There are three feeders within sight, plus two feeders for the hummers.
I didn’t know hummers were territorial, but one ruby-throated hummer owns both feeders, and probably a third if I put it up and keep it filled with bird juice.
She, or he, hardly has time to eat for diving and chasing away other hummers.
I believe the ruby-throated hummers nest here, but I haven’t seen one, and they are quite small.
A variety of birds come to feed, and some are curious.
There is one we call the “upside-down bird” because that is how he prefers things. He always hangs by his feet to eat, visit, slip down a tree.
There is a family of elusive wrens. We hear them, but I’ve yet to see them.
Their song reminds the Kansas woman of wrens who built nests under the front porch of her Kansas home. She loves the sound of their calls; it reminds her of home.
There is a long history of me and cardinals, or what we call in the south “red birds.”
I won’t go into that here, but no matter where I am there are always red birds, clicking as if they were watching over me.
As I write you, this male cardinal is feeding the female. Even at the feeder she sits and waits for him to take a seed and deliver it to her.
Last year the quiet morning was split by all the birds at once. They were raising a fuss, a loud one. They were flapping, calling, jumping from branch to branch. The cacophony lasted several minutes as a half-grown black snake came out of one stump hole and retreated into another.
How did they know to be afraid of the snake and sound the alarm? There are two different behaviors here. And, how does the male cardinal know to feed his mate? Instinct? And what is that?
It is inherited or genetic knowledge and is imprinted upon living things from birth, or before. As in the case of a seedling, it is already there.
Trees have no nervous system that I’m aware of, but think of this: planted on the side of a steep hill a tree still grows straight up. How does it “know” to do that?
What motivates a dog to water a fire hydrant? To mark territory, no doubt, but how does he know that he SHOULD mark his territory?
Human babies respond to facial expressions, as do some dogs. Where does that come from?
I had a little dog, “Louise.”
She loved to be around babies, look at them, smell them. She didn't interact with them in any way; she just enjoyed being around them.
When a baby cried, Louise became distressed, looking from one human to another whining, as if asking for assistance. What was going on with Louise?
And we’re back to the male cardinal feeding his mate.
I’ll bet some woman reading this wishes men were that easy to train.
Joe Phillips writes his “Dear me” columns for several small newspapers. He has many connections to Walker County, including his grandfather, former superintendent Waymond Morgan. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.