Sunday, February 3, 2013

To Everything There Is a Season

Of course, seasons in the southern Arizona/Sonoran desert aren't quite like those in more temperate climes. We've had winter; maybe we're still having it. The garden shows the effects of a week of overnight temperatures in the low 20s the second week in January with quite a bit of die-back on things that will recover, like cassia, purple heart, and some other perennials, and some that won't, such as wild poinsettia (which has, however, probably reseeded itself), sweet potato vine, and nasturtiums.
    The goldfinches went away, but other birds stay year-round, like Mr. Costa, who feeds on the other side of our kitchen window (his real name is Costa's hummingbird; we've gotten quite well acquainted but I still like to address him with respect).
A female black-chinned hummingbird also showed up yesterday and was able to feed without being chased off. Mr. Costa and another male have frequent, swift, noisy battles, sometimes right over our heads, but the female got lucky. Apparently early European explorers believed hummingbirds didn't have feet because they only saw them hovering to feed at flowers, with their feet tucked up against their bellies. This feeder has perches all around and the hummers like to sit on them to drink their nectar - and I've seen their feet close up through the glass. I wouldn't buy a hummingbird feeder that didn't offer them a place to rest - they burn up a lot of calories buzzing around the way they do!

Verdins also like hummingbird feeders; we saw one yesterday morning, the first in more than a year. They are among my very favorite birds, so tiny, fluffy, and colorful with their yellow heads and red epaulets.
     It's hard to know what season it is from one day - sometimes one hour - to the next lately. This morning when we took our walk it was definitely winter. This female phainopepla with her feathers fluffed out for insulation, on bare branches against a gray sky, perfectly captures the feeling. She's there in the same spot every morning, surveying her territory, I guess, and trying to stay warm.
 Up around the corner and about a block away we spied two red birds facing off in the middle of the road - male cardinals. They're very territorial; apparently one was trying to horn in on the other's turf - like the phainopepla in her tree, this fellow owns that half block or so. The green leaves on these mesquite branches aren't new growth, by the way; they just never fell when it got cold.
But spring is coming. New leaf buds are forming at the ends of the fig branches, and new blossom buds on the Meyer lemon, though it took quite a hit from the frost, in spite of being covered. There's bok choy ready to pick in the garden with chard right behind it, and all the herbs except the basil (of course) weathered the cold well. Even though all the nasturtiums in the hanging baskets bit the dust, new ones have popped up, apparently from seeds that hadn't germinated earlier. This interregnum between winter and spring is quite a nice time, really. Winter in the morning and temperatures in the low 70s by mid-afternoon, at least today, and tomorrow, though we'll be back in the low 60s with night temperatures in the high 30s by next weekend. I'm in no hurry for the weather to warm up too much. Someone told me the other day that when people complain about the cold, he just offers three words in response: "June, July, August." Yep.

1 comment:

  1. Vicki, might consider posting your hummingbird photos on this site.