Wish I'd Said It

Weeds are flowers too - once you get to know them.

- A. A. Milne

Monday, September 06, 2010

Hummingbird Poop - Naturally. (#228)

When asked, most of us define ourselves by our occupation. At various times I've been a farm hand, garbage man, salesman, worm-picker, youth counselor, writer, clerk and manager. I'm leaving out quite a few because I don't want this thing to get too boring while we're still in the first paragraph.

Some folks define themselves by their relationships: father, mother, brother etc. I'm still a father and brother but it's not the usual answer when someone asks what you do.

"Oh, I'm a brother of five and father of two. You?"

See what I mean? Kinda awkward.

For much of the last couple years I wasn't sure how to define myself in a nice, neat, occupational manner.

Even though my book's still in print and selling reasonably well, I haven't written anything for publication in ages, so "writer" felt kind of wrong. "Retired" wasn't quite right either.

A few weeks ago, as I crept around the circumfrence of a pond trying to spot a bullfrog nearly perfectly hidden by dense weed growth, the answer occurred to me.

I'm an amateur naturalist.

(To avoid any confusion, a naturalist is one of those people who enjoys nature while still fully clothed. Unless it's really hot, when bathing attire may be called for.)

I did a little research (spelled "G-o-o-g-l-e") and found that one needn't have a science degree or even background to be a naturalist. Indeed, amateurs from Rothschild to Roosevelt have contributed greatly to the storehouse of knowledge gleaned via the study of the world around us.

All the job requires is noticing stuff. More or less. And maybe making a note or two. Suddenly, I realized why Yogi's statement about observing a lot just by watching resonated so deeply within me.

In a way, I suppose I've always been a naturalist, though I spent my first few decades specializing in fish and their habitat. Stupid me. I figured that only made me a fisherman. "Naturalist" sounds way more professional.

I've broadened my field of study now to include whatever flora and fauna happen to be in my field of view. I've quite happily spent a lot of time the last couple of years studying dragonflies, ants, tadpoles, bees, birds and other critters. I've read books, watched hundreds of hours of nature programs and visited the blogs and websites of other nature nuts.

I'm pretty darn sure my meandering and mulling isn't going to contribute much to the lore accumulated by my more distinguished peers. No matter. I ain't in it for the glory. My reward is the tiny "aha" of learning something I didn't know the day before.

For instance, while watching hummingbirds feed from our feeder at the cottage, I noticed, when the sun's angle was just so -- that hummingbird poop glistened like a tiny diamond. I noticed one male bird in particular who claimed our feeder for his own use and chased off any and all pretenders. He always fed from the same part of the feeder and I'd seen his tiny, glistening excretions several times.

After one such visitation, I decided to check the floorboards of the wooden deck which lay five feet (1 1/2 metres) below the feeder. I wanted to see what an accumulation of hummingbird poop looked like. Any naturalist worth his salt would be interested in something like that.

I squinted. I checked to see that I was indeed directly under the area where the hummingbird usually hovered. I took off my glasses and got on to my hands and knees. I rubbed my eyes and squinted harder.

Nuttin'. Nada. Not even a discoloration of the wood.

Obviously, hummingbirds are magical. Even their poop is so ethereal, it evaporates before it hits the ground.


Maybe I'll contribute some useful info to the cause after all.


Hilary said...

Enjoyable post, dear. I'm looking forward to observing more hummingbirds and other critters when we head up to the cottage again tomorrow.. naturally. ;)

Anne C. Watkins said...

Hah. You discovered the secret. Hummingbirds are magical and so is their poop. Unless it lands on your hand, as has been my experience a couple of times. Then it's warm and sticky. I really need to get out more. *sigh* Thanks for the fun read, Frank. :)

(Hi, Hilary! :) )

Bruce Robinson said...

A couple of weeks back I was wandering along a board walk in Yellowstone National Park and made the observation that, although none were in sight, bison walked freely on the fragile steaming ground over inactive volcanic sites. I observed bison poop. Photo to follow via e-mail.

Thumbelina said...

Oh welcome back Frank!
What? Huh? You're off to the cottage again?
*twitches* cottage envy

Love the book. Same easy style. Same humour. Love it. How's the tanned toes?

(Hi Hil!)

Leah J. Utas said...

Fascinating. I'd never had known this without you, Frank.

Anonymous said...

Hmmm . . . heading to the backyard to check my hummingbird feeder and patio. Thanks for the suggestion, Frank! LOL

Barrie said...

Well, I've very pleased to meet an amateur naturalist. ;)

Frank Baron said...

Thanks, Hil. I am too. :)

Glad you enjoyed, Anne. Thanks for letting me know. And thanks for that new nugget of knowledge regarding the temperature and consistency of the poop. ;)

Got the pics, Bruce. Thanks. I'm glad smell-mail hasn't been invented yet....

Thanks Thumbelina. Glad you're enjoying the book. I'll get that bookplate out to you when I get back next week. I'm only home today (was at Hil's) and it's a holiday. The PO was closed. Hope hubbie enjoys it too. Let me know. :)

Leah, I hope there's plenty more amazing observations in our futures. :)

Anon, let me know if you spot anything. Thanks for the visit. :)

Pleased to meet you too, Barrie. :)

Reb said...

I always knew they were magical, thanks for the confirmation ;)

Frank Baron said...

You're welcome, Reb. Anytime. :)

Off to the cottage now for a few days. Will reply to any further comments when I get back. TTFN!

Skunkfeathers said...

Careful, Frank...you've pointed out something that the government has tried to keep under wraps.

Your revelation could -- along with information that hummingbird poop is amongst the most fertile in the civilized world -- create a demand and supply crisis.

And with that, the government is surely to move with all the speed that they're wont to exhibit, and place hummingbird poop on the Federal Endangered Feces List...

*ducking boos and throwd hummingbird poop*

Dianne said...

I think you come by the title of 'naturalist' quite naturally

I love the notion of ethereal poop

it would also make a fantastic band name

making their network debut tonight on Letterman - Ethereal Poop!

Grayquill said...

I am not sure this is going to be a compliment or not but I chuckled as I read your post. Thinking of you on your knees looking for minature poops gabe the chuckle. I headed south to write this commnet and on the way read Dianne's comment - that sent me into a belly laugh. Sorry!
Here's an idea, hang a white sheet under your bird feeder maybe 12 inches below. I bet you will then find a soiled sheet. Maybe you will even discover them to be bed wetters. It is just a thought, I am not claiming it to be a good thought.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for checking. You just saved me from being seen by the neighbors (or worse, by my family!) on all fours.
"What are you doing?"
"Searching for hummingbird poop. I'm told it's rather luminous."

Pauline said...

well, if you have to be an amateur professional at something, knowing about hummingbird poop is right up there on the list.

and if you have to get pooped doing something, searching for luminous, ethereal poop sounds about right.

MisterBastard said...

Frank said "Obviously, hummingbirds are magical. Even their poop is so ethereal, it evaporates before it hits the ground."

MisterBastard understands this to mean that hummingbirds hum because they can't carry a turd?

*awkward silence*

Tune! MisterBastard meant to type tune!


Bhaswati said...

Naturalist or not, you sure have a natural gift for putting smiles on people's faces as they read your posts. That makes you a natural writer, for sure. Wonderful post, and it reaffirms my faith in the marvels of nature. Thanks, Frank.

Frank Baron said...

Skunky, good job you ducked. (But I admit to snickering.)

Dianne, now it's only a matter of time.... ;)

GQ, if you chuckled while reading, that's definitely a compliment in my books.

You're welcome, kc. Maybe "Sparing others from embarrassment" should be my slogan. ;)

Yep, Pauline. There's plenty worse ways to spend one's time. I'm enjoying myself. :)

Ha, MrBastard! That was pretty good. :)

Bhaswati, you just made my day. Thanks. :)

And thanks all, for the visits and kind comments. :)

Dianne said...

just stopped back to tell you how close to home your comment on Hope's video is - I often ask her if she's had her coffee yet! ;)

Zuzana said...

Thoroughly enjoyed this post, found by Hilary's recommendations - congratulations on POTW.;)
I think I might borrow that *professional term* and use it on myself at times, if you allow me that privilege.;))
Enjoy your last days at the cottage,

Sueann said...

Just stopped by from Hilary's and congratulations are in order!! Woot! Woot! Wonderful post and you definitely put a big smile on my face. And I have to agree with you. Hummingbirds are magical beings! And to find out that even their poop is jewel-toned is fascinating for sure. Thanks!

Cheryl Kohan said...

What a fun read this is! It never even occurred to me that hummingbirds poop at all. I guess it took a "naturalist" to bring that bit of knowledge to the fore. So thanks, Frank! And congrats on your well deserved POTW designation, by the way.

Anonymous said...

I just knew it! Watched them from my window when living in Mexico.

POTW? I should say so.

Anonymous said...

Wonderful post! The tale of magical diamond-like hummingbird poop certainly brought a smile to my face!

Daryl said...

I think now that you've let the poop out of the .. I knew that wasnt going to work but sometimes when .. anyway its a wonderful post and if I ever do find some magical hummingbird poop I promise to photograph it for you!

She Who Carries Camera said...

So, now when I look up at a hummingbird I no longer have to worry about being splattered, or if by chance I do, I'll just call it twinkling fairy dust and figure I've been anointed "hummingbird princess"!

Finally, I know who Frank is! It's all coming together now. Nice to meet you, Frank!

Frank Baron said...

Too funny, Dianne! :)

Thanks, Zuzana and by all means, feel free to "borrow" the term.

Thanks SueAnn, you're very kind.

Thank you too, Cheryl. :)

Thanks, Moannie.

Glad you enjoyed, ladyfi. Thanks for letting me know. :)

Daryl, I'd love to see it. And thanks for the kind words.

Nice to meet you too, Jillsy. Thanks for the visit :)

christopher said...

Great POTW.

And forget the 'amateur' in your title. Anyone with the passion, patience and prose to make hummingbird poop interesting is a 'Naturalist' indeed.

Frank Baron said...

Why thank you, Christopher. You strike me as wise, handsome, intelligent and keenly perceptive. ;)

CIN&BUD said...

Like your blog! My husband is a amateur at writing for our gold prospecting blog and our son is a amateur at photography for our videos and pictures.

Joanna Jenkins said...

Stopping over from Hilary's to say congratulations on the POTW.

We have tons of hummingbirds in our area-- I'll be looking at them with a different eye from now on.

Cheers, jj

Land of shimp said...

The details of the world around us are absolutely astounding. Just how intricate everything is, and the fluid quality that angle of perception can provide.

Nice reminder of that, Frank, and congratulations, I'm here via Hilary's and thought this a really nice, thoughtful post.

Hey, I thought of you about two weeks ago, which may strike you as odd as I don't know you. True, but I know Hilary, and one of the first posts I remember from her had to do with various small creatures of the world. Something which automatically endeared her to me, as my husband loves all the tiny little workings and critters of the world. She mentioned dragonflies, I think I probably mentioned something about how there is a theory that dragonflies may have been the inspiration for faeries in folklore. Makes sense, right?

And she also had a little video, taken by you, I believe, of a wounded bug of some sort -- grasshopper, possibly something else -- anyway you were both marveling and discussing this. I thought it was a pretty neat thing that two people who would see that, notice it, concentrate on it, had found each other in this big world.

Well, the reason I thought of you (and obviously Hilary)? I was reading a book, under a tree on chaise lounge by the pool and a dragonfly came over and perched on the edge of the page, then flew away...and returned, three more times. Each time I sat staring at his/her wings, and found it unsurprising that dragonflies are so often depicted in stained glass.

Amateur Naturalist, and one of the people who teaches those around them to see more in a world, I'd say.

Anonymous said...

I wish our rottweiler's poop was a bit more ethereal.

Congratulations on being the POTW over at The Smitten Image!


Kappa no He said...

If it had been me, I'd have been down there examining when I would have felt something cold, wet, and vaguely sparkly running down the back of my neck. I just know it.

Frank Baron said...

Hi Cindy and Buddy. Thanks for the visit. :)

Thanks, Joanna. :)

Godblessya, Shimp, for that thoughtful comment. In fact, the critter that Hil and I were operating on WAS a dragonfly. Its wings were stuck together. Yes, dragonflies are often associated with faeries. It's not a stretch (well, for me at least) to see them as magical creatures. If I was you, I'd consider those visits to you and your book as something of a blessing. Thanks again for the visit and kind words. :)

LOL Snappy Di. I had a much-loved Rottie and remember well those very un-ethereal logs. ;)

Ha Terrie! Thanks for the grin. :)

Thanks to all for taking the time to read and write.

Unknown said...

finallly , at long last , made my way here, Frank
congrats on the POTW from your Hilary.

nice to "meet " you ... and I'll be reading lots of your posts to get to "know" you a bit.

naturalist , I like that.

maybe that's what I can call myself , well a beginner one. I can aspire to be one.

Frank Baron said...

Hiya Deb. Nice to meet you too. Help yourself to the title. I did. ;)