Aren’t hummingbird shadows on the ground a hoot? At first you think they come from something just floating in the air, like the cottonwood cotton that’s starting to drift like snow in the Valley now and give my allergic friends the fits. Then you realize they don’t just drift with the wind, but pause and dart.
I saw that happening as Emma and I were walking on the ditch east of the RGNC this afternoon. I never did see that particular hummingbird. Saw plenty more.
So, how did that story get started that hummingbirds never, and possibly can’t, stop and perch? Somebody mentioned that to me in the last month or so, and I thought about it right off the bat today, as we walked through the leafy tree corridor to the ditch entrance. A hummingbird lit on a branch right over the trail, although it didn’t linger long.
On the surface the belief makes sense: clearly the little bastards have to move around a lot in order to eat vast amounts to keep their furious little metabolisms blazing. And if you spend any time actually watching them, you see fairly quickly that, regardless, it ain’t true. You see them take time outs all the time: on feeders, on tree limbs, on bushes, on wires.
I guess this once again shows we tend not to see what we don’t expect to.
Also, driving the short block from Candy to Veranda to park, I saw a big white bird flying over the RGNC fields. It looked too big and not quite right to be a white pigeon – rock dove – such as you see flying around here a fair amount. I thought maybe it might be a cattle egret, which I have seen in that area, albeit it seems a bit late in the season. It went away to the north.
As we walked north along the ditch it (I’m presuming it was the same big, white bird, since we don’t get them here all that often) flew back over heading south. This time I thought fairly sure it was a gull. It was almost entirely white, with maybe a bit of black at tail and wing tips. This was surprising: we get gulls here, which most people don’t know, so that it startles hell out of ‘em when they do happen to spot the birds. Or make people think they’re crazy, as several have remarked to me.
While I won’t say they’re not crazy the fact is we do get gulls here. But it’s usually in late winter, like mid-February. And they don’t stay long. Most people don’t see them because, big surprise, they tend to stay close to the river. And when they move away it’s generally to congregate at dumps and landfills, also a mighty shock. Mostly, I suspect that on the rare occasions folks spot them they pass them off as hallucinations, or anyway white doves. Sea gulls are associated with the sea, right? Albuquerque is high desert, which is associated with not-sea, right? About the opposite of sea. Ergo, no seagulls here. QED.
See above on what people don’t tend to see.
So then as we headed back south, here it came north again. The wings didn’t look quite right for a gull: they seemed broader and rounder and not so distinctly angled. Yet the bird was close enough I could see it didn’t seem to have a long neck tucked against its body, nor was it trailing conspicuous long legs, which seems to let out a heron or egret or other wading bird. So I have to say a gull it probably was.
Avoiding, for once, the obvious labored pun about “see gulls” – you can thank me later – I’ll point out that it was a very pleasant summer day here in Burque. It was hot but not terribly hot, especially in the shade. By some mad coincidence, that particular route is fairly plentifully equipped with shade. Also there was a touch of a breeze, which helped. And the humidity’s been way low – like 4-9% up where they actually measure it, and not too much higher right down here by the RG. Which of course makes it less oppressive.
But it turned out not to be as hot as I expected. I came home and Weatherscan claimed it was 84°. It’s usually a few degrees higher down here in the Valley in summertime, as it’s a few degrees lower in the winter.
But they’ve been claiming for days it was going to be verging upon brutal: 96° for a high. Even though I was out from about 2 to 3 in the afternoon that seems unlikely to happen by the time temps max out around 5 or 6. I doubt it’ll crack 90. Once again the predictors appear to’ve messed up.
But they can predict climate patterns perfectly fifty years in the future. Also, pigs fly.
Another delightful thing I saw was big ruby dragonflies skimming right along the ditch, just above the water’s surface. They seem to come out for a very short time: I first noticed them about, ahem, twenty years ago – a year after I moved into the house, if I recall correctly – when a lady friend came to visit and we went down to frolic in the river. then as now it wasn’t much of a river, but she wasn’t wearing much of a bikini, either, so it had its compensations. Anyway, we had these big bright red dragonflies zooming all around us. They were astonishing: shiny scarlet all over, wings, eyes, bodies, everything. I hadn’t seen them before.
Until today I hadn’t seen them since. I apparently haven’t been in the right place during what I can only guess is the two to three week window they’re active. I see lots of dragonflies in the course of a summer. There are some that I seem to recall appear mostly in later summer that have drab bodies but red wings. I had about talked myself into believing these were really what we saw, in spite of the fact, we’d gotten pretty close and prolonged looks at the incredible ruby dragonflies, until I saw some again at last today.
So that’s pretty special, right there. Living ruby dragonflies. Indeed do many things come to pass.