I held a bird in my hand last night. And I do know that's not a bird in my oldest son's hand in the photo. That's a cicada. More on that later.
We have had so many hummers (and I don't mean SUVs) get into our garage and trapped there, that I have become experienced in their differences. Here in the East we have only one species - the Ruby Throated Hummingbird. They are, like most hummers, attracted by the color red. When I figured out that my garage door opener's red handle, dangling on the emergency cord for disengaging, was drawing them into the garage, where they would then be startled into going up above the door and stuck (they don't look down when panicky, so they can't find their way back out!) I exchanged the red handle for a big aluminum washer. That finally stopped the regular "capture and release" program I was running. I could have been banding the birds, I suppose, but it didn't occur to me at the time.
I have a loose wire for the garage door opener (I just stapled the wire across my garage ceiling and it hangs down over one of the vans) and the poor weary beasts always land there for the night. I climb the van in the dark, get up close to the tiny bird, and gently pluck it from the wire. They peep pitifully and struggle feebly while I climb back down off the van roof (hard to do with one hand full of fragile bird). They stop peeping when I get them outside - they can tell they are no longer trapped indoors. They get quiet. When I let them go they usually buzz me, and one attacked (it's a bit like having a radar guided tavern dart aiming for your face - no matter how you move, it follows). So I'm ready to duck when I let go.
But I look at them before I release them. I had always thought them quite uniform, bird to bird, but it's not at all true. They move so fast it's normally hard to see the differences, but in hand, they are remarkably unique. Some are long and thin, others are short and curvy (my favorites - just like women). Some have longer beaks, and some of the beaks are more curved than others. The color of green is not uniform, either, some being a true leafy green, and others more aqua. And even their feathers are not the same - like the way our hair grows on our heads, some have feathers differently around their eyes and beaks, and the tail feathers can be broader or narrower, shorter of longer, from one individual to another. It was a revelation to me. And every one I've handled was female - not one male has been trapped in the garage. I'm not sure what this means.
Last night we had another one in the garage; I'm not sure what lured it in there. It's been over a year since the last one.
I have probably held over a dozen of them by now - maybe as many as eighteen. It's a small miracle every time I do it. First I'm always struck by the fact that they will not try to escape as long as it's dark and their feet are still on the wire. They only struggle once I have them off the perch. Weird. That must make them very vulnerable in the wild at night. Second, I'm blown away every time by their pulse; it's insane. And finally I can't believe they are so tiny. I've held a lot of insects that are larger. Amazing. And these things descended from dinosaurs?!?
About that cicada above - some of these guys are bigger than hummingbirds; that's why it got in this post. This time of year we can take a night bug (1) walk (2) and see many of them, in their last hours of life, on the pavement under street lamps. We pick them up (because it's fun! and they are so wildly different from us - like aliens have landed!). The males buzz so loudly that it can make you drop them even if you're prepared for it. They do it by vibrating a series of their back plates. Here in NC the great loud buzzing of these insects is a daytime mark of summer - it just wouldn't be hot without them. The females (like this one - note the ovipositor (egg laying tube) on the end of her abdomen) are silent.
In the evenings the cicadas gradually give way to the sound of katydids. They can also be ridiculously loud, and I LOVE their sound (only the fall sound of field crickets is better, to me). I used to try to listen for the moment each evening when the cicadas stopped and the katydids started, wondering if there was a gap between, of if they overlapped. For years I never could pay enough attention (I'm easily distracted) to actually hear it. Now I hear it regularly - funny how you can learn to see and hear differently. They overlap every evening this time of year, just as the colors are beginning to disappear (a sad moment for me every day).
>>>> Appendix de Grenouille #13 <<<<
Sometimes Grenouille gets homesick for France. Then I might find him mooning about looking at things like this Orangina bottle that came home on the same trip. Back then you could not find Orangina in the U.S. - and it was gentler, more European, than it is here now. That makes ME homesick for France...
Purple cone flowers are one of my dearest's favorites - she has several kinds, and they bloomed better this year than any time in the last twenty.