Backyard Theater – Scene One
Living in Florida is one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. I moved from New York State in the late 1980s. There is a fair amount of nature to enjoy in every state, but Florida offers unique ecosystems in every region. I currently live on the nature coast of Florida, which is comprised of three counties; Citrus, Hernando, and Pasco.
I live in Citrus County in a small town. The road I live on has a small lake called Lake Nina. Its former name was Hog Pond. There were, and still are, the occasional wild boar wandering the wooded areas of Citrus County. So many birds and animals make their way through our backyard for a brief visit. I think it is because we make them comfortable and provide food. I hope you enjoy the show as much as I do.
SCENE ONE – SPRING
Heidi and Henry:
Three years ago, my mom mentioned she wished to attract some hummingbirds to our yard. So I set out researching the best feeder to use. When I found the perfect feeder, aptly named the HummZinger, I ordered it. To my surprise, while waiting for the feeder to arrive, I saw her. A female ruby-throated hummingbird was hovering around a flower bush in our backyard. We have a ruby-throated pair that visits from March to September every year. I have named them Heidi and Henry.
Henry has the ruby-colored throat as all males of that species do. Heidi’s distinctive characteristics are her deep green back with the soft fading cream to her chest and underside. I was fortunate to have the feeder mounted near my bedroom window that faces the backyard. My computer desk sits to the right of that window.
Every March, I have my window open to hear the song of renewal from the many birds that inhabit the woods and lake. I anxiously wait for the hummingbirds to migrate back to Florida. Henry is always the first to arrive. This year, he came back on March 1st.
Imagine my excitement when I heard the familiar hum of rapidly flapping wings outside my window. I knew Heidi was not far behind. She arrived a couple of weeks later. Heidi spends more time at the feeder than Henry. She visits several times per hour, while Henry shows mainly in the early morning and later in the evening. When the humming couple arrives, I know that spring is finally here. They make sitting at my computer to write a more enjoyable task.
Some interesting facts about my visiting friends are that they don’t only feed on flower nectar and sugar water. They also eat small insects and spiders. One day, I watched Heidi chasing a little bug and hovering in mid-air to snatch the bug and eat it. It was a masterful, aerodynamic dance.
Learn about the Ruby-throated hummingbird.
Momma and Papa Cardinal:
To attract more birds to our yard, we decided to put a songbird feeder near the tree line that borders our back yard. We often saw a male and female cardinal in our front and back yards. It took a couple of weeks for them to realize that the feeder was a constant food source. Papa cardinal was the first to inspect it. I could hear Momma cardinal in a nearby tree singing, and then she flew and landed on the ground below the feeder.
Watching them interact at the feeder brought both joy and astonishment. Papa cardinal would take a large seed and drop it to the ground for Momma cardinal. This behavior went on for a couple of minutes until Momma joined her partner on the feeder. I later learned that I had witnessed a mating ritual. The male will often feed the female during courtship. I am quite flattered that they included me. The cardinals’ favorite seed is the sunflower seeds we include in the mixture.
Learn more about the Northern Cardinal.
The One AM Turtle:
The lake across the street offers an excellent place for many species of water birds and turtles. Our yard seems to be the crossover for nesting turtles. Every year, in late winter or early spring, several turtles make their way from the lake and through our backyard to the woods to lay their eggs. One year, one of those turtles decided to make our backyard her nesting site. She dug a hole along the fence that separates our lot and the neighbor’s lot.
Due to rising theft concerns in our ever-growing neighborhood, we decided it was time to put up a fence. Not only was our yard a crossover for turtles, but it had also become one for the thieves. Of course, we worried about the turtles and vowed to help them cross when we saw the need.
Then, one night in the middle of February, I heard a strange sound. It sounded like someone was scraping metal. It was about 11 PM, and I had stayed up late to watch TV. I heard the strange sound off and on until just before 1 AM. I peeked out my bedroom window and was shocked to see two turtles squeezing underneath the fence. My heart broke.
The sound I heard was the fence scraping the turtles as they dug and squeezed beneath the fence. Then, finally, one turtle decided to go around a different way back to the lake, but the other one made its way into our backyard.
Not only did we fence in our backyard, but we put two gates on either side of our house, leading to the front yard. I knew she wouldn’t be able to get underneath the gate, so I put my shoes on and went outside to help. I made my way to the side of the house, and there she was, pacing back and forth, trying to figure out a way through.
Finally, I opened the gate, and she raised her long beautiful neck to take a good look at me. She sat there for ten minutes until she decided I was not a danger. I watched this majestic and gentle creature make her way across the front yard, then the road, and into the moonlit woods. It would take her a while to make her way back to the lake. Even so, this was a yearly trek for her, and she knew what she was doing.
Scene Two – Summer will post next month.