Thursday, August 15, 2013

Back Forty bad-ass

Cross me and I will cut you.
The meanest, most baddest Bad-Ass in the Back Forty is not the accursed white-faced hornet who took a sizable chunk out of my wrist last month. He, and about 1 zillion of his brethren, have taken up residence behind in a daphne in the Back Forty and must be dealt with this fall. But that's another story. . .

No, the meanest, most baddest Bad-Ass in the Back Forty is, in fact, a tiny, feathery riff on the SCUD missile -- a rufous hummingbird. . . affectionately known as Attila the Hum.

* sound of crickets as we pause for groans *

I began the summer with the goal of bolstering the hummingbird population in the Back Forty. I set out feeders early in the spring -- and added some bee balm and butterfly bushes to mix -- to advertise the Back Forty's availability as a most excellent hummingbird buffet. Little did I know our hummingbird population would soon swell to one: And that would be Attila, who weighs no more than a couple of pennies but packs a territorial 'tude the size of Mother Russia. . . armed with a long, sharp, pointy beak to boot.

Other hummers have attempted to share the Back Forty's bounty, but Attila will have none of that. He shoots out from one of his numerous cleverly camouflaged sentry points in our backyard trees and shrubs and furiously beats interlopers away from their intended food choice. A good pasting isn't enough, however. For insurance, Attila then chases them off into the neighborhood at about 25 miles an hour.

I am here to tell you -- there is no greater moment in nature's grand majesty than watching two hummingbirds, suspended in mid-air 10 feet above you, bitch-slapping the hell out of each other.

Attila's sense of territorial imperative does not stop with his fellow hummers. The other night, as my date and I sipped and supped on the Nine-One-Four's patio veranda, a gaggle of hapless sparrows noisily descended onto the two sunflower feeders adjacent to Attila's.

Apparently, Attila prefers quieter dinner companions. He lit into the crowd with a vengeance, dispersing the riff raff in seconds. The sparrows did not know what hit them. But, then again, they rarely do.

Our relationship with Attila is happily much more benign. (Perhaps because I am the bearer of hummingbird nectar once or twice a week?)

He regularly checks out Ben as he naps out in the Back Forty, methodically zooming in and out to inspect this strange gray four-legged creature who quietly shares the Back Forty with him -- and thankfully, has no interest whatsoever in hummingbird nectar.

And I am getting accustomed to finding Attila suddenly hovering next to me as I hand water dry spots in the garden, his arrival heralded by the sound of small wings beating at 55 times per second. . . a sound somewhat similar to a small idling jet engine.

Sadly, our little friend will be departing Bermtopia for the warmer climes of Mexico in the next few weeks. I hope he will be back. And I think he will.

Courtesy of the University of Google, we have learned hummingbirds have incredible memory -- their hippocampus (the brain's memory and learning center) is up to five times bigger than a songbird's (THAT explains a lot about sparrows).

And so it is we've given Attila a lot to remember this summer -- bountiful butterfly bushes, oceans of hummingbird nectar and bar fights on demand.

What more could a hummer ask for?

1 comment:

  1. Your Atila looks like a real meany! I've got my hands full with another Rufous Gang out back. They arrive in July and take over the feeders that have been graciously shared for more than two months by Broad-Tailed and Anna's hummingbirds. I had 12 Rufous' hummers dive-bombing the other hummers amid a loud and raucous roaring whine by August. The only cure seems to be not filling up the nectar feeders which they finished 4 cups in 24 hours! It makes for great entertainment though, as I sit on my back deck, to watch the dive bombing and unbelievable aerobics of these tiny birds.