Under surveillance

common yellowthroat

Another cool, dry morning. Ee-oh-lay, the wood thrushes intone. Ee-oh-lay. Witchedy witchedy witchedy! answers the always upbeat common yellowthroat. Somewhere out of sight over the valley (well, with the trees leafed out, almost everything is out of sight now) a helicopter begins circling. That deep whup whup whup, growing nearer then farther, drowning out the more distant birds, provokes a kind of nervous reaction, and the next thing I know I’m over in the herb garden pulling weeds.

Who or what are they searching for, I wonder? One night two months ago, at around 10:00 p.m., a helicopter circled the farm with a searchlight for close to fiteen minutes. My brother was just starting down the hollow toward his car, which was parked at the bottom. He said he had to duck behind a tree to avoid the helicopter’s searchlight. When he got home, he called up the local police station to ask who was missing. Nobody, they said. Did they have any idea why a helicopter would be searching Plummer’s Hollow? No, they didn’t.

I say “weeds,” but most of what I pull is grass. It’s kind of an anti-lawn. If you let the grass go, it can crowd out the dandelions and gill-over-the-ground if you’re not careful. Just as I was finishing, about twenty minutes later, I noticed the helicopter sound fading into the distance. Or maybe it was the other way around: my compulsion to pull weeds faded with the ‘copter sound. At any rate, moments after I went inside, a male ruby-throated hummingbird zoomed in to the coral bells next to the walk.

I wouldn’t have thought anything further about it, except that the same thing happened this afternoon, too: I pulled a few weeds, went inside, and a few seconds later a hummingbird zoomed in to check out my work. I think I’m being watched.

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Dave Bonta (bio) crowd-sources his problems by following his gut, which he shares with 100 trillion of his closest microbial friends — a close-knit, symbiotic community comprising several thousand species of bacteria, fungi, and protozoa. In a similarly collaborative fashion, all of Dave’s writing is available for reuse and creative remix under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License. For attribution in printed material, his name (Dave Bonta) will suffice, but for web use, please link back to the original. Contact him for permission to waive the “share alike” provision (e.g. for use in a conventionally copyrighted work).


  1. Maybe he’s saying, “Hijole!” Mexican bird?

    I saw hummingbirds on a median strip last night when I was sitting at a light on the way home from work. I was surprised – I guess there was some tasty weed growing there. Um, not grass “weeds.”


  2. Well, wood thrushes do spend more time in southern Mexico and Central America (range map here) than they do in Gringolandia, so maybe they are singing in Spanish – or in one of the Mayan languages. (The bird in the photo is a yellowthroat, though. I’m getting lazy and putting in mouse-over text instead of captions these days.)


  3. Helicopters, hummingbirds — it’s all that disconcerting hovering.


  4. I hate helicopters, love hummingbirds, and would love to believe that the former are only scouting on behalf of the latter.


  5. Annoyed when surveillance choppers go around new places i go


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