Hummingbadger Don’t Care

Thanks to overcast weather and inopportune positioning, attempts at hummingbird photography have so far met with spectacular failure. Unless, of course, you’re into hummingbird bum. I’ve got plenty of that. Plenty of fluffy, feathery, iridescent birdie arse — oh, and one lovely, clear face, with a great ugly fly stuck to its beak. However, I’ve a ridiculous anecdote to make up for the lack of illustrative material.

Remember that viral video that made the rounds a while back, with the nonchalant honey badger? Check it out — he’s eating a snake. That’s nasty, honey badger. Well, I think my bird’s got that badger beat, in the badass department. I mean, a honey badger’s pretty big. It’s easily the size of a spaniel, maybe even a hunting hound. If you tried to grab it and wrestle with it, you’d probably die. So you can picture it taking on a snake. It’s not such a stretch. My hummingbird, on the other hand, is the size of a bug. Not even a big bug, like one of those massive roaches they’ve got in Texas, or a Goliath beetle; more on the order of a monarch caterpillar, or an exceptionally large bee. You could squash its head between thumb and forefinger, if you were a horrible person. And yet, today, on my balcony, I witnessed a hummingbird-seagull dustup, in which the gull came off second-best.

Hang on, though — first things first. This is a bird blog, so I’d better properly identify the combatants, before launching into the bizarre details. So, in the left corner, weighing in at about, oh, three pounds, wearing grey for…erm, the Vancouver skies…we’ve got a Western/glaucous-winged hybrid gull. In the right corner, weighing, hmm, a gram or two, decked out in green, pink, brown, and various shades of iridescent whatnot, it’s Anna’s hummingbird.

So, there was our gull, noshing away, face in the feeder, hoovering up seeds like they were going out of style. Up pulled the hummer, for a snack of its own. Now, let me point out, at this juncture, that these birds weren’t using the same feeder. How could they? I doubt a hummingbird could even pick up a sunflower seed, much less swallow and digest it. And yet, that hummingbird did not want the gull having any. It hovered by its own feeder, for a moment, squeaking angrily. When that failed to frighten the gull (or even attract its attention), it flew over and started circling its head, buzzing like mad. The gull looked up, bemused —

— hang on! What’s this? As I sit here describing the aggressive behaviour of the crazy nastyass hummingbadger, it’s serving a crow with the same treatment! It’s buzzing! It’s circling! It’s — oh! And off goes the crow. Who knew? I didn’t need an eagle, after all. Anyway —

The gull looked up, bemused, just in time to take a hummingbird to the face. Now, I wouldn’t swear the hummer actually collided with the gull. It all happened very quickly, with a lot of flapping and squeaking and flying feathers. But the hummingbird dove, and the gull gave the most affronted squawk you can imagine, and positively EXPLODED into the sky. The hummingbird went after it. A few moments later, the hummingbird returned, and ate. The gull did not. I sat at my drawing table, flabbergasted, ink dripping from my pen onto my trousers. I’d never witnessed such a ludicrous spectacle, in all my years of…well, living, observing weird stuff; you know. And I once saw two people get their dogs tangled together by their leads, which was incredibly stupid-looking. This looked stupider. So much stupider. I wished my eyes were cybernetic videocameras, so I could upload what I’d just seen to the Internet.

I’m so glad I got that hummingbird feeder. Hummingbirds are much more fun than I thought. I just hope I don’t get attacked, next. I’d hate to get banned from my own balcony…by birds. That would be…

…I’m not sure what that would be, but I’m going with “silly.”

And here is a picture of a wet pigeon, which will just have to do, till a) the sun comes out, and b) the hummingbird turns around and wipes its beak.

I don't get a lot of pigeon traffic on my balcony.  What was this one up to, I wonder?

I don’t get a lot of pigeon traffic on my balcony. What was this one up to, I wonder?

Jolly good show, eagle.

Well! Good to be back. First of all, I’d like to congratulate this eagle —

-- right here! --

— right here! —

— on having eaten a gull. Sadly, I didn’t get to see the righteous smackdown being delivered, but it was reported to me later by one of the handymen from my building, who also alerted me to the eagle’s presence. Pardon the awful quality of the photo — it was taken at a great distance, on a rainy day. However, I did get a much better look at the bird, as a crow chased it past my balcony, towards Stamps Landing (and thanks for that, crow). I was able to identify it as a golden eagle, making this a very good year for eagles: that’s two species already, and it’s only February.

In other news, Mother helped me set up two hummingbird feeders — why two? — because the first one turned out to be a bit pants; the birds weren’t finding it, at all. And yesterday, I had my first hummingbird, a hungry little Anna’s, sleek and shiny. It stopped by several times, over the course of the afternoon, and availed itself of both feeders. For such a tiny bird, it made a great deal of noise, a series of forceful buzzes and squeaks that attracted my attention from behind a closed window. It sampled the sugar water, buzzed, sampled, buzzed, sampled, hung in the air, squeaking, and dove towards the garden, where I lost sight of it amidst the bushes. Half an hour later, it was back. This time, I was waiting. I sat under the feeder, and watched its horrible little bird tongue lap the nectar. It’s a remarkable sight: you barely glimpse the tongue, just the ripples it makes in the water, as it flicks in and out, over and over and over again. I have a feeling that’s one bird tongue I’m not going to get a picture of, however hard I might try. (There will be hummingbird photos, though. Oh, yes, there will. Yesterday, my camera was out of batteries, but today, it’s charged up and ready for action.)

I may also be nearing the conclusion of my gullie woes: Mother found me a bird feeder with a dome over the top, so great horrible packbawkies can’t squeeze their big heads in. Medium-sized birds, like crows and flickers, should still be able to get a snack, but gulls will be excluded. All I need to do is set it up. With my luck, of course, gulls will figure out a way to upend the bloody thing and eat all the seeds. I might just have to hire an eagle to stand guard. What do you think — would a gull a day be a fair rate for avian labour? Awfully fatty meat, though; probably full of fish oil.

I’ll be out birding later on; hopefully, I’ll find something good.