Tag Archives: ruby-throated hummingbird (Archilochus colubris)

Natural flavor

It’s not that I’ve lost interest in blogging.  In fact, I have an endless supply of stories to tell and photos to share.

But the requisites of life care not for personal endeavors.

I’m the youngest person at our family farm.  I should add that I’m the youngest by decades.  And I’m the healthiest person here—healthiest despite back surgery, knee surgery, sinus surgery, leukemia, and all that jazz.

But this is a real farm with real livestock and real work to be done: animals to be fed and cared for, pastures to be tended, fences to be put up or fixed, crops to be grown and nurtured, vehicles and equipment to be maintained, pets to be managed, meals to be cooked, supplies to be acquired, technology to be administered…

And yet this is also a household with real needs beyond the farm: be the copy editor for family newsletters and stories; take care of everyone’s cell phones, satellite internet, computers and modems and routers and printers/scanners/fax machines; find the best deal for this, that or the other; fix televisions and satellite TV services; plant and care for flowers and bushes and fruit trees and vegetables and whatnot; find solutions to rodent problems that plague gardens and households and livestock and…

Well, let’s just say that this is a real farm and a real household with real work and real needs and a diminishing lack of able bodies.

Except me.

In my “spare” time I’m still writing books, still snapping photos, still looking for paid work I can do without taking away from the farm, still being there for my parents and family through their increasing health issues, still hoping for another visit with my nieces and nephews and brothers and sister and aunts and uncles and…

Well…  Still wishing life had dealt me a more manageable hand than the one I have to play, still thinking that I’ll catch a break as soon as the universe realizes it gave me bad cards, still trying to maintain a poker face whilst clinging to sanity.

Nevertheless, blogging and photography and…  Well—again—let’s just say that my aspirations cower behind a deck stacked against them, and they and I don’t seem to have any input into the deal or play of cards.

To wit, I want to do this but I have to do that.

I want to write more, publishing books and novellas and articles.  I want to delve into people photography, whether for profit or for fun.  I want to continue my nature photography, published or otherwise.  I want to keep abreast with technology and remain an expert in that arena, able to deal with any question or need no matter the platform.  I want to set aside my work for the people—Well, let’s just say that I want to focus on personal efforts instead of what’s required of me by the populace (who need me but don’t even know they need me).

Only I’m not someone’s bitch, not time’s nor life’s nor the world’s.  So here’s where I take control of my digital existence.  Or so I tell myself.

Close-up of a black & yellow argiope (Argiope aurantia) silhouetted by the sun (20081011_13628)

Because—let’s be honest here—we spin our webs and catch our prey without a thought for what we control.  We live life sans a care for what we feel, let alone for what we manage.

Early morning crepuscular rays seen through trees and ground fog (20131018_08774)

And the rays of light carry us from moment to moment, from morning to morning, from here to there.

White-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) jumping a pasture fence (20140114_09569)

We jump our fences.  We find our way through the mayhem of what is and what comes.

Close-up of a Texas dandelion (Pyrrhopappus carolinianus) in sunshine (20140525_10603)

We bloom when nothing matters, when nothing counts, when the world measures itself for naught.

A beetle atop blooming prairie fleabane (Erigeron strigosus) (20140529_10696)

We stand upon the blooms we discount only because they hold us up and carry us forward.

A male giant stag beetle (Lucanus elaphus) walking across gravel (20140625_11524)

We march forward without a care for the world.

A zebra swallowtail (Eurytides marcellus) eating minerals from the ground (20140703_11720)

We flit from here to there so we can consume sustenance, so we can survive.

A brown morph female blue-fronted dancer (Argia apicalis) resting on wood (20140811_12152)

We rest.  We lie comfortably so we can rest.  And we rest.

A leucistic female ruby-throated hummingbird (Archilochus colubris) perched on a feeder (20140811_12304)

We stand out from the crowd when we’re nothing more than what is.

A female green anole (Anolis carolinensis) peering around a corner at me (20140923_12528)

And we catch a peek when we can.  We look upon what is and accept that we are what was.

Because we’re more than what we thought, we’re more than what we believed.  In the end, we are more.

Thus, I’m more.

And I want to be more.

And I will be more.

Because I’m going to move forward.

I’m going to win.

I’m going to survive.

I’m going to overcome.

— — — — — — — — — —


  1. Black & yellow argiope (a.k.a. yellow garden spider; Argiope aurantia) – female
  2. Crepuscular rays
  3. White-tailed deer (a.k.a. whitetail deer; Odocoileus virginianus)
  4. Texas dandelion (a.k.a. false dandelion, Carolina desert-chicory, leafy false dandelion or Florida dandelion; Pyrrhopappus carolinianus)
  5. Prairie fleabane (a.k.a. daisy fleabane or rough fleabane; Erigeron strigosus)
  6. Giant stag beetle (a.k.a. American stag beetle; Lucanus elaphus) – male
  7. Zebra swallowtail (a.k.a. black-barred swallowtail; pawpaw butterfly or kite swallowtail; Eurytides marcellus)
  8. Blue-fronted dancer (Argia apicalis) – brown morph female
  9. Ruby-throated hummingbird (Archilochus colubris) – leucistic female
  10. Green anole (a.k.a. Carolina anole; Anolis carolinensis) – female

Blog reboot

I’m rebooting xenogere.


Mating pair of syrphid flies (a.k.a. hover flies; Toxomerus marginatus)

Since I last changed my blog theme, I’ve grown increasingly disenchanted with blogging.

That is to say I’ve hated the idea.

But no more.

Close-up of a red-tailed hawk (Buteo jamaicensis)

Facebook and Twitter and Google+ and various other diversions will no longer distract me.

I will, however, continue to focus on my novels.

Because I have more important things to do.

Ruby-throated hummingbirds (Archilochus colubris) mobbing a feeder

And I’ll focus on photography.

Because I can make money with that, let alone use it to expand my horizons.

A male eastern Hercules beetle (Dynastes tityus) crawling on my hand

And I’ll focus on technology work since that has put many a coin in my pockets.

I mean, hey, come on already.

A female white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) with her fawn

I started blogging more than eleven years ago.

It’s time to either shut down and move on or restart and move forward.

I choose to move forward.

A Striped bark scorpion (Centruroides vittatus) eating a cricket--which has been decapitated

As you can see, I’ve made significant changes to the site. These changes aren’t done yet. In fact, not only are they a work in progress, they’re a work in need of focus.

There are problems I must fix, changes I must make, enhancements I must address.

So the site’s incomplete. But trust me when I say I’ll take care of it.

a Carolina mantis (Stagmomantis carolina) crawling along a storage barrel

Meanwhile, it’s time for me to get back on the horse so to speak.

And I intend to do just that.

Collecting rubies

Eastern bluebirds, eastern kingbirds, northern mockingbirds, cattle egrets and a legion vast of other birds fill the days and nights at the family farm in East Texas.  Mom was especially pleased when a pair of scissor-tailed flycatchers took up residence, a species she had not seen in years.  And much to our surprised delight, a pair of Inca doves has kept station in the woods surrounding the house, a species outside its mapped range in this area but well within the expanded range indicated by reported sightings.

Of the avian species that inhabit this section of the Piney Woods however, one we seem to collect with ease is the ruby-throated hummingbird (Archilochus colubris).  The dense woods and meandering waterways and availability of food ensure they fill the sky with their buzzing wings, their theatrical antics, their tropical beauty and their mellifluous voices.

A female ruby-throated hummingbird (Archilochus colubris) perched on a feeder (IMG_2595)

Generally I’m disinclined to photograph wildlife baited into position.  Not that I have anything against feeding birds and squirrels and deer and whatever other creatures you feel inclined to feed.  I’ve been known to do the same thing.  Yet when it comes to taking pictures of nature, I prefer the challenge and reward that comes from doing so on nature’s terms, not mine.  Nevertheless, Mom keeps three feeders outside the back door, and as part of life here at the farm I simply can’t ignore the wonder of these tiny birds.

A female ruby-throated hummingbird (Archilochus colubris) hovering as she feeds from a feeder (IMG_2586)

In spring when the hummingbirds begin returning from their wintering grounds in Central and South America, one feeder is made available until more birds arrive.  Then another is added.  And when the population reaches critical mass, the third feeder is made available.

A male ruby-throated hummingbird (Archilochus colubris) hovering as he feeds from a feeder (20120710_01501)

My mother generally waits until the middle to end of spring before the first feeder gets hung.  Before then it goes to waste.  Her timing has always been impeccable, thus it came as no surprise when she mentioned a few months ago that it was about time for the birds to return and she should prepare some sugar water.  As she spoke she walked to the back door and pushed aside the curtain.  Confirming her impression that it was indeed time to put up a feeder, just outside the window a male hummingbird hovered, swinging back and forth like a pendulum, all the while staring through the window and trying his best to look famished.  After the long migration they go through to return here for nesting season, looking famished came easily for the little guy, though his entertaining arrival and display did more to communicate knowing impatience than hunger.

A female ruby-throated hummingbird (Archilochus colubris) perched on a feeder as she watches a male prepare to land (20120710_01500)

A simple recipe of one part sugar to four parts water fills the feeders—and therefore the hummingbirds’ bellies—from the time the first feeder goes up until the last one comes down in autumn.  Throughout the intervening months, dawn and dusk provide a show that would beguile and entertain the hardest of hearts, for anywhere from one to two dozen hummingbirds arrive for their first drink of the day and for their last drink of the day.  Territoriality over feeders and competition for resources ensures shenanigans on the wing and vociferous dialogue.

Five female ruby-throated hummingbirds (Archilochus colubris) sharing a feeder (20120710_01452)

Once nesting season ends, the number of birds increases as the young begin visiting, taking their fill as needed.  Yet smartly Mom has never relied solely on the feeders to provide for ruby throats.  Doing so is akin to providing a solid diet of fast food to children.  Augmenting their natural diet with sugar water is one thing, but making it a staple is quite another.  So a variety of flowers, both wild and gardened, surround the house and fill the woods, from trumpet vines to spider lilies to cone flowers to morning glories to passion flowers and a whole lot more.  A smorgasbord of natural food sources ensures the hummingbirds need only rely on the feeders for quick fixes, the sure thing when they haven’t the time or interest to hunt for something wild.  And the flowers attract small insects and spiders, an important part of the birds’ diet and something not provided by feeders.

Close-up of a female ruby-throated hummingbird (Archilochus colubris) perched on a wire (20120710_01511)

Because they must be cleaned regularly lest the sweet contents become a sour mess, the feeders are allowed to empty on their own before refilling.  This sometimes means all three become empty at the same time, and that creates the best encounters of all, for walking out the door with just-filled feeders brings the birds right to us.  It’s not unusual to have them feeding while the feeder hangs from our hands, and it’s also not unusual to have them sate their curiosity by investigating us while this happens, often flying back and forth in front of our faces as if trying to determine the intentions in our eyes.

Close-up of a male ruby-throated hummingbird (Archilochus colubris) perched on a wire (20120710_01515)

Even when not pushed to such encounters by empty feeders, the birds lack significant fear of people, hence close encounters with them occur regularly.  They happily perch within reach, fly by at breakneck speeds so near that the wind from their wings brushes our skin, and otherwise tolerate our comings and goings with little drama.  Well, at least little drama with regards to us since they have plenty of drama betwixt themselves.

— — — — — — — — — —

Photos (all of ruby-throated hummingbirds (Archilochus colubris):

  1. Female
  2. Female
  3. Male
  4. Male (in flight) and female (perched)
  5. Five females
  6. Female
  7. Male

Birds I never knew – Part 1

The wrong lens.  The wrong filters.  The wrong settings.  Only a fraction of a second in which to aim, focus and shoot.

Ah, the curse of nature photography.

Still, it could be worse: I could have no camera with which to work.

A male red-bellied woodpecker (Melanerpes carolinus) clinging to the trunk of a tree as he searches for food (20081123_14821)

A male red-bellied woodpecker (Melanerpes carolinus).  I stood in my garage one morning and heard the telltale knock-knock-knock announcing one of his kind.  Too far away for me to see clearly, especially on an overcast day, only his bright red hood allowed me to find him.  His camouflage otherwise rendered him invisible to me.

Ignoring the squirrels who ran up and down the tree with abandon, he pecked here and there as he danced about the bark with precision and expertise.  I can’t imagine he had much luck looking for breakfast given how little time he spent in any one spot.  Or perhaps it was the annoying play of the tree rodents that kept him from feeling comfortable enough to enjoy a meal.  He certainly wouldn’t have had any peace while doing so.

A male northern cardinal (Cardinalis cardinalis) perched in the treetops (20080921_12712)

A male northern cardinal (Cardinalis cardinalis).  I heard him before I saw him.  As I made my way up a hill toward a dense collection of trees, his voice echoed around me even as he remained hidden in the treetops.  I looked and looked, letting my eyes follow my ears, yet all I could make out was a shadow dancing amongst shadows.  If I approached, his position vanished behind thick foliage; and it was the same if I backed up.  All I could do was stand my ground and wait.

Then, as if on queue, he flitted to a position higher in the tree that afforded me a sunlit view.  I snapped photo after photo, not caring to review each one before taking the next, for I knew with cardinals that a moment offered is a gift.  So I took advantage of it, and only later while reviewing the pictures did I realize he had been eating the whole time I had watched.  A bit of seed detritus around his beak made that clear.

A juvenile Bewick's wren (Thryomanes bewickii) perched on a branch (20080817_10930)

A juvenile Bewick’s wren (Thryomanes bewickii).  Standing atop a picnic table where I hoped to gain a better vantage of the lake, a recognizable yet foreign song trilled upon the air from behind me.  Quite a way behind me, I thought, and I turned to look.  Down the hill and across the creek from where I stood, in a place held against the rising sun like a statue meant to pay homage to a god of ancient times, a simple tree branch reached into the ether betwixt me and it, and upon that branch stood a form I could not recognize from such a great distance.

Even then its song grew to encompass the voice of a recognizable being.  It must surely be a Bewick’s wren.  I squinted against the sunlight even as I tried to snap a photograph or two.  It was impossible to know what I might be focusing on since the bird remained so far away and I looked into the hobbling light of morning.  Despite the chasm that separated us, imagine my surprise when I found this blessed little creature hiding in the middle of a vast wasteland of digital mayhem.

A female ruby-throated hummingbird (Archilochus colubris) flying toward a feeder (20080809_10763)

A female ruby-throated hummingbird (Archilochus colubris).  My parents and I stood near the side porch at the family farm as the entire place buzzed with activity, from lizards scampering about the ground and walls to insects flitting and crawling to a plethora of birds painting the sky with one feather-brushed stroke after another.  We hardly knew where to look for the next amazing sight.

Then as if beckoned by a desire to see beauty incarnate, one of the many hummingbirds in the area soared in with utmost abandon as she made her way toward one of several feeders Mom keeps on the property.  Focused intently on a shiny bobble of life elsewhere, I missed the tiny creature as she flew around the corner of the house, hovered momentarily to make certain we posed no threat, then turned her attention to the fast-food nature of sugar water offered up alongside the many species of flower that lure in the other piece of the hummingbird diet: insects.  As soon as I turned and saw her, I lifted the camera and snapped a photo—Settings be damned!

A great blue heron (Ardea herodias) soaring by two double-crested cormorants (Phalacrocorax auritus) perched on a log (20080727_10131)

A great blue heron (Ardea herodias) soaring by two double-crested cormorants (Phalacrocorax auritus).  The cormorants I saw; the heron took me by surprise.  On my favorite pier at my favorite place at White Rock Lake—Sunset Bay—I slowly took in the view of wildlife filling the moment, and I then focused on two cormorants sunning themselves atop a log.  Even they remained well beyond the scope of my camera and lens, at least what I held in my hands at that moment, yet something about the ducks swimming just beyond them and the cerulean blue of the water reflecting an empty sky all about them made me want that second, that fraction of a breath.

Even as I squeezed the button on the camera, even as I held my body taught with rigidity, the most fantastic creature flew into view, its wings nearly touching the cormorants as it flew over their position.  I tried to follow it, tried to imagine the spectacular results of this unforeseen picture-grabbing instant.  Would that I had been better prepared for such an opportunity.

Two male ruddy ducks (Oxyura jamaicensis) (20080223_02220)

Two male ruddy ducks (Oxyura jamaicensis).  They might as well have been on the other side of the planet from me.  As I walked and roamed and ambled, my mind filled with nothing more important than what gift nature might offer around the next corner, I found myself within the confines of a small inlet on the eastern shores of White Rock Lake, a brief excursion from the beaten path that defined itself by the reeds that sheltered it from the whole of the park.

Behind those reeds and quite some distance from the shore slept a veritable flotilla of ducks, most with tails held firmly toward the sky in defiance of gravity and sleep.  Yet I could not, for the life of me, see them clearly.  The sun floated directly in my line of sight, the water reflecting its onslaught with eager pain, and I, defiant to the end, wanted to see what could not be seen.  Having no idea upon what I focused, I pressed the button time and again with dismay and pleasure mixing into a single, finite instant.  What would these pictures show?  What horrible imagery would I delete in due time?

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Flights of fancy

their feathers so graceful in flight
powerful wings carrying bodies so light
attuned vision beyond my own sight
imagination cannot so delight

A great egret (Ardea alba) standing at the edge of the lake (20080628_08249)

Poser: I watched this great egret (Ardea alba) stroll through the shallows before coming ashore and finding a spot to rest.

A yellow-crowned night-heron (Nyctanassa violacea) standing at a creek's edge near White Rock Lake (20080722_09861)

Satisfied: A yellow-crowned night-heron (Nyctanassa violacea) standing at a creek’s edge near White Rock Lake.  The bird had just finished eating a small turtle (which I didn’t think it could swallow without breaking the shell open, but it very much surprised me in that regard).

Two ring-billed gulls (Larus delawarensis), one adult and one juvenile, and each perched on a pier beam as they face into the winter sun (IMG_20080106_00989)

The same but different: A juvenile ring-billed gull (Larus delawarensis) on the left stands next to an adult of the same species.  I find it remarkable how different they look with only a year separating them.

A female ruby-throated hummingbird (Archilochus colubris) perched atop a fence wire (20080809_10681)

On guard: A female ruby-throated hummingbird (Archilochus colubris) perched atop a fence wire as she watches me.  Taken at the family farm while the air was abuzz with hummingbirds, each of them frequently sizing me up as they defended the various feeders.