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Saturday, July 9, 2011

Change of Pace

After rising with the sun this morning, I headed for my favorite patch of fireweed at a Seattle area park.  I had been anxious to visit the patch since a single fireweed plant in my backyard opened its first pink blossoms almost two weeks ago.  The fireweed patch is beautiful in its own right, but it is more than just the flower that lures me back year after year.  The fireweed acts as a stage, on and above which a great drama plays out.  Darting among the green leaves and pink blossoms are flashes of green, white, black and reddish-brown, occasionally punctuated with flashes of brilliant red iridescence.  The whole area is literally abuzz with activity, and at times I can become dizzy trying to keep track of it all.

The main players on the fireweed stage are juvenile Anna’s and Rufous Hummingbirds.  Occasionally an adult will pop up in the mix, but for the most part the area is dominated by rowdy youngsters vying for totally supremacy of the best blossoms in the patch.  There are constant dive-bombings followed by erratic chases.  The buzzing and trilling of wings fills the air.  One moment a long curved bill is inserted into a flower, the next moment it is being used like a rapier in a fencing match.  I occasionally try to capture the activity through the lens of my camera, but mostly I just stand and take it all in with my senses.  As I stood in the patch this morning, watching the spectacular aerial ballet above me, my eye was suddenly drawn to unexpected movement at a much lower altitude.  I looked down among the slender-leaved stems of the fireweed plants and found that a less frenetic, but no less interesting player had just arrived on the stage.

A Pacific Chorus Frog was working his way through the fireweed patch, presumably in search of a meal.  The fireweed leaves were just strong enough to bear his weight, though they still bent considerably under the load.  The frog was traversing the plants mostly by walking, but I am quite sure it was his landing after a jump that had caused the initial movement that drew my attention.  Having just been immersed in the high-speed world of the hummingbirds above, I found the slow, deliberate movements of the frog almost hypnotic.  For several moments I forgot about everything else and focused my full attention on the fascinating, sticky-toed hunter.  

My trance was broken as two battling mini-birds buzzed by within a foot of my face.  Their fight continued as they rounded a snowberry bush and disappeared from view.  Three more birds buzzed by in quick succession, and for several minutes I was drawn back into the air around and just above the blossoms at the top of the fireweed plants.  By the time my mind turned back to the unassuming amphibian making his way through the lower leaves, he was nowhere to be found.  No movement in the plants betrayed his direction of travel.  Wherever he was off to, I felt extremely fortunate to have spent even a short time in his presence.