Saturday, August 27, 2011

A Story About a Few Hummingbirds

This is a female Broad-Billed Hummingbird who built a nest and laid eggs by our living room window this summer. Predictably, we watched her a lot and took photos. We noticed when she disappeared.

You can see the chick's beak and head emerging from the nest here.

I was hanging out in the hammock near the nest when I realized that the chick was chirping incessantly. We had some friends over for dinner and we sat at the table out front. After dinner I noticed that the chick was still chirping and the mother was still nowhere to be seen. I googled it and found an article claiming that if a chick chirps incessantly it's starving and needs first aide immediately. I gave it some sugar water with a dropper. The chick settled down.

Our dinner guests excused themselves (they had a baby bird issue at home, too!) and I went back to Google. After seeing the chick and mother every day, watching her harvest spider webs for the nest that started out as a weird little tuft stuck on a vine... after all that, I didn't want to see the chick die. But who would help me? It was a Sunday night. If I can even get a hold of anyone, they will say it's the process of natural selection: baby birds die all the time.

But I care. I posted a photo of the tiny thing on facebook and somehow it got the name "Chuck." (I misspelled "chick" and then it stuck).

I found a Tucson wildlife rescue online. There was a phone number--and someone answered. I explained my predicament and the person gave me Noreen's number. (There was an awkward moment when her husband answered the phone and I was like Is Doreen there? And he was like Who? and I was like this guy wonders who the crazy is calling his wife this late on a Sunday. "Doreen" tuned out to be Noreen Geyer-Kordosky, founder and director of Tucson Mountain Hummingbird Rescue.) First she asked me if the thing was definitely alive, since I had given it sugar water with a regular dropper. (Sugar water can be lethal to the hatchlings and feeding them from a regular dropper can drown them; they take sustenance through the gullet and it gathers in the crop. The dropper needs to have a type of extension.) Noreen also explained that when the chicks go from hatchlings to fledglings, the mother doesn't sit on the nest anymore. She just comes for quick feedings periodically. She explained that for me to know for sure if the nest was abandoned, I had to watch tomorrow morning at peak feeding time (5:00 a.m.) for an hour and a half without blinking. (She was only kind of kidding.) If I didn't see the mother, then she was really gone. In that case, Noreen would come pick up the fledgling.

I was so pleasantly surprised that Noreen had actually volunteered to pick up Chuck. This is one of the reasons why I'm going to miss Tucson. There are people who care here. They even care about a tiny little bird I thought and it made my heart warm.

I googled the issue some more and found that hundreds of baby hummers in the U.S. are "rescued" unnecessarily by nest audience members. In other words, my case exactly: a closely I mean closely watched nest.

I got up at five the next morning and curled up in my hammock. I had the phone in my hand. I watched the nest and the until an hour and a half had gone by. There was plenty of bird activity, but no sign of mom.

I called Noreen at 6:30 on the spot. (She had told me she'd be up.) Finally I was free of the hammock and more importantly, free to brew coffee.

It was great to meet Noreen in person. She showed me a tiny worm-like hatchling she had picked up that morning. She had rescued 60 hummers since January--a number a bit up from normal. Wow, that many other people care about baby hummingbirds? Noreen told me Chuck's outlook was good and she could release it back here when it's ready and did I want to sponsor a feeder?

Of course I volunteered to sponsor (maintain) a feeder for Chuck. I anxiously awaited the day I would see the wee bird again. But weeks went by and I didn't want to call Noreen because I didn't want to hear bad news. She must not be calling because it went bad.

This is Chuck as a hatchling and the egg that never hatched.

One day Noreen called, and she was very honest, bless her. She had forgotten that I had volunteered to sponsor Chuck; she recovered fully and was re-released. Chuck was (of course) a female. And there had been another egg in the nest I had hadn't seen. It never hatched.

But would I like to sponsor a feeder for another female Broad-Billed who was ready to be released? Yes! I was just happy just to hear Chuck was fine!

The next day Noreen brought a skinny little hummingbird in a mesh "carrier" (pictured below). She had a branch in there to perch on and she showed me quite a skilled hover. I took some pictures while Noreen unzipped the carrier. It took the bird a second to realize it was open, then she hovered out carefully and perched for a moment on an orange tree branch. Assertively, she shot up into the sky, so high that she became a microscopic spot my eye could no longer follow. They do that, said Noreen. You may see her again but she may go somewhere else. She's free.

I can't say that I've seen/recognized the released hummingbird around, but I've been maintaining a clean feeder and it has been getting a lot of action. (Don't let black mold get in there! It can soften hummer beaks!) I moved the feeder closer to the window where I work. The other day I saw a hummer just hover squarely in front of the window, as if looking at me behind my computer.

Sometimes I think Chuck's mom built her nest where we could see it because she knew she wasn't going to make it. She made us Chuck's godparents. That maybe sounds cheesy but I kinda believe it.


Feeders can make a difference for hummingbird survival, especially during the dry season when nothing is blooming.

Use 4 parts water and 1 part sugar. You don't need red food coloring. In fact, it may be harmful to hummers over the long run.

Clean the feeder regularly by flushing with warm water and scrubbing the inside with a toothbrush.

Once a month clean the feeder with a weak Chlorox solution.

Never let the feeder grow black mold as this can be very harmful to the birds.

If you are having a real hummingbird emergency, contact Noreen at 520-743-0677 or 520-240-2686. If for some reason she is unreachable, call The Wildlife Rehabilitation in Northwest Tucson Center at 520-743-0217 .

Saturday, May 07, 2011

At The Loft: Super

SUPER: Movie Trailer. Watch more top selected videos about: Kevin Bacon, Nathan Fillion

Being that the only two posts of 2011 thus far have both come on the heels of tragedy, in a sense, I think it's time to lighten things up a bit.

Tonight we went to see Super at The Loft.

It's a little weird because it borrows from a few different genres, making it feel at times like a movie that doesn't know what it wants to be.

The excessively graphic violence is congruous with the comic book genre, for example, but perhaps the more tender, human moments make scenes where heads get bashed in or blown apart even harder to stomach. (For more relevant theorization on the topic of violence in film read "Masculinity as Excess in Vietnam Films" by Susan Jeffords.)

I was hoping the presence of Ellen Page (playing the side-kick) was an indicator that the film does something beyond typical Hollywood gender roles, (I'm thinking about Hard Candy) but...meh, not so much. The side kick is just that, a side kick. In this case Page's character, Libby, is played like an overly enthusiastic junior antihero-cum-sacrificial lamb. Liv Tyler plays a whore of circumstance who needs saving. Pretty predictable female roles.

What I do like, however, is that the film has some "heart," if you will. Frank, (played by Rainn Wilson of The Office fame), starts out as someone who can only recall two perfect moments in his life. By the end of the film things have not gone the way he wanted, but he gains something precious: he has collected an arsenal of perfect moments. He represents them in naive-style drawings but we aren't compelled to belittle them. Instead, we are brought to acknowledge that this really is the magic stuff of life: any chance we have to share and connect with others, a scene as quotidian (and moving) as a moment of affection between a person and their pet rabbit.

Having seen this movie shortly after, Megamind, I have to wonder if the antihero is on the rise. I'd like to believe films like these are a sign of how collectively tired we are of oversimplified "bad guy/good guy" constructions in current-day dominant media representations related to war situations in which the United States is currently embroiled. I mean, I'd like to believe that.

Thursday, May 05, 2011

Tucson Unified School District Board Meeting 5/3

This is a photo from The Arizona Daily Star taken at Tuesday night's Tucson Unified School District Board Meeting. For detailed reporting on what transpired, read this Tucson Weekly report.

The person standing in the blue shirt is a a good friend of mine. A Ph.D. student and a gentle, non-violent guy. This is a photo of him being brutalized by the police. These are his words: "Yeah, we're fine. The cop seems to have had a good strategy. The first thing he did was smack me in the face and almost break my glasses. My automatic reaction was to try to pick them up off the ground, which made me break the chain... not to mention... that he was standing me up by my hair!"

There was no official warning to disperse. The cops just started right in with their violence.

Meanwhile, Tucson Police Chief Roberto Villasenor has stated that "No one was dragged, no one was pushed or forced, no injuries of any kind."

At the beginning of the meeting board president Mark Stegeman said the police were there for student safety, but obviously they were there to intimidate and control the opposition. They didn't protect anyone. What really happened was they arrested students, the parents of students and brutalized students. (There is an Abuse Clinic being held this Friday. It's urgent that we attend.)

Here is footage of the first arrest.

There were 100 police there, many in riot gear.
There were also motorcycles, paddy wagons, patrol cars, a trailer and a dog unit. I also have footage of a police helicopter that flew over several times. THIS WAS A SCHOOL DISTRICT BOARD MEETING. As I looked around at the display of force, I had to ask myself "Where am I? I thought we were in the United States, you know, land of the free?"

Not to mention, given the state's financial crisis I'd like to know how much all that so-called security cost.

I don't care what you think about Ethnic Studies. I'm not even going to touch Ethnic Studies. This is a post about the sanctity of PROCESS.

The students and their parents want to have their voices heard. They want their opinion to be counted in regard to the fate of a program that means so much to them, (regardless of what it means to anyone else.)

The students are the ones who are the most effected by this issue, and ironically they are also the most powerless in this process. Too young to vote, how else can they have a chance to be heard, especially when board president Mark Stegeman has orchestrated a perfect situation in which he doesn't have to listen?

Open meeting law states: “All meetings of any public body shall be public meetings and all persons so desiring shall be permitted to attend and listen to the deliberations and proceedings.” Less than half of the 500 people who showed up were allowed inside the boardroom. It was a terribly inappropriate venue, and what they should have done was re-schedule and re-locate the meeting as soon as that became evident. Instead, the meeting was dragged on for four hours so that by the time Stegeman started pointing out people to be arrested, much of the crowd was gone. Also, it was conveniently more difficult to record the police brutality outside under the cover of dark.

The mountains of data that were trotted out during the meeting were just a stalling technique. Stegeman had packed slides of data on what the programs cost, but when asked what percentage of the student population is Hispanic, for example, he didn't know. (It's 60% by the way!)

If he gets to drone on and on about data without making a point, then shouldn't everyone who wants to speak get whatever amount of time they want? If Open Meeting Law is not clear enough about this, then it needs to be changed.

Tom Horne says ethnic studies promotes ethnic chauvinism, but what I saw on Tuesday was essentially people of color and their sympathizers silenced and forced into obedience by white people through brutal police force. Let's not pretend we live in a post racial society.

Saturday, January 08, 2011

Fuerza, Gabby!

Today is sad, sad day for Tucson and for Arizona. Andrew and I were returning from the supermarket when we heard the news from a friend. We drove by the hospital where she is on the way home. Our prayers are with her and all the victims of this terrible attack.