Anna vs. Phoebe (Shallow Thoughts)

Akkana's Musings on Open Source, Science, and Nature.

Thu, 06 Jan 2005

Anna vs. Phoebe

Vignettes from a couple of short walks today ...

First, an exciting chase: a series of gulls loudly chased a crow which was carrying something large, orange and amorphous in its bill. I would have expected a crow could hold its own against a gull, being nearly as large, heavier, and smarter; but the crow obviously just wanted to escape with its prize, and ultimately did.

Later, on returning to the car, I had just spotted a black phoebe sitting on a branch near the road, when I saw something buzz past the corner of my vision. It was a male Anna's hummingbird rocketing straight up in what looked like a courtship display (in December?)

But it wasn't a courtship display: the hummer then sped straight down and arced past the phoebe, crying a short TCHEE! at the bottom of its arc when it was closest to the intruder.

I watched for maybe five minutes, fascinated, as the hummingbird repeatedly dove on the phoebe, never getting closer than a couple of feet (perhaps avoiding the branches of the bush in which the phoebe perched). The phoebe paid no attention, and didn't even flinch. It did change its perch to another bush once during the time I watched, and the hummer promptly shifted its attack to the new location.

A fellow hiker/photographer, returning from her walk, joined me for a minute to watch the show. She said she'd read recently in the paper that Anna's hummingbirds were due to start mating flights in mid-December. We both thought midwinter was an odd time to nest, especially for a bird so small that it has to worry about maintaining body heat. But if it's true, this male may have been defending a nesting territory, though I didn't see any female hummingbirds nearby.

This evening, a sunset walk along Los Gatos Creek revealed a first for me: a muskrat!

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[ 21:11 Jan 06, 2005    More nature/birds | permalink to this entry ]