Wednesday, June 13, 2007

field notes of the day

I've spent the last several days camping and doing field work. The weather's been wild - first it was hot, and the streams ran high with the snowmelt; then a cold front blasted through, blowing over trees with gusts as high as 60 mph; then it was lovely again; then it rained again. This might be normal in, say, New England, but June is typically our driest month (though rivers usually are high, and snow lingers near treeline).

Tuesday morning's weather was cold and damp, with drizzle off and on. I was up nearly an hour and a half before my field partners, but I didn't have the heart to shake their tent, what with the rain and all. So I made some oatmeal and then watched the birds while I sipped coffee. We were only about a thousand feet higher than my house, but up in the Ponderosa/Douglas fir forests, the birds are quite a bit different. For instance, there are Steller's jays up in the tall trees, but not in the scrubby forest where I live.

One bird that seems to be everywhere, though, is the broad-tailed hummingbird. I grew up with hummingbirds back East, but they were hard to notice - so fast, and so little, and so quiet. But the broad-tailed hummingbirds make this loud buzzing noise when they fly - it sounds almost like an insect, or like high-voltage power lines, or like somebody running a blender in the distance. So these birds, I notice. For some reason they fly up at the elevation of the Ponderosa branches, rather than down where all the small flowers are blooming. Maybe their nests are up there. But they still pause and hover at each branch for a moment, as if they expect the pines to suddenly burst into flower.

So I was watching the hummingbirds hum, when suddenly, one appeared about six inches in front of my face. I looked at him. He looked at me. He hovered for a moment, eyeing my red coffee mug, then zipped away.

I guess he was a coffee purist, and was horrified that I add hot chocolate to mine.

Or maybe it's just that a bird whose wings beat 50 times in a second doesn't really need caffeine.

1 comment:

Dr. Lemming said...

Your blog is great!