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The Holler Spa~


I love The Holler Spa! First of all, they have an all you can eat buffet which I take full advantage of!

You get to swim in the spa pools, for as long as you want!

Few things feel better than being well fed and well bathed.

I especially like soaking my tail, it needs the extra moisture.

I could also use a manicure, but they don’t offer that here, which is a significant demerit.

But, there is nothing quite like a sunny day at The Holler Spa!

Unfortunately, they let the riff-raff in, like this very pushy thrasher.

The even more really-rude-roadrunner, thinks he belongs on the owner’s table!

The snobby goldfinch is so annoying. She is over prized by the owners, only because she scarcely ever bothers to show up here!
It’s a good spa, but the management could use some improvement.
Cheers to you from The Holler spa~

Castle Rapture~


Near Haut-Koenigsbourg in France is a castle called Kintzheim that houses only raptors.

These are bateleur eagles that I photographed in the wild in Africa and never expected to see again in France!

Of course you recognize these beauties, who I also never expected to see in France.

The castle runs a program called “La Volerie des Aigles,” which is dedicated to breeding, conserving and educating the public about vulnerable raptors. Birds are flown daily, and are an unusual sight soaring over the old towns and orderly fields of France. The castle has bred many endangered raptor species including Andean condors, and stellar, imperial and white-tailed eagles, and many other species, including vultures.

The white-headed vulture is endemic to Africa. Populations have been declining steeply in recent years due to habitat degradation and poisoning. Our planet needs vultures, they are designed to keep our world clean.

The cinereous vulture has an impressive wing-span of 10 feet. It is under serious threat. There are only an estimated 4,500-5000 of these amazing birds left in the wild.


The golden eagle is distributed across Eurasia, North America, and parts of North Africa, but has been eliminated from much of it’s prior habitats.

Harry Potter’s snowy owls are here too!
The public can visit the castle for a nominal fee which not only supports the raptor conservation program, but also provides an up close experience with these incredible birds which will, unless your heart is made of stone, cause you to become enraptured by them.
Admission also enables you to explore the quite impressive old castle ruins.


Cheers to you from Castle Kintzheim’s gorgeous and threatened raptors~

Hummingbirds~


I can’t believe I finally got a photo of a hummingbird’s forked tongue! I have never captured the fork at the end of the tongue because it typically springs open once a hummer inserts her tongue in a flower. But here it is, for us to see!

We have somewhere around 70 or more hummers at The Holler now, so we are getting lots of very bright color. Hummers flash their colors at will, sometimes as warnings when sparring. This guy was caught at dusk, flashing away to keep intruders at bay.


Once a year, at peak swarm, I feed the hummers by hand. I only do it once, for about an hour because I don’t want the hummers to become tame, thinking all humans can be trusted, because unfortunately, as we all know, some humans should not be trusted.
By the way, the white dust you see on this hummer’s beak is pollen.


I saw this photo that went viral awhile ago, where a woman was photographed, with a hummingbird drinking nectar out of her mouth. People loved it, but it bothered me. Did the photographer consider how tiny and wild hummingbirds are? Did he consider how easily this woman’s viral and bacterial load could kill hummingbirds? Did they think about how taming a wild hummingbird, for a photo, through nectar offering, and then withholding, might lead a migrating hummingbird to harm at the hands of humans?

Garden nectar feeder stations have brought seriously declining hummingbird populations back to healthy numbers. Handled responsibly, garden feeders are important for hummingbird population survival. But taming wild birds that migrate, to perform tricks, isn’t helping hummingbird survival.


Taking these photos is very difficult. I have a tripod, but don’t ever use it. Why have a stationary camera in a moving world? Wild animals don’t find this interesting. So, I hold the feeder with my left hand and take the photo with my right. After about 10 minutes this starts to hurt!


Thankfully my son volunteered to hold the feeder.

The Holler hummers do know us and have learned to trust us, many of them were born here. As mentioned a few stay year round and others return annually. Wherever they stay when they migrate south for the winter, they survive and thrive. Maybe they hang out in a garden in Central America where a bird lover keeps their feeders going and the hummers happy!


Cheers to you from the incredible, wild, and much-loved, Holler Hummers~

The Holler’s Posh Summer Residents~


Just like all the best tony places, The Holler, while decidedly non-tony, has flashy summer residents, who live here only in the summer, and move on to their more expensively-agreeable tropical homes in the winter.
Grosbeak

But, unlike some snobby humans who move from their summer to winter homes, irregardless of whether the locals actually want them in either place, these summer residents are welcomed and appreciated by all The Holler locals….. meaning my small family.
(Please note the use of the word irregardless. My husband is adamant irregardless is not a word, but I, obviously, am disregarding this.)


The flashy-folks arrival at The Holler creates celebration, fascination, lots of, “What is this bird?” types of conversations. San Diego county and its rural environs, have more bird species than any other place in the continental US.
Hooded Oriole

I say, “Did you see? I think the first oriole has arrived?”
I was late in putting out the oriole feeders this season, due to being away on a trip, and I was worried the orioles would see this as irresponsibility on my part, which of course it was, and decide not to bless us with their summer presence. Thankfully they have decided to hang around!


My husband says, “I just saw another bird. It was big and black, has a mohawk and red eyes. What is this bird?”
Or, “I saw this new bird, it’s really yellow, not big, and has brown patches on it’s back and white spots. What is it?”


My son asks, “What is it with the hummingbirds? Why do they buzz around my face every time I walk outside? Don’t they know this could be dangerous for them with humans?”
This query is prompted because he hangs the oriole feeders for me which I can’t reach, but he can, because he’s very tall, and the hummers just surround his head while he does this. He repeats, while hanging the feeder, and trying to see through the buzzing hummer hordes surrounding his head, “Why are they doing this?”
I say, “It is because you are hanging the feeder a bit slowly, and the hummers really think you should hold it steady and straight for them NOW, so they can feed from the feeder directly, while you stand still and hold it there for them. They apparently think this is the sole purpose of your life.”
The hummers aren’t even supposed to be drinking from the oriole feeders since they have their own feeders, but hummers don’t listen to reason.
Western Scrub Jay


It is a bird summer resort here at The Holler. Birds sense, over time, who they need to fear, or can trust, much like like humans do, but birds, for good reason, are far better at this type of calculus then we humans are. Check out this little mowhawked finch-fledgling for example. He has a nest in a custom made bird box by our front door, where we come and go all the time. I have a visceral sense to not photograph wild bird nests because it can be terrifying and life disrupting for them if I get too close. But I gave in and decided to photograph this guy very carefully. And you can see the results. The fledgling, looked at me with pure baby-bird annoyance, but then, ignored me, and went back to sleep, while I took more photos.
Fledgling House Finch


I do think it is very nice of the wild birds to allow us to live in their Holler and be their personal servants and food and treat providers.
Cheers to you from The Holler wild birds who have learned that some humans are real suckers, but they can be trusted~

Egyptian Quackers in Germany~


Is there anything more winsome than newly hatched Egyptian goslings?

Mama is quite a beauty too!

Germany has a wonderful selection of exotic birds swimming in their lakes and rivers.

Egyptian Geese originated in the Nile Valley and Africa, and were considered sacred by the Ancient Egyptians who first domesticated them.

People bought these geese as ornamental birds and many escaped, establishing feral colonies all over Western Europe.

I saw these beauties swimming in The Neckar River in Heidelberg during my April trip.

Cheers to you from The Holler, and from the hopefully, still-happily paddling geese in Germany~

Hummer’s Mean Home: Part I (Perching)~


Coming home means hanging out with the hummers.

I don’t worry about them when I’m gone.

I just miss them.

My husband, the actual-factual, logical-biostatistician, said incredulously, “They fly up to me like they missed me.”

He’s not used to thinking like this,


but he can’t help noticing such obvious birdy behavior.

Speaking of birdy behavior, we are having a problem this year.

The snoozing little capitalist you see above is dominating two quart-sized feeders and relentlessly attacking and driving all hummers off who try to feed. He spends more time hoarding nectar than feeding and snoozes all the time because he’s exhausted from all his effort. Of course he can’t even begin to drink this much nectar!

You can see him perched on the wire above the feeder, waiting to attack any bird that dares to drink! We have three feeders now spaced far apart to control him, one in a bush that is impossible for him to monitor, but when I shut one of “his” feeders down, he goes to dominate another. We have never had such a greedy little guy and he reigns unchallenged. I hope he’s not learning this behavior from watching humans! 😉


Cheers to you from the harmonious Holler Hummers….(and the one little greedy guy)~

Hummer’s Mean Home: Part II (Flying)~


If you read Part I, you know about the greedy little capitalist. Above is one of his victims with a feather askew from a direct hit!

Here is another escaping his wrath.

The good news is, moving one of the greedy guy’s feeders into the bushes worked, and he is now under control.

Birds are feeding and flying freely once again at The Holler.


We now have three feeders up and about twenty birds actively feeding. This is less than prior years, probably because the persistent drought has ended, and The Holler and all the surrounding orchards are abloom with flowers, giving the hummers lots of dining options.

The orioles and Grosbeaks are here at the feeders too, also in smaller numbers for the same reason.

So once again, peace and harmony reigns at The Holler!


Cheers to you from The Holler’s Harmonious Hummers~