Anyone who has a hummingbird feeder is familiar with the rigidly enforced pecking order of the birds who feed, or try to feed, there. This morning it was somewhat was amusing (OK, satisfying) to see the boss bird being chased and herded away from the sweet nectar by a red wasp and another tiny black flying insect.

hummingbirds at feeder
SHOO! Red wasp ‘owns’ the feeder despite the efforts of a trio of hummingbirds.






On a sad note, there was a recent changing of the guard at our feeder following the death of Napoleon (We found a little hummingbird body back in July that we believe to be his.)

There’s a ginger in the woods

It seems red-heads or “gingers” get a lot of grief. I suppose it’s because they stand out, as does this little cedar tree.

A red-headed cedar tree stands out against the greening forest. Sadly, its rusty head probably means it is a former cedar tree.
SEEING RED — A red-headed cedar tree stands out against the greening forest. Sadly, its rusty head probably means it is a former cedar tree. Between years of deluge has been a year of hard drought. That’s a lot of stress for any plant to take.


We never tire of the skyline out here in the woods. Here’s what we saw this evening:

ASSEMBLED — Pieced together panorama sweeping from south (left) to west (right).
TO THE NORTH — Towering cumulus catches the sun on the north side of the house.

After the rain

Rain has returned to the Ouachitas, and even the trees look happier and plumper for the moisture that’s soaking into the soil. Arkansas is far from being out of danger, with rainfall for most of the state is running 12 to 16 inches below normal. However, the rain has given the state’s firefighters a much-needed break from wildfires and the rest of us a much-needed break from 100-degree temperatures.

STRING OF PEARLS — The white waterbirds in flight through the valley after the passage of a thunderstorm.  They were large and long-necked like herons, but am unsure whether herons flock in flight this way.
WATER! — Fog rises from the valley after a thunderstorm dropped about a quarter-inch of rain before sunset.

The rain was too late to stop this tree from shutting down and losing its crown. Compare the shot below to one from an earlier post on July 1.

TOO LITTLE, TOO LATE — This oak had begun its shutdown a couple of weeks ago and had completely shed its leaves by July 9. If the rain continues steadily, the tree may re-leaf. Some of the hickories have been shedding their nuts and persimmons have dropped unripe fruit to conserve as much water and energy as possible.

Skin deep

Sometimes, beauty is skin deep. Our under-the-porch friend left a present for us — a long, robust snake skin in two parts. The final few inches that included the head scales was still stuck in the entrance to his lair. Decided not to stick my hand in to retrieve it.

INSIGHT — Head end of the skin left by an Eastern coachwhip.
FRONT TO BACK — Sunlight filters through to the belly scales.
TAIL LIGHT — The end of the line.
LONG WAYS — The snakeskin stretched out was about 4 feet long.

The humpbacked cardinal

Cardinals have been a family favorite bird. In the northeastern U.S., they brighten up a winter landscape like no other.

UNWELCOME FINDING -- The cardinal has a large lump on his right shoulder.

This morning, our local cardinal and his mate were whooshing through the small pines at the back of the house. Himself decided to take a commanding spot in a leafless tree.

Grabbed the camera between fixing Sunday morning espresso and popovers and fired away through the kitchen window.

FROM BEHIND -- The hump was more visible when he turned north.

In unloading the shots to the laptop, noticed something alarming about the bird — he appears to have a hump of some sort on his right shoulder. At first it appeared that he was just balling up, as birds do, against the cold. But on closer examination, the hump is very distinct and stands out no matter how he carries himself. Fortunately, the growth doesn’t appear to impair his ability to fly or do other cardinal things.

On a somewhat lighter note, in going through the Peterson Field Guide to Birds, there was an interesting fellow included in the pages for “Cardinals, Buntings, and Allies,” called Pyrrhuloxia. What he looks like is a cardinal that’s gone through a bleach bath. It reminded me of a photo that colleague Donna shot back in the spring of 2010. Too grayish to be a female cardinal. What she did shoot appears to be this Pyrrhuloxia — quite a bit east of its normal range which appears to be SW Texas, New Mexico and Mexico, with the occasional wandering as far north as the Texas Panhandle.

Check out her photo.

The deck has a mohawk

The nano-climate of the deck holds all sorts of life. Its grout and cement have provided a foothold for a tenacious strip of moss, which today radiated a springlike green  in the wintry backlight.

AT ATTENTION -- Necks arise from the moss venters.
TIGHT -- Looking deep into the mass of moss venters.


Watch the skies!

For our 300th post, here’s a look at one of our favorite things: the sky.

GET BUZZED -- Two vultures take a morning cruise over the valley.
AUTUMN MOON -- The autumn moon's light throws a nearly bare branchlet in silhouette.
CONTRAILS -- Westbound contrails cut across Sunday's sunset.
MOONSET -- The full moon takes the long way home.
NORTHBOUND -- Chevrons of birds heading north at a time when most fowl are headed south in the Mississippi flyway.


Plenty of yellow in the landscape. Not pictured are the yellow mums that are hanging on in the shallow soil of the sad northside garden. The deeper soil that holds a small garden in the middle of what used to be a bermudagrass lawn has brought forth two seasons of floral and insect delight.

STANDING TALL -- The wildflower mix in the garden continues to give forth blooms even into mid-November.
EDIBLE -- Some flowers are more tasty than others.
SUNNY -- Yellow flower turns its bright face to the November sun.
GINGKO -- Beautiful yellow leaves, but I can never seem to shoot them right.