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September 27, 2011 / philosophermouseofthehedge

Free In-flight meals! (No reservations)

No food fight here. Only time for a quick Lantana lunch. And grateful for that.

It’s taking over the yard. Dwarfing the fence and edging towards the house. That Lantana bush. Can’t do anything about it now. They’re coming. And they are all stressed out and in need.

Mother Nature sent out the signal to feathered frequent flyers that it’s time to get moving. Fall bird migrations have begun.

Arriving flocks are finding their normal reservations for in-transit accommodations have been canceled – or not in usual lush conditions. Excessive heat for months, drought, wild fires, and water sources drained to fight fires means limited landing sites for feeding and resting. Lakes are dry, creeks muddy, many normally flooded rice paddies are bone dry. Fields that have provided food and foraging during past overnight stays, are crisp and burned – by sun or fire.

The word has gone out to neighborhoods, those in wetlands, and bird sanctuary communities that the feathered travelers need extra help this year. Lowes and Home Depot are experiencing shortages of  all sizes of bird seed bags as humans respond.

Hummingbird feeders are drained in hours as the tiny aviators wing-it (interactive map) to their winter resorts. Some pause in Ragley, Louisiana (Weather channel video). Others don’t slow until reaching South Texas. Rockport, Texas’ September Hummingbird Celebration (video of yard full of humming birds) has become quite a tourist event. Texas Parks and Wildlife wants people to get involved counting visiting hummingbirds – even offering native wildflower seeds to plant to attract the little birds. But this year, yard flowers, lucky enough to have been watered during the growing season, will provide desperately needed nourishment.

The first wave, the trend setters, may have passed but our sprawling out-of-control Lantana are quivering with darting hummers.

No doubt cats all over the neighborhood are hurling themselves at windows, wild with desire and frustration. Felines sentenced to live in bird sanctuaries are never allowed to roam free outdoors. So kitties are cranky. Drool and nose smudges smear windows. Not to mention the bruised shins and ankles caused by numerous collisions as resident cat careens down the hall faster than a speeding bullet bouncing from window to window. Apparently speed over-rides the collision avoidance systems.

The Lantana knows. It’s greedily taking the Pruning Truce as an opportunity to gain more shelf space. Move over Hibiscus. Oopsie, those short heather bushes, so beloved by the honey bees. Come on, Lantana, lift your skirts just a bit and see if any of those poor little purple flowered plants are surviving under there. Sigh. I know, bees love Lantana just as much.

So I’m out-voted. Mockingbirds are stationed on the roof ridge watching. Keeping a close eye on the wildly colored blooms. Content to let the invading hummingbirds dart between flowers, they are more interested in the berries on the stalks. The Cardinal couple swoops in daily checking berry ripeness. Buzzing Yellowjackets bully their way among the leaves: not just sipping on flowers, but also stripping stalks for remodeling their nest somewhere – getting ready for winter. During quiet times, other winter visitors are silently gliding in, floating among the blooms: butterflies. Some of the Monarchs will winter here.

So Lantana, I see you boldly flipping your greenery in the breeze. Possibly well deserved as you are a tough old gal descended from a branch plucked impulsively from a gaudy free-spirited plant flourishing untended on a Galveston sand dune. Hardy native stock. Toast of the yard. And now the Whole Foods Grocery for all wild things.

Branching out,

Phil, the Philosopher of the Hedge

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