Our "Man" Hank

Friday, December 11, 2009

Say Hello to Hank. Hank's our "man." If Hank can't do it, nobody can.

Hank -- as in "Hank the Hummer," aka, "Hank the Hummingbird," aka, "Hank the Tank." This is the only feathered creature in the backyard that our four hunter-killer cats will run in terror from -- and for good reason.

Hank means bidness. He's not just any Hummer. He's a mean one. He makes the Grinch look warm and fuzzy. And "Hank" has made himself a permanent part of the Bird Backyard -- thanks in part to the well stocked backyard bar that features a full-sized and never-empty Hummingbird Feeder.

Nope -- Hank has it good in the Back 40. Better yet -- our fine feathered friend knows it.

He's right at home as far as our presence in the yard is concerned. In fact -- Hank will be the first to greet any human or four-legged creature that wanders into the yard. You can always locate him from from his distinctive "tick-tick-tick" chirp as he boldly greets just about any visitor.

Research tells me that Hank is a common Black-chinned Hummingbird -- with one major difference. Hank forgot to fly south for the winter and appears intent upon hanging around the bird-feeder -- rain, shine or deep freeze. I do worry about him somewhat because he appears to be all alone -- but those fears may be unfounded.

Hummingbirds are just part of the Sacramento Gardening lifestyle. The more garden you have -- the more hummingbirds you have. And Hank appears to be right at home.

He certainly isn't camera shy -- that much I can tell you. Hank will let me walk to within inches of his pointy beak and snap away with the digital camera. He seems to understand that I have invested in the cheapest digital camera known to mankind -- and also understands it takes at least 10-15 shots to get one decent photograph.

No matter. Hank the Hummingbird is one cool customer.

Although most of our cats couldn't catch a bird unless it flew directly into their mouths -- we are blessed to have at least one birder in the bunch. Precious means business with the unfortunate sparrows who get too close to the ground. She got two of them last week alone unfortunately.

But our little Precious has met her match it seems in Hank the Hummingbird. First of all -- Hank can spot even the most ingenious of disguises -- confounding that cat's best efforts. He thinks nothing about zipping by that little lady's head -- knowing she's always going to be two seconds too slow with the outstretched claw.

And should Precious make the mistake of getting a tad too close to Hank's Hummingbird feeder -- she is routinely dive-bombed and harassed until she makes a beeline back into the safety of the house.

Hank means bidness. He is the Tweety Bird response to her best Sylvester routine. Better yet -- he's the source of the best backyard entertainment any gardener could ever witness.

I do worry about him though. I know his nest is probably close by -- but since most trees in the neighborhood are still very small -- no matter where Hank builds -- he's in danger from predators like Precious. My fear is he's made his home in one of the many rosebushes around the backyard -- rosebushes that will be pruned back later this winter. Or he just might be located in a tangle of tomato bushes that I haven't torn out yet (hey! It's cold out there!).

I've always been a fan of hummingbirds in the yard. Mom had a feeder in our Modesto backyard for ages -- but the true hummingbird show came from my oldest sister -- Debbie. Deb's feeder -- hung near the back porch of her Kings Canyon National Park home -- wouldn't attract just one or two hummingbirds.

Nope -- Deb's feeder attracted a certifiable army. Better yet -- you could hear them coming from a mile away once she put the feeder out. If you were brave enough -- and calm enough -- you could stand right next to that feeder with thirty to forty hummingbirds whizzing and clicking past your head and one or two just might land on your shoulder.

We don't have that kind of show yet in our North Natomas backyard. But -- like other efforts -- it's a "work in progress." Hank likes it sure enough. Let's hope a few more friends move on in.

Precious is waiting.