Stranger Fruit

Another day in paradise

My backyard is currently a hive of activity. It’s just past 3pm here in Tempe and the temperature is about 96 degrees. As a break from grading, I’m sitting on my back patio watching the avian world unfold. A splendid male Great-tailed Grackle (Quicalus mexicanus) has been noisily courting two females on the lawn and seems to have achieved two matings. One of the three female Black-chinned Hummingbirds (Archilochus alexandri) we have nesting in our trees has taken possession of our feeder (and the nearby flowering agave) and is very active in defending it from all comers – including a male Anna’s Hummingbird (Calypte anna) that is loitering around. All the while, House Sparrows (Passer domesticus) are brawling and the Abert’s Towhees (Pipilo aberti) are foraging somewhat nervously.

Then there is the Two-tailed Swallowtail (Papilio multicaudata) that is flitting around, the big old Carpenter Bee (Xylocopa) that is a little alarming, and the leafcutter bee (Megachilidae) that is currently carrying pieces of leaves into a hole in my patio floor.

Some days – grading aside – it is just wonderful to be alive.


  1. #1 Russell
    April 14, 2008

    Speaking as someone from central Texas…. Do you know a good way to move grackles from an area?

  2. #2 Crudely Wrott
    April 14, 2008

    When I lived in Wyoming I enjoyed the company of Rufus Hummingbirds and can attest to their vigorous defense of territory. I was quite startled the first time a male Rufus took offense when I was removing spent blossoms from the columbines he favored. The little rascal dove close to me from about thirty feet and when he pulled out of the dive a loud! and very deep roar nearly caused me stumble over my feet backing away.

    I also discovered that the very young fledglings will keep their heads inside the plastic blossoms of the feeder for extended periods. The adults usually back out and glance around every three or four seconds. Taking advantage of the young one’s carelessness I was actually able to stroke their backs as they hovered at the feeder. This would result in the bird backing out to see. By remaining absolutely still, hand still poised, I could remain unseen. When young Rufus resumed feasting I could tickle him again. Sooner or later I would just have to laugh, scaring him away. I still chuckle a bit recalling.

  3. #3 Gridman
    April 15, 2008

    I don’t know… with the spate of bee attacks in the valley the last couple months, is the phrase, “…hive of activity…” really the right turn of phrase?


  4. #4 Dana Hunter
    April 15, 2008

    96 degrees. And he’s sitting outside in that bloody heat singing about the wonder of life. Only in Tempe! LOL.

    I remember when I first moved down there. 90 degree day, this high-country girl was dying from heatstroke and grateful to be in the air conditioning, and one of my workmates was going on about how it was awful we were stuck inside on such a beautiful day. I thought he was nucking futs. Then I acclimated.

    Still, glad I’m living in climes where 96 in April would be considered anomalous in the extreme… better you than me, love! 😉

  5. #5 Jim Lippard
    April 15, 2008

    Just down the road from you to the west, we’ve got a hummingbird nest on top of a wind chime on our porch that was used a few times in 2006 and is currently home to another pair of eggs. Here’s a photo of a couple of hummingbird babies in the nest in May 2006. (The nest itself is not such a pretty sight.)

  6. #6 Crudely Wrott
    April 15, 2008


    Wow, it took a moment to find the chicks. Their posture is like the bittern when trying to hide in plain sight! Nice picture, Jim. Thanks.

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