Tuesday, July 27, 2010
The hummingbird feeders outside my kitchen window hang above a firethorn bush so neglected and overgrown that it's a menace. The branches flame out in every direction, just waiting to snag clothes or flesh. The reason I don't try to get it under control--aside from the fact that every time I go near it with a trimming implement it fights back until it tastes my blood--is that nearly every species of bird seems to love it. Flocks of cedar waxwings descend on it in winter to strip the berries, and every summer the latest crop of mockingbirds trains for future mating violence by using it as a launching platform for practice assaults. Yesterday it drew one of the most welcome avian visitors I've had in a long time--a male orchard oriole.
Even though orchard orioles are common summer residents here, they have always shunned my yard as a nesting site. I get one or two females passing through every year on their way south for the winter, but I've never once seen a male until yesterday. He lingered for quite a while, hopping delicately around those vicious thorns in search of bugs, stopping periodically to ponder the antics of the mob of hummingbirds overhead. I hope he was scoping out a location for next summer's housing. I'm keeping my fingers crossed--and leaving that firethorn alone.
Illustration by Alexander Wilson, 1808.