Friday, July 3, 2020

Hummer in the Hedge Nettle

A long time ago, probably in the '90s, I used a ripe blackberry to entice a wood rat from its nest so I could photograph it. At least, that's what my memory is. I can't find the image. I went to Redwood Creek (downstream of Muir Woods) to try again yesterday morning, parking in a pull-out beneath a beautiful California buckeye tree in late but still-full bloom. (Many years ago I collected a few of its buckeyes and tossed them into an empty lot near my home; one of the seeds germinated and is now a good-sized, flowering tree.) 

Although I didn't find any wood rat nests in the limited amount of time available before I had to head back to town, I enjoyed briefly communing with the nature of the riparian world.

Early in my explorations, a small flock of band-tailed pigeons descended from the sky to alight high in the branches of an alder tree. Hop by hop, they dropped lower and lower, until they finally reached the object of their desire--the bunched red fruits of coastal elderberry.

With hermit thrushes singing in the woods and salmon fingerlings darting in the shadows of the creek, a Steller's jay dropped onto a nearby alder branch just as I was staking out a mystery bird in some willows. I waited for the inevitable alarm to sound from the jay, but it paid me no mind. Instead it darted into a couple of nooks for possible insects, then posed very briefly before flying deeper into the woods. (The mystery bird remained mysterious.)

On the underside of the rickety bridge that crosses the creek was a small papery hornet's nest. It was about the size and shape of half a football, and it appeared to my naked eye to be inactive. Looking through my long lens, though, I spotted a single hornet standing guard at the entrance.

Bee Plant (Scrophularia californica), with Bee (Bombus sp.
& Coast Hedge Nettle (Stachys chamissonis)

I eventually got back in the car to check another area for wood rat nests and ended up spooking an Allen's hummingbird that was feeding on the nectar of purple coast hedge nettle flowers. I decided to stake out the patch for a while and as I waited for the hummer to return I watched bumblebees (and other bees) feeding on the nectar of tiny bee plant flowers.

Eventually a hummer returned, but now that I look more closely at the pictures I'm thinking this is a female Anna's hummingbird. I had definitely photographed an Allen's hummingbird as it rested on a branch after feeding briefly (see last photo below) and mistakenly assumed this was the same bird.

She moved very fast, and I was focusing manually in the low light, but I managed to fire off a few frames.

After she took off I mosied a little farther down the trail and spotted a bright yellow Wilson's warbler gleaning among a tangle of willow branches.

I fired off a few frames, and even though I did not manage to get a usable image of Wilson, I did get a laugh out of seeing that in my only sharp image, the bird's head was cut off behind some leaves. So it goes.

* * *