Eat or be Eaten

I watched the Downy WoodpeckerDryobates pubescens, for several minutes.   She was rock-still:  nothing moved, not a feather, despite the gentle sway of the feeder and the clasped piece of peanut in her beak.  Because she was motionless–abnormal for a bird–I realized that there must be a predator nearby.

I Downy-watched from my kitchen window, my favorite bird blind.  Even with my movements at the window–slow and careful, as not to startle the little bird–she didn’t move: no head turn, no shuffle of claws, no gulp of the prized peanut, nor snatch of another.  From my standing position, no predator was obvious, so I squatted at the window, looking up into the oak tree just beyond and around at the outdoors as best I could see.

I finally spotted that which froze, in fear, the heart of the would-be feeding woodpecker. The culprit perched far across my property, high in the neighbors’ elm tree.

The photo is poor, taken through the window and at some distance, with plenty of foliage and limbs as distractions.  The hawk is a big one, probably a Cooper’s Hawk, Accipiter cooperii, as they’re common here, especially in autumn, winter, and early spring.

The Downy was still for a good five minutes, maybe longer.  Finally the hawk took flight toward my house, but high above.  A split second afterwards the Downy pushed off from the feeder, heading in the same direction as the hawk, though much farther below and toward the protection of a large evergreen shrub.

I don’t know if the hawk swooped in for the woodpecker, though I doubt that’s what happened; there’s too much cover which would serve as safety for the woodpecker and too much interference for the hawk’s dive.  I imagine the hawk winged to another part of the neighborhood in search of an easier catch, less aware of the hawk’s existence.

It was an eat or be eaten life-cycle moment.  I’m certain the woodpecker finally ate her peanut, because I’ve seen her since.  And I’m equally certain the hawk found something to eat; I’m just not sure what, when, or where.

Appreciative for the life lessons a garden bestows, I’m joining today with Anna and her Wednesday Vignette.   Check out her beautiful Flutter and Hum for musings of various sorts.

It’s a Kind of Magic

I took this photo of a (probably) female Black-chinned HummingbirdArchilochus alexandri, several weeks ago.  She was guarding a stand of blooming Turk’s cap, Malvaviscus arboreus var. drummondii, with all vigor and spunk.  That’s the hummingbird way, after all:  tough and territorial, they fight with one another for the pick of nectar sources, and in this particular case and as it’s so late in the season, I’m certain she was preparing for her flight south, her fueling for migration a requirement for survival.

I doubt if the British rock band, Queen, had bird migration in mind with their 1986 song, It’s a Kind of Magic, but I find the pull and drive for migration an enigma, something so astonishing that it’s hard to fathom, and something pulsing with a kind of magic.

Nevertheless, here in my oak tree, resting between sips of Turk’s cap nectar and bullies of other hummingbirds, she looks quiet and contemplative.  I wonder–does she think about her journey, or is she driven purely by instinct, by forces beyond her control?

Does she plan her trip? Does she fear it?

The Turk’s cap blooms are done for the year, the hummingbird gone; I hope my garden provided what she and her kind needed. Please, may she return in spring to guard next season’s blooms.

Appreciative for the gifts a garden bestows, I’m joining today with Anna and her Wednesday Vignette.   Check out her beautiful Flutter and Hum for musings of various sorts.

*The Queen video is comprised of work from visual artists worldwide, submitted to accompany the song.  It’s a fun one!*

Bloody Red

With scary Halloween just around the corner, I don’t want to alarm readers with the Bloody Red title.  Rest assured, it doesn’t indicate gory events ahead, but instead, something bright and cheery–and bloody red.

Oxblood lilies, Rhodophiala bifida, are naturalized autumn bulb beauties scattered throughout Central Texas. The plants originated from Argentina and Uruguay and were introduced to Texas by German immigrant and botanist, Peter Henry Oberwetter, who settled in Texas during the mid-1800s.  He collected plants, gardened, and bequeathed following Texas gardeners a legacy of brilliance.  Scott Ogden, in his book Garden Bulbs for the South, writes that Oberwetter made both Oxblood lilies and the Texas native Rain lilies, Cooperia pedunculata, available for the budding nursery industry.

The first fall rains which typically occur in late August and September–those soakers tasked with breaking the summer heat and drought–give permission for Oxblood’s fleshy stems to stretch up and out from the buried-in-the-soil bulbs, seemingly overnight.  In the next days buds appear, with gorgeous crimson flowers to follow.

My Oxbloods were a little late this year owing to our hellish hot and dry September, but they’ve arrived with the dribbles of October rain.  Pops of scarlet look at me! flowers are peeking out from underneath and up alongside, other plants.

The little crew in the above photo will need transplanting to another spot, or perhaps, to several spots, because they’re currently snuggled underneath a shrub that will become denser with time.  The Oxbloods will eventually be overgrown and disappear–and I don’t want that, do I?

I’ll mark the spot with a stake so that next spring I remember to dig up the bulbs and transplant them to a new place in the garden.  After the Oxblood flowers fade, green, grassy foliage replaces the blooms and stalks, and that foliage remains evergreen for winter.  At some point in spring (that I never notice until too late) the foliage disappears.  If I don’t mark the spot in the next months, by spring the foliage will have vanished and I won’t recall exactly where the bulbs are located.  Been there, done that.

Why not dig up the bulbs now?  An Oxblood truism is that it’s best not to transfer bulbs until the foliage has faded so that the plant completes its natural cycle.  That said, I have been guilty of moving Oxblood bulbs just after they bloomed.  The Oxblood world did not come to a crashing end, though I can’t remember if blooms happened the following fall.  My guess?  Probably there were no blooms until the following year. Plants whose life cycles are disrupted, sulk, and then get their revenge by refusing to bloom.

 Because I am able and I know it’s the right thing to do, I’ll be a fastidious, rule-following gardener, staking precisely and transplant appropriately.

The bloom period of individual Oxbloods isn’t long–just a few days each–but with a number of these bulbs planted throughout my gardens, the blooming is staggered over several weeks, providing a lovely splash-of-scarlet show and welcomed fall color.

Boasting of a bit of Texas (botanical) history and bloody beautiful Oxbloods, I’m joining today with Anna and her Wednesday Vignette.   Check out her beautiful Flutter and Hum for musings of various sorts.