Sunday, May 15, 2016

#phenology -- it's all relative

Seen at the feeders so far today:
  • Ruby-throated Hummingbird (first time this year)

  • Rose-breasted Grosbeaks

  • Downy Woodpecker

  • Hairy Woodpecker

  • Red-bellied Woodpecker

  • Blue Jays

  • Goldfinches

  • Cardinals

  • Red-winged Blackbirds

  • Chickadees

  • White-breasted Nuthatch

  • Red-breasted Nuthatch

female Ruby-throated Hummingbird at feeder
female Ruby-throated Hummingbird at feeder
Photo by J. Harrington

Think, for a moment, about the size of a hummingbird and the distance traveled. Splitting the difference in weight between males and females, the average Ruby-throated Hummingbird weighs about 3 grams. The ones that Summer in Minnesota, Winter in Central America, so let's assume Costa Rica, for a distance of about 2,500 miles. Let's further assume that a person weighs 175 pounds and has wings. Finally, assume that person can fly a distance proportional to the distance and weight of a hummingbird. Our person could then fly around the world at the equator (~25,000 miles). I'm not sure how long it takes our Ruby-throats to fly north so I don't know how long it would take our person to circle the globe, probably something like a month or two?

It's possible our recent cold spell has affected my brain as well as my personality. It may also help account for the fact that both Baltimore Orioles and Scarlet Tanagers are, so far this year, A.W.O.L., but there's still hope, just as there's hope that we actually will be able to put together two or more 70F days before it's June.

Humming Bird

by D.H. Lawrence

I can imagine, in some otherworld
Primeval-dumb, far back
In that most awful stillness, that only gasped and hummed,
Humming-birds raced down the avenues.
Before anything had a soul,
While life was a heave of Matter, half inanimate,
This little bit chipped off in brilliance
And went whizzing through the slow, vast, succulent stems.
I believe there were no flowers, then,
In the world where the humming-bird flashed ahead of creation.
I believe he pierced the slow vegetable veins with his long beak.
Probably he was big
As mosses, and little lizards, they say were once big.
Probably he was a jabbing, terrifying monster.
We look at him through the wrong end of the long telescope of Time,
Luckily for us.


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