Share |

Nature’s Best By Elma Chapman - Close Encounters

A baby hummingbird visited our feeder the other day. It looked like a female but was smaller, and since the females are usually larger than the males, I’m pretty sure this was an adolescent (either male or female) just learning the ways of the world. Our feeder had a flower and some ladybugs painted on the glass tube. The paint has peeled off for the most part, leaving behind just a few blotches of red and green. Apparently this confused my new little visitor as he flew up and tried to put his beak into the red paint. After a couple of attempts, he settled on the perch and drank from the holes as intended, but before he returned to the woods, he did try that red paint again, just to be sure.

The hummingbirds have been thick in the past week. When we walk around our subdivision in the evenings we almost have to dodge them. Especially on the east side of our development, where almost every other house has one or two hummingbird feeders. That should be plenty to go around, but those greedy little guys aren’t into sharing, and when they are engaged in aerial combat they don’t watch the surrounding area very well. It is quite entertaining. My cousin in Louisiana says she hasn’t had many this year, but maybe they just came further north this year, because we seem to have an abundance. And there is good reason for their greed: in a few weeks those little guys will be heading south, and once they get to Louisiana and other points south and refuel a bit, many of them will be flying non-stop across the Gulf of Mexico. Incredible!

Insects have been getting “up close and personal” with me, too. Just before a big rainfall last week I happened to look out the window and there was a huge katydid. It was clinging to the glass pane of the window and didn’t seem at all bothered by my presence just a foot away on the other side of the glass. It posed for some pictures for quite a while. I could actually watch the plates move on its mid-section as it breathed. Katydids are more often heard than seen, because they mostly stay in treetops where they eat leaves, particularly of oak trees. Katydids are relatives of crickets and grasshoppers, but they are a bright green color and shaped like a leaf, which is good for camouflage. They can grow to over two inches long.

After a recent “Breakfast with the Birds” about butterflies (birds are a topic occasionally, but certainly not exclusively!), we went for a hike to look for butterflies. During the talk LaGrange County Naturalist Scott Beam asked us if any of us had had a butterfly land on us to lick the salt off our skin. That’s why you often see butterflies gathered around a muddy puddle – they’re actually looking for a mini-salt lick. And as if Beam had magically ordained it, as soon as we got out to the edge of the road by the wildflowers, a butterfly landed on my wrist. (I think it was probably a Painted Lady butterfly, but my butterfly identifying skills still need some work.) And it did indeed probe my skin with its proboscis, which tickled slightly. Then it found the mother lode of salt. I have two watches, one for most of the time, and one for moist times, like bike rides, brisk walks, or kayak adventures. I was wearing my “sweat” watch and the butterfly probed the wristband repeatedly. It stayed with me for several minutes and I thought I might have to wear the butterfly home, but after a while it flew away, only to return a few seconds later for a few more licks. Ultimately as we neared the woods to return to the nature center, it flew away for good.

Sometimes you don’t have to go looking for nature – it comes looking for you!