08/07/2021 Murder, Unkindness, and Bouquets on the balcony

When it’s semi-cool at night and there is a good breeze, I like to sleep with the balcony doors open. There’s a really nice flow of air that comes through the apartment when the slightest wind blows. But I hear everything that goes on outside. From the traffic on Sunset Blvd, to the antics on Cruise Night at the In-N-Out, to the rantings of the homeless people down below, there’s a never-ending cacophony wafting up to the 3rd floor. But the smell of the caramelizing of onions during the day? Man, oh man, it’s pure sensory delight and makes enduring the noise worth it.

But this morning, it was the birds that woke me up. They are most active at dawn and dusk.

I love hummingbirds. There are 3 feeders outside those doors. One on each balcony. They are amazing creatures to watch. I’ve started trying to capture them in photos and it’s proven to me that I need to really learn how to not only use my camera, but also the techniques necessary to catch fast motion. Oh, and I have to develop patience.

Though I feel I should warn you that hummingbirds are aggressive as hell. That is what interrupted my slumber today–territorial fighting.

Occasionally they can live in harmony with more than one perched on the feeder at a time. Once I saw 4 on a feeder with one hovering close by. I was in heaven. No camera in hand, but sometimes you have to live in the moment.

I recently introduced a couple of regular bird feeders into the mix. I’m not a dedicated ornithologist or anything of the sort. I just love watching the birds and hearing them sing, so I wanted to attract more than just the hummingbirds. It reminds me of living back in the Midwest and takes away a little of my angst at being here in such a bustling city.

A new visitor, not of the hummingbird variety, has finally found the seed feeders. (I really need to get a bird book. I used to know a fair share of them by sight, but no more. This country girl’s skills got rusty.) So far, it’s only one, but I imagine she is a scout. Unfortunately, I have no photos of my new friend, yet. I’ll wait until she’s more comfortable before I introduce myself and my camera.

She sits on the feeder, eats, and pauses on occasion to let out a string of notes that I can only guess are meant to summon her friends. The sound is loud and a mix of staccato notes and a warbling melody. The first time I heard her, I thought there were at least 2 birds out there. So far, the hummingbirds have left her alone. That surprises me since the feeders are only about a foot away from each other on the living room balcony. They have, in fact, alighted at the same time, so I’m hoping there can be peace.

But I’m no Pollyanna.

I’m dreading the morning I wake up to dead birds. Oh, it’s coming. I’ve seen murderous birds. My first, up close and personal experience with that was with the parakeets we kept, way back in the day. But let’s not linger there too long. It was traumatic for the children.

Now, I know that a flock of Crows is called a Murder, and a flock of Ravens is called an Unkindness, and we have a lot of those around here (both figuratively and literally). In my humble opinion, those terms fit those birds. I once watched a Murder or Unkindness (I couldn’t tell which from the distance) torment and eventually kill an injured owl that was sitting atop a nearby electric pole. It was horrendous to watch.

And yes, I know about the circle of life and all that. And I know I could have turned away. But have you ever not been able to turn away from something, not because you were morbidly curious, but out of a need to bear witness? And the entire time I watched, I had Hitchcock’s movie “The Birds” running through my mind. (Shudder)

Wait, I don’t remember where this was going. Oh, yeah: hummingbird aggression and my new visitor.

Did you know that a flock of hummingbirds is called a Bouquet? I didn’t. thank you, Google.

I think this is a great illustration of how outward characteristics, ignorance, fear, and superstitions can label things, animals, and people. No, I’m not going to get political, but I’ll just let this sit here for you to think about, because we’re all guilty of it.

I’m sure I’ll touch on my feelings about profiling in the future.

BTW: if you’re interested in the names of groups of wildlife, there’s a great list of them here. Just now I almost fell into that meme trap of calling Congress a bunch of baboons when I mentioned future political posts, above, but learned it not to be true. Crazy things happen and you learn stuff when you take the initiative to look shit up and don’t rely on social media for your news. Go figure!

Whew! Close call.

For now, I hope there will be no death on my balconies. There’s already plenty of death in the streets below. I don’t need it plopped in my sanctuary.

I’m just going to try to focus on the good in my little corner of the world.

Fun Facts About Hummingbirds

  • They are the smallest migrating bird.
  • The name, hummingbird, comes from the humming noise their wings make as they beat so fast.
  • Hummingbirds are the only birds that can fly backwards.
  • Hummingbirds have no sense of smell.
  • The average weight of a hummingbird is less than a nickel.

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