Wildlife Week Concluded: Hummingbirds and a whole lot more

For the last post in this series, I have some of my favorite photographs along with some I was only able to get by pure luck. Most of the animals in the previous posts are around enough to provide ample photo opportunities. While hummingbirds are around quite a bit (there’s one outside my window right now, actually), they’re so quick and small that they’re extremely difficult to photograph. Most of the other creatures in this post I feel lucky to have captured at all.

Ruby-throated Hummingbird

I’ve never had hummingbirds around anywhere I’ve lived before. I used to joke that they were a myth. (They live with the fairies…) But apparently all it takes is a feeder to bring them out. The ones we see are Ruby-throated Hummingbirds. (Enjoy them while they’re around; by early fall they’re bound for Central America, with many crossing the Gulf of Mexico in a single flight. Wow.) I think we only have one in this part of the yard, a female. (Females don’t have the ruby throat.) We saw a couple of males a few weeks ago, but they’re gone now. Male Ruby-throated Hummingbirds don’t stick around long. Pairs are together long enough for courtship and mating – just a matter of days to weeks.

When we moved the RV over here, it took a few days to get the feeder close enough to photograph, but still far enough away that she felt comfortable using it.

As she got more used to us, we kept moving the feeder closer. Every time she’d come over and find it moved, I swear she glared at us in annoyance. One morning, we moved it to the table right in front of us. That really got her attention, and she decided to get a closer look at these mean people who kept moving her feeder around. Kent and I both sat frozen as she zipped back and forth between us, hovering about two feet in front of our faces staring at us. I could feel the wind from her wings blowing my hair. It was… amazing…

Apparently she decided we were harmless, because now she comes over and feeds like we aren’t even there.

Red-bellied Woodpecker

The Red-bellied Woodpecker is one we almost never see, but often hear. (Male Red-bellied Woodpeckers drum steadily at about 19 beats per second for 1 second or so at a time. Little guys could have great careers as speed-metal drummers! Although Mike Mangini from Dream Theater has won the “World’s Fastest Drummer” award five times, once at 1,247 hits per minute (almost 21 per second). But that’s two hands vs one beak. ;-) Um… Where was I? Oh yeah, so I just happened to look up one day and this one, a male, was just hanging out, waiting to be photographed.

Pileated Woodpecker

The Pileated Woodpecker is another one we usually only see off in the distance, as demonstrated by this one blurry photo I was finally able to get of it.

These things are HUGE! (Nearly as large as a crow, the Pileated Woodpecker is the largest woodpecker in most of North America.) And destructive. After I took that photo, it moved up to that limb above its head and ripped pretty much every bit of bark off the entire thing. The Pileated Woodpecker digs characteristically rectangular holes in trees to find ants. These excavations can be so broad and deep that they can cause small trees to break in half.

Gray Fox

We were so excited to discover we have a family of gray foxes living in our yard! Given their coloring (we had no idea that “gray” foxes had that much (or any) red on them), we thought they were red foxes for a long time, but apparently not.

There seems to be three of them. Around dusk, we often hear them barking at each other. (A gray fox bark sounds like a chihuahua with a sore throat…) They take the same path through our yard most evenings, so we’re hoping to eventually get close enough to get photos that don’t remind me of typical photos of Bigfoot.

Squirrel Treefrog

At least I think it’s a Squirrel Treefrog. Either that or a Green Treefrog but the description on this site seems to describe it perfectly. I’d not planned on including anything but birds and mammals in this series, but this little thing showed up this morning on the hummingbird feeder and the photos were too cute not to include.

“Daddy Longlegs”

I’d not planned on including these either because they really aren’t that exciting. But given my arachnophobia, I was hoping that knowing I was having to stare at and edit photos of spiders would make a couple of frog-haters I know feel a bit better. ;-) I knew that “Daddy Longlegs” (or “Granddaddy Longlegs,” as my parents called them) wasn’t their official name, so I went searching, and was not at all expecting what I found. Their common name is Harvestmen. I’ll get to the rest in a minute.

I actually played with these when I was a kid, but at some point I developed a such a strong fear of spiders that even a small one would send me screaming from the room. These days, living in the land of aggressive spiders the size of my hand that will CHASE ME as I run screaming from the room (Huntsman spiders – you may not want to click that link), I’ve largely gotten over my fear of most other spiders. There are often dozens of Longlegs hanging around outside in groups, and I’ll sometimes find them crawling on me when I’m sitting on the swing. And much to Kent’s initial shock, I’ll usually either let them continue on their way, or I’ll pick them up and put them somewhere else. For me, that kind of relaxed reaction to a spider is HUGE.

So what surprising thing did I discover? They actually AREN’T SPIDERS. Although they belong to the class of arachnids, harvestmen are not spiders, which are of the order Araneae rather than the order Opiliones. Sure, it’s close enough if you really hate spiders, and I’ll still claim some victory over my arachnophobia, but it was an interesting discovery for the evening.

Other sightings

Aside from the foxes, still on the “to photograph” list are crows, hawks, raccoons, armadillos, rabbits, deer, and other yet undiscovered creatures. We’ve caught glimpses of them, some closer than others (we had a deer run across the yard right in front of us the other day), but they’ve always either been too far away or vanished too quickly to photograph. But trying gives me a good excuse to do something I need to do anyway – spend much more time outside and much less time in front of the computer!

Catetory: Wildlife
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3 Responses to Wildlife Week Concluded: Hummingbirds and a whole lot more

  1. Sharon says:

    Must be cool to have so many animals visit, even the Granddaddy Longlegs, which I miss. I haven’t seen any since I was a kid, I think!

    I feel lucky to get as much wildlife in my yard as I do, since I live in the city. I have a resident possum who forages at night, and the hawk has decided that my birdbath is his personal wading pool!

    Do you have to clean your hummingbird feeders daily in this hot weather? I’ve noticed the sugar water goes rancid really fast. I gave up trying to keep one clean and filled. I need to plant a bunch of red salvia again.

    Great photos! Thanks for posting ‘em. Hope you keep ‘em coming! :-)

  2. Denise says:

    I love the frog photos~ too cute! We sometimes have the tree frogs get on the kitchen window over the sink. Great place since we keep the overhead light on all night and it attracts all kinds of moths and bugs… probably quite a feast for the frog!

    So if the Harvestmen aren’t spiders, what do you call them? Opiliones?

  3. Denise says:

    Oh yeah, and our cats once got a hummingbird a year or two ago. I felt really bad about it, but on the other hand, it was really cool to actually be able to HOLD one in my hand (for whatever reason they didn’t eat it). Such tiny delicate little creatures.

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