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A summer uniform


D. J. Sweetenham


  Outside my window hangs a large red container of hummingbird (H.B.) food, now only about one third full. The birds seem to have taken a rest for now and I don’t blame them when the temperature is in the high nineties. The heat doesn’t seem to bother their antagonists, in their yellow and black striped jackets who take advantage of the birds’ absence  by sucking up as much of the juice as possible while they have a clear field. I just saw my favorite H.B. whom I call “Redneck,” make an exploratory visit to the feeder but he hurriedly called off his mission when a fat yellow jacket tried to ambush him from his hide-out under the feeder. You know, every summer for about the last five years there has always been one H.B. with a red collar visiting the feeder. I’ve never seen more than one at a time. Could it possibly be the same bird? Most of the “feeder fights” take place in the evenings and continue almost until the light dies. I don’t pull the blind down after sunset and I can sit and watch the activity in silhouette.

  One interesting variation that I’ve noted a few times lately has been a small H.B. settled down over the feeder stations and turning his head sideways as though taking a nap. It only takes a few seconds for a much larger bird to hover over him while she prods him with her needle-nose to wake him up. I know I’m making some suppositions there, but as Si would say, “Hey! I’m not lyin’ Jack”   On one occasion, Junior refused to move and I thought he might be in trouble. I carefully opened the window and reached for him to see if I could help him. He woke up in a hurry then and took off like a flash of lightning. I couldn’t help thinking of those America’s Funniest Home Videos clips which show small children, in high chairs, sleeping with their heads in their food. Maybe we’re not so different after all. But it sure would be fun to be able to fly like that.

  Talking of yellow jackets on the bird-feeder brings thoughts of the fig tree which now covers a large part of the back yard, extending over the lean-to shed within four feet, or so, of the feeder. I missed out on pruning the tree during the early spring, for one reason or another, and now I am faced with a huge, bushy tree, laden with firm, fat, fruit. And all within easy reach of a yellow jacket hangout whose occupants also enjoy the little delicacies. And I love figs! I’m looking forward to the fruit when it ripens, if not the fight which I’m going to have to get them! Now would be a good time to buy shares in the company which manufactures “Deep Woods Off.” I’m probably going to be bathing in the stuff! But all is not entirely lost, I have another, smaller fig tree in the front of the house which is also doing well, in spite of being frostbitten during that crazy on-again, off-again early spring that we suffered this year. It looks a little odd being so bushy, with black spikes sticking up above the bush for several feet. I know, I should have pruned them off several months ago but for one reason or another, well, you know how that goes by now!

  Well, the temperature on my outside thermometer reads 99.4º and even the yellow jackets are taking a break. “Redneck” just flew in for a couple of seconds and stared at me through the window. I’m sure he was asking me to get a refill in the feeder ready for this evening’s entertainment. I’d better get on with my “butlering” duties and I’m sure my Muscovy friends would appreciate some dinner. An appetite seems to be the one thing they’re never short of. Just remember the motto of “Duck Depot” - Dogs and Ducks Rule!


   D.J. Sweetenham, originally from England, is the author of Bumps in the Road and Bumps in the Road - Part Two, highlights of his interesting and far-flung life. D.J., his wife, and two small dogs, live in Stockbridge.




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