Akkana's Musings on Open Source Computing and Technology, Science, and Nature.
Thu, 03 Sep 2015
I've been enjoying reading my new Kobo Touch quite a lot. The screen
is crisp, clear and quite a bit whiter than my old Nook;
the form factor is great, it's reasonably responsive (though there
are a few places on the screen where I have to tap harder than other
places to get it to turn the page), and I'm happy with the choice of fonts.
But as I mentioned in my
previous Kobo article,
there were a few tweaks I wanted to make; and I was very happy with how
easy it was to tweak, compared to the Nook. Here's how.
Mount the Kobo
When you plug the Kobo in to USB, it automatically shows up as a
USB-Storage device once you tap "Connect" on the Kobo -- or as two
storage devices, if you have an SD card inserted.
Like the Nook, the Kobo's storage devices show up without partitions.
For instance, on Linux, they might be /dev/sdb and /dev/sdc, rather
than /dev/sdb1 and /dev/sdc1. That means they also don't present UUIDs
until after they're already mounted, so it's hard to make an entry for
them in /etc/fstab if you're the sort of dinosaur (like I am) who prefers
that to automounters.
Instead, you can use the entry in /dev/disk/by-id.
So fstab entries, if you're inclined to make them, might look like:
/dev/disk/by-id/usb-Kobo_eReader-3.16.0_N905K138254971:0 /kobo vfat user,noauto,exec,fmask=133,shortname=lower 0 0
/dev/disk/by-id/usb-Kobo_eReader-3.16.0_N905K138254971:1 /kobosd vfat user,noauto,exec,fmask=133,shortname=lower 0 0
One other complication, for me, was that the Kobo is one of a few
devices that don't work through my USB2 powered hub. Initially I
thought the Kobo wasn't working, until I tried a cable plugged
directly into my computer. I have no idea what controls which devices
work through the hub and which ones don't.
(The Kobo also doesn't give any indication when it's plugged in to a
wall charger, nor does
The sqlite database
Once the Kobo is mouted,
ls -a will show a directory
named .kobo. That's where all the good stuff is:
in particular, KoboReader.sqlite, the device's database,
and Kobo/Kobo eReader.conf, a human-readable configuration file.
Browse through Kobo/Kobo eReader.conf for your own amusement,
but the remainder of this article will be about KoboReader.sqlite.
I hadn't used sqlite before, and I'm certainly no SQL expert. But a
little web searching and experimentation taught me what I needed to know.
First, make a local copy of KoboReader.sqlite, so you don't risk
overwriting something important during your experimentation.
The Kobo is apparently good at regenerating data it needs, but
you might lose information on books you're reading.
To explore the database manually, run:
Some useful queries
Here are some useful sqlite commands, which you can generalize to
whatever you want to search for on your own Kobo. Every query (not .tables)
must end with a semicolon.
Show all tables in the database:
The most important ones, at least to me, are content (all your books),
Shelf (a list of your shelves/collections), and ShelfContent
(the table that assigns books to shelves).
Show all column names in a table:
There are a lot of columns in content
, so try
to see a much simpler table.
Show the names of all your shelves/collections:
SELECT Name FROM Shelf;
Show everything in a table:
SELECT * FROM Shelf;
Show all books assigned to shelves, and which shelves they're on:
SELECT ShelfName,ContentId FROM ShelfContent;
ContentId can be a URL to a sideloaded book, like
, or a UUID like
de98dbf6-e798-4de2-91fc-4be2723d952f for books from the Kobo store.
Show all books you have installed:
SELECT Title,Attribution,ContentID FROM content WHERE BookTitle is null ORDER BY Title;
One peculiarity of Kobo's database: each book has lots of entries,
apparently one for each chapter. The entries for chapters have the
chapter name as Title, and the book title as BookTitle. The entry
for the book as a whole has BookTitle empty, and the book title as Title.
For example, I have file:///mnt/sd/earnest.epub
sqlite> SELECT Title,BookTitle from content WHERE ContentID LIKE "%hamlet%";
HAMLET, PRINCE OF DENMARK|Hamlet
Scene II. Elsinore. A room of state in the Castle.|Hamlet
Scene III. A room in Polonius's house.|Hamlet
Scene IV. The platform.|Hamlet
Scene V. A more remote part of the Castle.|Hamlet
[ ... and so on ... ]
Scene II. A hall in the Castle.|Hamlet
Each of these entries has Title set to the name of the chapter (an act
in the play) and BookTitle set to Hamlet
, except for the final
entry, which has Title set to Hamlet
and BookTitle set to nothing.
That's why you need that query WHERE BookTitle is null
just want a list of your books.
Show all books by an author:
SELECT Title,Attribution,ContentID FROM content WHERE BookTitle is null
AND Attribution LIKE "%twain%" ORDER BY Title;
is where the author's name goes. LIKE %% searches
are case insensitive.
Of course, it's a lot handier to have a program that knows these queries
so you don't have to type them in every time (especially since the sqlite3
app has no history or proper command-line editing).
But this has gotten long enough, so I'll write about that separately.
[ 19:11 Sep 03, 2015
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Wed, 26 Aug 2015
For several years I've kept a rooted Nook Touch for reading ebooks.
But recently it's become tough to use. Newer epub books no longer work
work on any version of FBReader still available for the Nook's ancient
Android 2.1, and the Nook's built-in reader has some fatal flaws: most
notably that there's no way to browse books by subject tag, and it's
painfully slow to navigate a library of 250 books when have to start
from the As and you need to get to T paging slowly
forward 6 books at a time.
The Kobo Touch
But with my Nook unusable, I borrowed Dave's Kobo Touch to see how
it compared. I like the hardware: same screen size as the Nook, but a
little brighter and sharper, with a smaller bezel around it, and
a spring-loaded power button in a place where it won't get pressed
accidentally when it's packed in a suitcase -- the Nook was always
coming on while in its case, and I didn't find out until I pulled it
out to read before bed and discovered the battery was too low.
The Kobo worked quite nicely as a reader, though it had a few of the
same problems as the Nook. They both insist on justifying both left
and right margins (Kobo has a preference for that, but it doesn't work
in any book I tried). More important is the lack of subject tags. The
Kobo has a "Shelves" option, called "Collections" in some versions,
but adding books to shelves manually is tedious if you have a lot of
books. (But see below.)
It also shared another Nook problem: it shows overall progress in the
book, but not how far you are from the next chapter break. There's
a choice to show either book progress or chapter progress,
but not both; and chapter progress only works for books in Kobo's
special "kepub" format (I'll write separately about that).
I miss FBReader's progress bar that shows both book and chapter progress,
and I can't fathom why that's not considered a necessary feature for
But mostly, Kobo's reader was better than the Nook's.
Bookmarks weren't perfect, but they basically worked, and I
didn't even have to spent half an hour reading the manual to use them
(like I did with the Nook). The font selection was great, and the
library navigation had one great advantage over the Nook: a slider
so you could go from A to T quickly.
I liked the Kobo a lot, and promptly ordered one of my own.
It's not all perfect
There were a few disadvantages. Although the Kobo had a lot more
granularity in its line spacing and margin settings, the smallest
settings were still a lot less tight than I wanted. The Nook only
offered a few settings but the smallest setting was pretty good.
Also, the Kobo can only see books at the top level of its microSD
card. No subdirectories, which means that I can't use a program like
rsync to keep the Kobo in sync with my ebooks directory on my computer.
Not that big a deal, just a minor annoyance.
More important was the subject tagging, which is really needed in
a big library. It was pretty clear Shelves/Collections were what I
needed; but how could I get all my books into shelves without
laboriously adding them all one by one on a slow e-ink screen?
It turns out Kobo's architecture makes it pretty easy to fix these problems.
While the rooted Nook community has been stagnant for years --
it was a cute proof of concept that, in the end, no one cared about
enough to try to maintain it -- Kobo readers are a lot easier to
hack, and there's a thriving
community on MobileReads which has been trading tips and patches
over the years -- apparently with Kobo's blessing.
The biggest key to Kobo's customizability is that you can mount it as
a USB storage device, and one of the files that exposes is the
device's database (an sqlite file). That means that well supported
programs like Calibre can update shelves/collections on a Kobo, access
its book list, and other nifty tricks; and if you want more, you can
write your own scripts, or even access the database by hand.
I'll write separately about some Python scripts I've written to
display the database and add books to shelves, and I'll just say here
that the process was remarkably straightforward and much easier than
I usually expect when learning to access a new device.
There's lots of other customizing you can do.
There are ways of installing alternative readers on the Kobo, or installing
Python so you can write your own reader. I expected to want that,
but so far the built-in reader seems good enough.
You can also patch the OS. Kobo updates are distributed as tarballs of
binaries, and there's a very well designed, documented and supported
(by users, not by Kobo) patching script distributed on MobileReads for
each new Kobo release. I applied a few patches and was impressed by
how easy it was. And now I have tight line spacing and margins, a
slightly changed page number display at the bottom of the screen
(still only chapter or book, not both), and a search that defaults to
my local book collection rather than the Kobo store.
Stores and DRM
Oh, about the Kobo store. I haven't tried it yet, so I can't report
on that. From what I read, it's pretty good as e-bookstores go,
and a lot of Nook and Sony users apparently prefer to buy from Kobo.
But like most e-bookstores, the Kobo store uses DRM, which makes
it a pain (and is why I probably won't be using it much).
They use Adobe's DRM, and at least Adobe's Digital Editions app works
in Wine under Linux. Amazon's app no longer does, and in case you're
wondering why I didn't consider a Kindle, that's part of it.
Amazon has a bad reputation for
removing rights to previously purchased ebooks
(as well as for spying on their customers' reading habits),
and I've experienced it personally more than once.
Not only can I no longer use the Kindle app under Wine, but Amazon no
longer lets me re-download the few Kindle books I've purchased in the
past. I remember when my mother used to use the Kindle app on Android
regularly; every few weeks all her books would disappear and she'd
have to get on the phone again to Amazon to beg to have them back.
It just isn't worth the hassle. Besides, Kindles can't read public
library books (those are mostly EPUBs with Adobe DRM); and a Kindle
would require converting my whole EPUB library to MOBI. I don't see
any up side, and a lot of down side.
The Adobe scheme used by Kobo and Nook is better, but I still plan to
avoid books with DRM as much as possible. It's not the stores' fault,
and I hope Kobo does well, because they look like a good company.
It's the publishers who insist on DRM. We can only hope that some day
they come to their senses, like music publishers finally did with MP3
versus DRMed music. A few publishers have dropped DRM already, and if
we readers avoid buying DRMed ebooks, maybe the message will
eventually get through.
[ 17:04 Aug 26, 2015
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Thu, 20 Aug 2015
Three years ago I wanted a way to manage tags on e-books in a
without having to maintain a Calibre database and fire up the
Calibre GUI app every time I wanted to check a book's tags.
I couldn't find anything, nor did I find any relevant Python
libraries, so I reverse engineered the (simple, XML-bsaed)
EPUB format and wrote a
script to show or modify epub tags.
I've been using that script ever since. It's great for Project
Gutenberg books, which tend to be overloaded with tags that I don't
find very useful for categorizing books
("United States -- Social life and customs -- 20th century -- Fiction")
but lacking in tags that I would find useful ("History", "Science Fiction",
But it wasn't easy to include it in other programs. For the last week
or so I've been fiddling with a Kobo ebook reader, and I wanted to
write programs that could read epub and also speak Kobo-ese. (I'll
write separately about the joys of Kobo hacking. It's really a neat
So I've factored my epubtag script into a usable Python module, so
as well as being a standalone program for viewing epub book data,
it's easy to use from other programs. It's available on GitHub:
parse EPUB metadata and view or change subject tags.
[ 20:27 Aug 20, 2015
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Sun, 09 Aug 2015
This evening Dave and I spent quite a while clearing out amaranth (pigweed)
that's been growing up near the house.
We'd been wondering about it for quite some time. It's quite an
attractive plant when small, with pretty patterns on its leaves
that remind me of some of the decorative houseplants we used to
try to grow when I was a kid.
I've been working on an Invasive Plants page for the nature center,
partly as a way to figure out myself which plants we need to pull
and which are okay. For instance, Russian thistle (tumbleweed) --
everybody knows what it looks like when it's a dried-up tumbleweed,
but by then it's too late, scattering its seeds all over.
Besides, it's covered with spikes by then.
The trick is to recognize and pull it when it's young, and the
same is true of a lot of invasives, especially the ones with spiky
seeds that stick to you, like stickseed and caltrops (goatheads).
A couple of the nature center experts have been sending me lists of
invasive plants I should be sure to include, and one of them was
a plant called redroot pigweed. I'd never heard of it, so I looked
it up -- and it looked an awful lot like our mystery plant. A
little more web searching on Amaranthus images eventually
led me to Palmer's amaranth, which turns out to be aggressive and
highly competitive, with sticky seeds.
Unfortunately the pretty little plants had had a month to grow by the
time we realized the problem, and some of them had trunks an inch and
a half across, so we had to go after them with a machete and a hand axe.
But we got most of them cleared.
As we returned from dumping the last load of pigweed, a little after
8 pm, the light was fading, and we were greeted by a bat making rounds
between our patio and the area outside the den. I stopped what I was
doing and watched, entranced, as the bat darted into the dark den
area then back out, followed a slalom course through the junipers,
buzzed past my head and the out to make a sweep across the patio ...
then back, around the tight corner and back to the den, over and over.
I stood watching for twenty minutes, with the bat sometimes passing
within a foot of my head. (yay, bat -- eat some of these little
gnats that keep whining by my ears and eyes!) It flew with spectacular
maneuverability and grace, unsurpassed by anything save perhaps a
hummingbird, changing direction constantly but always smoothly.
I was reminded of the way a sea lion darts around underwater while
it's hunting, except the bat is so much smaller, able to turn in so
little space ... and of course maneuvering in the air, and in the
dark, makes it all the more impressive.
I couldn't hear the bat's calls at all. Years ago, waiting for dusk at
star parties on Fremont Peak, I used to hear the bats clearly. Are the
bats here higher pitched than those California bats? Or am I just
losing high frequencies as I get older? Maybe a combination of both.
Finally, a second bat, a little smaller than the first, appeared over
the patio and both bats disappeared into the junipers. Of course I
couldn't see either one well enough to tell whether the second bat
was smaller because it was a different species, or a different gender
of the same species. In Myotis bats, apparently the females
are significantly larger than the males, so perhaps my first bat
was a female Myotis and the male came to join her.
The two bats didn't reappear, and I reluctantly came inside.
Where are they roosting? In the trees? Or is it possible that one of
them is using my bluebird house? I'm not going to check and risk disturbing
anyone who might be roosting there.
I don't know if it's the
little brown bat I saw last week on the front porch, but it seems
like a reasonable guess.
I've wondered how many bats there are flying around here, and how late
they fly. I see them at dusk, but of course there's no reason to think
they stop at dusk just because we're no longer able to see them.
Perhaps I'll find out:
I ordered parts for an Arduino-driven bat detector a few weeks ago,
and they've been sitting on my desk waiting for me to find time to
solder them together. I hope I find the time before summer ends
and the bats fly off wherever they go in winter.
[ 21:47 Aug 09, 2015
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Thu, 30 Jul 2015
It's been a good week for unusual wildlife.
We got a surprise a few nights ago when flipping the porch light on
to take the trash out: a bat was clinging to the wall just outside
the front door.
It was tiny, and very calm -- so motionless we feared it was dead.
(I took advantage of this to run inside and grab the camera.)
It didn't move at all while we were there. The trash mission
accomplished, we turned out the light and left the bat alone.
Happily, it wasn't ill or dead: it was gone a few hours later.
We see bats fairly regularly flying back and forth across the
patio early on summer evenings -- insects are apparently attracted
to the light visible through the windows from inside, and the bats
follow the insects. But this was the first close look I'd had at a
stationary bat, and my first chance to photograph one.
I'm not completely sure what sort of bat it is: almost certainly
some species of Myotis (mouse-eared bats), and most likely
M. yumanensis, the "little brown bat". It's hard to be sure,
though, as there are at least six species of Myotis known in the area.
We've had several woodrats recently try to set up house near the house or
the engine compartment of our Rav4, so we've been setting traps regularly.
Though woodrats are usually nocturnal, we caught one in broad daylight as
it explored the area around our garden pond.
But the small patio outside the den seems to be a particular draw for
them, maybe because it has a wooden deck with a nice dark space under it
for a rat to hide. We have one who's been leaving offerings -- pine
cones, twigs, leaves -- just outside the door (and less charming rat
droppings nearby), so one night Dave set three traps all on that deck.
I heard one trap clank shut in the middle of the night, but when
I checked in the morning, two traps were sprung without any occupants
and the third was still open.
But later that morning, I heard rattling from outside the door.
Sure enough, the third trap was occupied and the occupant was darting
between one end and the other, trying to get out. I told Dave we'd
caught the rat, and we prepared to drive it out to the parkland where
we've been releasing them.
And then I picked up the trap, looked in -- and discovered it was a
pretty funny looking woodrat. With a furry tail and stripes.
A chipmunk! We've been so envious of the folks who live out on the
canyon rim and are overloaded with chipmunks ... this is only the
second time we've seen here, and now it's probably too spooked to
We released it near the woodpile, but it ran off away from the house.
Our only hope for its return is that it remembers the nice peanut
butter snack it got here.
Later that day, we were on our way out the door, late for a meeting,
when I spotted a small lizard in the den. (How did it get in?)
Fast and lithe and purple-tailed, it skittered under the sofa as soon
as it saw us heading its way.
But the den is a small room and the lizard had nowhere to go. After
upending the sofa and moving a couple of tables, we cornered it by the
door, and I was able to trap it in my hands without any damage to its tail.
When I let it go on the rocks outside, it calmed down
immediately, giving me time to run for the camera.
Its gorgeous purple tail doesn't show very well, but at least the photo
was good enough to identify it as a juvenile Great Plains skink.
The adults look more like Jabba the Hut
nothing like the lovely little juvenile we saw.
We actually saw an adult this spring (outside), when we were clearing
out a thick weed patch and disturbed a skink from its hibernation.
And how did this poor lizard get saddled with a scientfic
name of Eumeces obsoletus?
[ 11:07 Jul 30, 2015
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Sun, 26 Jul 2015
I've had no end of trouble with my Asus 1015E's trackpad.
A discussion of laptops on a mailing list -- in particular, someone's
concerns that the nifty-looking Dell XPS 13, which is available preloaded
with Linux, has had reviewers say that the trackpad doesn't work well --
reminded me that I'd never posted my final solution.
The Asus's trackpad has two problems. First, it's super sensitive to
taps, so if any part of my hand gets anywhere near the trackpad while
I'm typing, suddenly it sees a mouse click at some random point on the
screen, and instead of typing into an emacs window suddenly I find I'm
typing into a live IRC client. Or, worse, instead of typing my
password into a password field, I'm typing it into IRC.
That wouldn't have been so bad on the old style of trackpad, where I
could just turn off taps altogether and use the hardware buttons; this
is one of those new-style trackpads that doesn't have any actual buttons.
Second, two-finger taps don't work. Three-finger taps work just fine,
but two-finger taps: well, I found when I wanted a right-click (which
is what two-fingers was set up to do), I had to go TAP, TAP, TAP, TAP
maybe ten or fifteen times before one of them would finally take.
But by the time the menu came up, of course, I'd done another tap
and that canceled the menu and I had to start over. Infuriating!
I struggled for many months with synclient's settings for tap
sensitivity and right and left click emulation. I tried enabling
syndaemon, which is supposed to disable clicks as long as you're
typing then enable them again afterward, and spent months playing
with its settings, but in order to get it to work at all, I had to
set the timeout so long that there was an infuriating wait after I
stopped typing before I could do anything.
I was on the verge of giving up on the Asus and going back to
my Dell Latitude 2120, which had an excellent trackpad (with buttons)
and the world's greatest 10" laptop keyboard. (What the Dell doesn't
have is battery life, and I really hated to give up the Asus's light
weight and 8-hour battery life.) As a final, desperate option, I
decided to disable taps completely.
Disable taps? Then how do you do a mouse click?
I theorized, with all Linux's flexibility, there must be some way to
get function keys to work like mouse buttons. And indeed there is.
The easiest way seemed to be to use xmodmap (strange to find xmodmap
being the simplest anything, but there you go). It turns out that a
simple line like
xmodmap -e "keysym F1 = Pointer_Button1"
is most of what you need. But to make it work, you need to enable
But for reasons unknown, mouse keys will expire after some set timeout
unless you explicitly tell it not to. Do that like this:
xkbset exp =m
Once that's all set up, you can disable single-finger taps with synclient:
Of course, you can disable 2-finger and 3-finger taps by setting them
to 0 as well. I don't generally find them a problem (they don't work
reliably, but they don't fire on their own either), so I left them enabled.
I tried it and it worked beautifully for left click. Since I was still
having trouble with that two-finger tap for right click, I put that on
a function key too, and added middle click while I was at it. I don't
use function keys much, so devoting three function keys to mouse
buttons wasn't really a problem.
In fact, it worked so well that I decided it would be handy to have
an additional set of mouse keys over on the other side of the keyboard,
to make it easy to do mouse clicks with either hand. So I defined
F1, F2 and F3 as one set of mouse buttons, and F10, F11 and F12 as another.
And yes, this all probably sounds nutty as heck. But it really is a
nice laptop aside from the trackpad from hell; and although I thought
Fn-key mouse buttons would be highly inconvenient, it took surprisingly
little time to get used to them.
So this is what I ended up putting in .config/openbox/autostart file.
I wrap it in a test for hostname, since I like to be able to use the
same configuration file on multiple machines, but I don't need this
hack on any machine but the Asus.
if [ $(hostname) == iridum ]; then
synclient TapButton1=0 TapButton2=3 TapButton3=2 HorizEdgeScroll=1
xmodmap -e "keysym F1 = Pointer_Button1"
xmodmap -e "keysym F2 = Pointer_Button2"
xmodmap -e "keysym F3 = Pointer_Button3"
xmodmap -e "keysym F10 = Pointer_Button1"
xmodmap -e "keysym F11 = Pointer_Button2"
xmodmap -e "keysym F12 = Pointer_Button3"
xkbset exp =m
synclient TapButton1=1 TapButton2=3 TapButton3=2 HorizEdgeScroll=1
[ 20:54 Jul 26, 2015
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Sun, 19 Jul 2015
I'm sure I'm not the only one who's forever trying to plug in a USB cable
only to find it upside down. And then I flip it and try it the other
way, and that doesn't work either, so I go back to the first side,
until I finally get it plugged in, because there's no easy way to
tell visually which way the plug is supposed to go.
It's true of nearly all of the umpteen variants of USB plug: almost
all of them differ only subtly from the top side to the bottom.
And to "fix" this, USB cables are built so that they have subtly raised
indentations which, if you hold them to the light just right so you can
see the shadows, say "USB" or have the little USB trident on the top side:
In an art store a few weeks ago, Dave had a good idea.
He bought a white paint marker, and we've used it to paint the logo side
of all our USB cables.
Tape the cables down on the desk -- so they don't flop around while
the paint is drying -- and apply a few dabs of white paint to the logo
area of each connector. If you're careful you might be able to fill in
the lowered part so the raised USB symbol stays black; or to paint only
the raised USB part. I tried that on a few cables, but after the fifth
or so cable I stopped worrying about whether I was ending up with a
pretty USB symbol and just started dabbing paint wherever was handy.
The paint really does make a big difference. It's much easier now to
plug in USB cables, especially micro USB, and I never go through that
"flip it over several times" dance any more.
[ 20:37 Jul 19, 2015
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Tue, 14 Jul 2015
After months of at most one hummingbird at the feeders every 15 minutes
or so, yesterday afternoon the hummingbirds here all suddenly went
crazy. Since then, my patio looks like a tiny Battle of Britain,
There are at least four males involved in the fighting, plus a couple
of females who sneak in to steal a sip whenever the principals retreat
for a moment.
I posted that to the local birding list and someone came up with a
better comparison: "it looks like a Quidditch game on the back porch".
Perfect! And someone else compared the hummer guarding the feeder to
"an avid fan at Wimbledon", referring to the way his head keeps
flicking back and forth between the two feeders under his control.
Last year I never saw anything like this. There was a week or so at
the very end of summer where I'd occasionally see three hummingbirds
contending at the very end of the day for their bedtime snack, but
no more than that. I think putting out more feeders has a lot to do
All the dogfighting (or quidditch) is amazing to watch, and to listen
to. But I have to wonder how
these little guys manage to survive when they spend all their time
helicoptering after each other and no time actually eating. Not to
mention the way the males chase females away from the food when the
females need to be taking care of chicks.
I know there's a rufous hummingbird (shown above) and a broad-tailed
hummingbird -- the broad-tailed makes a whistling sound with his wings
as he dives in for the attack. I know there a black-chinned hummer
around because I saw his characteristic tail-waggle as he used the
feeder outside the nook a few days before the real combat started.
But I didn't realize until I checked my photos this morning that one
of the combatants is a calliope hummingbird. They're usually the
latest to arrive, and the rarest. I hadn't realized we had any
calliopes yet this year, so I was very happy to see the male's throat
streamers when I looked at the photo. So all four of the
species we'd normally expect to see here in northern New Mexico
I've always envied places that have a row of feeders and dozens of
hummingbirds all vying for position. But I would put out two
feeders and never see them both occupied at once -- one male always
keeps an eye on both feeders and drives away all competitors, including
females -- so putting out a third feeder seemed pointless. But late
last year I decided to try something new: put out more feeders, but
make sure some of them are around the corner hidden from the main
feeders. Then one tyrant can't watch them all, and other hummers
can establish a beachhead.
It seems to be working: at least, we have a lot more activity so far
than last year, even though I never seem to see any hummers at the
fourth feeder, hidden up near the bedroom. Maybe I need to move that one;
and I just bought a fifth, so I'll try putting that somewhere on the other
side of the house and see how it affects the feeders on the patio.
I still don't have dozens of hummingbirds like some places have
(the Sopaipilla Factory restaurant in Pojoaque is the best place I've
seen around here to watch hummingbirds). But I'm making progress
[ 12:45 Jul 14, 2015
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