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Red Bird of Paradise (Caesalpinia pulcherrima)

My wife, Susie, and I enjoyed nine years of living within the expansive yet intimate embrace of Shumway Ranch. T e wraparound deck of the Caretaker’s Cottage aff orded views to the north down across rocky ramparts to the desert valley below while the south side nestled tight against the pinyon/ juniper clad lower fl anks of Asbestos Mountain. T e Ranch, a part of T e Living Desert’s holdings, is 640 acres of bouldered elfi n forest perched on a bench at 4,000 ft. elev. in the Santa Rosa Mountains.

We reveled in the solitude that only two miles of narrow, rutted, dirt road and a locked gate can provide and for the most part enjoyed our relationships with the local inhabitants (pack rats taking up residence in engine compartments and skunks “saying hello” outside the bedroom window would be notable exceptions). One of our dogs Jake, who rarely deemed anything worth speaking about, never failed to alert us to the presence of rattlesnakes with a distinctive voice reserved for just such occasions. We spent many days on the deck and learned who hung around and who came and went with the seasons. We looked forward with anticipation to the spring migration that would bring Lazuli buntings, green-tailed towhees, western tanagers and a wide assortment of warblers to our “garden”. Most of all we looked forward to the seasonal


buildup in the number of hummingbirds from the occasional whir of a lone winter holdout to the buzzing crescendo of hundreds of Anna’s and Costa’s hummingbirds that would peak in August.

Stepping out onto the deck during daylight hours in August would put you in the midst of such a barrage of aerial assaults and dogfi ghts as to make the Red Baron proud. Audacious, iridescent pixies pulling up short and hovering inches from your face as if to say, “Excuse me pal, you’re in my way”. T is squadron of perpetual motion was fueled by a gallon of high octane fuel (25% sugar water) placed in eight or more feeders each day. T e frenetic action continued unabated during the day as territories and/or feeders were either defended or relinquished. Dusk and dawn each brought a brokered truce as these vital tank-up times were honored and all ports on all feeders would be occupied with additional birds perched to the side waiting their turn.

Playing host to hummingbirds by hanging feeders takes an unwavering commitment. In the desert’s summer heat Susie changed and cleaned feeders every day to prevent mold from developing. She decided that Best-1 Hummingbird Feeders were indeed the best simply because they were easiest to keep clean.

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