollinator, but I’m grateful for this roly-poly little kitty. I may have a new kitty: I came home from a lovely dinner tonight and saw a small black cat crying out beyond the compost bins. I put some food out. It will depend on Topaz, among other things. We’ll know more later.

I’m grateful for all the pollinators. I haven’t even cracked the manual for the new camera, and the current lens won’t give me the crystal clarity of the macro lens on the old camera, but I’ll get there eventually. Meanwhile, playing around with it this morning I caught a few pollinators doing their thing. Imagine where we’d be without them! So grateful for pollinators, and the fruits of their labors.

Honeybee pollinating tomatillos
Leafcutter bee on marigold
Sunflower bee on some floral surprise I thought was going to be a zinnia…

I’m grateful for the 4000 species of native bees in North America, and the dozens that forage and nest in my yarden. They’re responsible for pollinating about three-quarters of all our food plants, but their very existence is not well known to the general public. I didn’t know about them until I started raising and photographing honeybees, and paying attention to all the other pollinators I discovered through my camera lens. There aren’t nearly as many individual bees or bee species in the garden this summer, making me cherish them all the more. You can learn to identify and plant for native bees with the Wild Bee ID app put out by the Center for Food Safety, and enjoy some of my better photos while you’re at it.

I’m grateful for these rattlesnake pole beans, the first green beans that have thrived in my garden ever.
Grateful for today’s harvest of green foods, and for the pollinators that made them possible.
Garden to table…
Grateful for a healthy lunch partly from the garden (green beans, basil, fennel, parsley) and partly from the pantry (garbanzos, cannellini beans, olive oil, rice vinegar, and poison fish croutons).
Grateful for the first ripening tomato, and the pollinators, mostly bumblebees, that made it possible.

A New Camera

Grateful for this beautiful boy, and the new camera that made this lovely portrait.

It arrived yesterday, just an hour too late to capture the newly fledged phoebes. After a busy day, I took it out to play this evening, just fooling around with the zoom, without even learning the thousand and one functions and settings. I’m grateful for the means to purchase this amazing camera, grateful for the technology that allows me to have far more ‘film’ than time so I can shoot to my heart’s content and throw away a thousand images to save one good one. I’m grateful for B&H Photo in NYC for their help and expertise whenever I need new camera gear, and grateful to JT for turning me on to them. Following the gratitude trail, I’m grateful for the countless individuals who designed, experimented, and constructed for many decades to create this camera, and for the materials, and for the countless people who mined and melted and melded those raw materials into this astounding piece of equipment; and for the FedEx lady who delivered it a scant 27 hours after I ordered it, and for all the human ingenuity and labor, and the transportation and infrastructure, that allowed that. It’s an amazing world, despite the tragedies perpetrated by our species.

I bought the camera with a 24-240mm zoom, not the best lens available but at a price I could afford: a pretty decent shot of the mountains at 240, so I’m optimistic about shooting hummingbirds with it tomorrow.
I’m grateful for the rainbow tonight and the rain it followed, though none landed here; grateful for the beautiful apricot tree and for neighbor Fred who manages its pruning and overall health; grateful for the last apricot shining in last light.
And finally, I’m grateful for the successful fledging yesterday of all four phoebe chicks in the second clutch. The first couple left the nest Thursday and went back in overnight. When I went out Friday morning, all four were snuggled together on the ladder, and by mid-afternoon (an hour before the camera arrived) they had all flown into the woods with their parents. This evening, I heard an adult back out on the east side of the house. I dursn’t hope…

Allowing

I woke feeling sad, after yesterday’s descent into the stark reality of climate chaos. I thought I might feel sad forever. I’m grateful I’ve learned to accept sadness, and impermanence: I’m grateful for allowing things to be as they are in each moment, and for the reassuring knowledge that everything changes, nothing remains the same for long.

Nothing external has changed, of course: insects are still in decline worldwide. But I trudged out on this crisp, damp morning with Stellar and Topaz by my side, and strolled to visit this split tree. I felt better already, just letting myself be sad, and finding beauty at the same time, balancing grief and gratitude within equanimity.

Despite the poignance of seeing this western tiger swallowtail, I felt profound gratitude and tenderness that it chose to feed on zinnias I grew from seed. Every little offering we can give back to the planet seems essential.

And then there’s the cheese sandwich, cookout edition. I’ve been thinking about this for days. I had frozen a hot dog leftover from Michael’s memorial, which I thawed and sliced. All the hot dog condiments slathered on wheat bread, sliced cheddar, and potato chips completed the assemblage: a whole cookout in a single sandwich. Yes, it’s a temporary pleasure, lasting only as long as the sandwich itself; but, the making of it, the thinking it up, and definitely the eating of it, all while remembering Michael and last week’s party, lifted my spirits. Life’s simple pleasures. I’m grateful that my life includes the conditions to have on hand all the ingredients of a cheese sandwich, the technology to keep them fresh, the leisure to dream about then make one, the awareness to savor the process and every bite, and the reasonable expectation that I will eat again tomorrow.

Saved by a cheese sandwich.
I am always grateful for the infinite possibilities of the cheese sandwich. The extra slice of hot dog of course went to Stellar for last bite. I’m grateful for another sweet day with my dear old catahoula leopard dog.

Insects

I’m grateful for insects of all stripes and sizes, from the tiniest kitchen ants to the fattest bumblebee, the most dramatic dragonflies to the most humble butterflies, like the juniper hairstreak–which I’ve seen none of this summer. I miss them. Nor was there a single Mourning Cloak. Ironic. There haven’t been as many moths at night, either. Nor bumblebees, nor honeybees, and the very few dragonflies I’ve seen have been in the phoebes’ beaks. Come to think of it, there haven’t been as many spiders in the house as usual, just the same annoying black flies. And even the flies, those massive hatches that used to happen certain seasons, I’ve not seen for a few years.

I’m grateful that we’ve never had a huge mosquito problem here, and that I’ve never gotten a tick bite at Mirador. Grateful that fleas have never plagued my pets as they used to in Florida. But this recent dearth of insects has me horrified. I’ve mentioned a few times in past years that bees have come later than they used to, in fewer numbers. But with my all-too-human capacity for denial, I’ve noticed, mourned, and moved on to the next soothing delight. Flowers; what bees there are; chocolate…

I’m grateful that I’ve spent a year intensively cultivating equanimity, coming to terms with the future I’ve known my entire life was inescapable. I saw it in dreams when I was still in single digits. I’m grateful that since I was a child, I’ve been friends with most insects, saving spiders and flies from my mother’s swatter, carrying them gently outside; avoiding stepping on ants; refusing to pin butterflies. I’m grateful that through the years I’ve paid attention to insects, noticed and cared about them. I grieve the insect apocalypse for so many reasons. I weep for the wild world, large and small.

Resilience

The rain shower overnight resulted in .17 inches of measurable precipitation, leaving all the thirsty growing things refreshed.
In particular, mosses that were grey and crusty miraculously greened up by morning.
Mosses and lichens glowed in early morning light.
Dog and cat enjoyed a companionable ramble with me.
Tiny piñon trees climb from the duff while their parents die in shocking numbers from drought and beetles.
Even faded sagebrush is reinvigorated with just a bit of rain.
The notch-eared doe that has been mowing down my patio garden finally brought her twins to the edge of the yard. They’re too small to jump the fence, but she parked them outside and came on in to continue her feast, which will ultimately nourish them, so how can I possibly mind? I was so grateful to see the twins with their mother, after we spooked them in different directions the other evening.
And then, this afternoon, a veritable downpour from the east washed mud off the adobe walls…
…and made actual puddles. The ferocity of the storm, which dumped almost half an inch in half an hour, made me anxious for the phoebe nest under the deck, so after it was all over, I went outside to check the chicks.
I was delighted to find that their new nest location was the only dry space under the deck. The torrential rain must have stirred up terrestrial insects: for at least an hour, as I ‘napped’ on the couch inside just under the nest, an adult brought food every four to twenty seconds. This frequency, well beyond the normal four to five minute span, must have made up for that horrible day when twenty minutes elapsed between feedings and the chicks screamed the whole day. That was an anomaly for sure, and since that awful day (awful for me and for the chicks), feeding frequency has increased daily, reaching its peak in the hours after today’s rain. The babies have doubled in size.

Despite this climate-chaos induced exceptional drought, the indomitable will to live that permeates all plants and animals keeps us living to our utmost. I am grateful for the resilience of Life.

Grateful, too, for the love and laughter, the joie de vivre and resilience of dear friends, who gathered to celebrate some happy milestones; grateful for the elegant setting, and delicious local food so thoughtfully prepared and offered. Grateful, no matter what happens next, for these good times. Grateful above all for the gift of another exceptional day alive.

Rain

At last! Though probably barely measurable, we have rain. I’m grateful for a little rain with a lot of thunder and lightning.

Grateful for this year’s apricot harvest, more than I thought it would be after freezes last fall and this spring. There are still some on the tree for the birds, but a shirtful is about all I’ll get. Oh well! Better some than none at all.
Grateful for another day with this dog, grateful that he can still get ahead of me, and grateful that he’s always, always, stopped to look back.

Every Little Thing

I’m grateful the babies are still alive, still getting fed, still growing.

I’m grateful for every little thing about this day, starting with I woke up alive, and relatively pain free. From there, anything else is gravy. I didn’t do much today. I didn’t even think or feel much. I’m on staycation. But I paid attention to the phoebes, the jays, the magpies; to weather, lightning, potential rain; to nutrition, mine and others. I paid attention to the moment as consistently as I could, and remembered quite often to breathe, or rather, to notice my breath, each inhalation, each exhalation, the exact conditions of the body at the time. I’m grateful for each breath that allowed me to read some things, to watch some TV: I’m grateful for things to read and TV to watch, and various individuals who make those entertainments possible. I’m grateful for these five or six senses that let me make sense of, or at least interpret, the world outside this body-mind.

I’m grateful for the garden thus far, and for the One Dog who makes everything else possible.
I’m grateful for even the barest hint of rain.

Michael Soulé

A portrait I made of Michael in 2013.
I’m grateful for my dear friend Michael Soulé, who died a year and a month ago. I took this shot when we traveled to Yellowstone together. We were enjoying a nice picnic in the vast wilderness, not another soul around, endless views… when… absolutely nothing happened. This was my first photoshop ever, in 2003: I used the image of a grizzly from a bookmark I got at the visitor center book store.

Michael and I hung out together for about a decade, between his second and third wife. He was smart, funny, sensitive, deep, spiritual, thoughtful, and many other superlatives, in addition to being globally known as the Father of Conservation Biology. He was naughty and mischievous, also, and great fun to be around. I’m grateful to be able to call him friend. He suffered a massive stroke last summer, leaving his bereaved bride of ten years, a valley full of friends, a beautiful extended family, and a world full of friends and colleagues, all of whom miss his warmth, brilliance, humor, and dynamite smile. Tonight, a few of us, finally able to during this break in the pandemic, gathered at my house to celebrate his life.

I’m grateful for everyone who helped put together the party, and contributed from afar. I’m grateful for all the stories and insights that were shared to celebrate and honor him, helping each of us know him just a little better through the eyes and hearts of others. I have a soul full of history with him, and few words to share it.

Michael and I frequently discussed death in its many incarnations, including ‘the coming plague,’ which he lived to see the beginning of with Covid-19. He practiced Zen Buddhism, and inspired me to deepen my study of the philosophy that became my guiding light. I told him several times that when he died, I would shave my head in his honor. The opportunity arose this evening. I’m grateful for all our friends who took a swipe at my pate with his electric trimmer, and I’m grateful to June for offering it to me afterward. I was honored to accept it.

Much fun was had by all removing my locks.
Much fun was made of my perfect whorl. As The Colonel used to say, “It’s nice to be the object of innocent merriment.”