Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Battle Royale

There is a high stakes battle for supremacy and territory being waged in Rifle Mountain Park.

In the tall spruce tree behind the host cabin we have a lovely lady weighing in a mere ounces. In the fir tree across the creek we have a young male and across the road is the defending champion. The champ is a fine speciman respendent in sleek colorful feathers. These are three of at least six hummingbirds near the host cabin that vie for a spot at the magic red flowers. From the end of the second rafter hangs a humble feeder complete with a 1:4 sugar solution. This is not the typical refined sugar mix, but rather a 1:4 mix made only with the finest organic turbinado sugar. These creatures are greedy and the defender is willing to expend great amounts of energy chasing all away but his lovely lady.

It began when we first arrived and we tackled cleaning the host cabin and surrounding area. In the wood box I discovered two hummingbird feeders. One was beyond getting clean, but the other I was able to apply lots of hot water and vinegar to clean and sanitize. Like I mentioned above, it is humble as it only contains two cups of nectar. I had noticed the defending champ cruising the area making loud humming noises as he buzzed by. Before I could get a safe distance for the feeder upon the first deployment, the champ buzzed in. He has a glorious red throat and gives displays of dominance that scare all but the bravest of birds.

They swoop, dive, chase and buzz around at great speeds. The battle for the finest nectar in the canyon begins at dawn. We awake to the sound of buzzing as they streak in from their respective trees to slurp at the magic red flowers. They will challenge each other and do stand off buzzes around the feeder until one gives chase and the loser zips away with the victor in hot pursuit. However this can backfire as the loser can sneak around and get back to the feed before the chaser. This results in more stand off buzzing, head fakes and dancing. Late in the evening, there appears to be a truce drawn as five or six birds belly up to the magic red flowers and slurp. Oh, but wait, the champ wants no part of the truce and no one is allowed to fill for the night. Well, that is except his lady. He will come madly buzzing in at break neck speeds and charge the feeder causing a great scattering. All the while, his lady continues to slurp.

At nightfall, they retire to the trees to begin the battle again at first gray morning light.

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