Around Town: Springtime calls to mind the cycle of life

The pine tree we planted has grown tall. The cones tumble down, full of sap. Hummingbirds nest in the branches. The mama birds dive bomb when I walk by. They want to attack me, divert me and protect their young.

Down the hill, dozens of hummingbirds live in a scrub oak. The males are brightly colored and iridescent. Their feathers glisten in the sun. The female hummingbirds are less colorful.

I feel guilty that I don’t know their names. City dwellers traipse out to Descanso Gardens to “go birding.” They carry binoculars, cameras and iPhones to record their findings. Lots of effort, while I live uneducated, in the middle of nature, surrounded by wildlife. Hundreds of birds. I don’t know their names.

One birder asked permission to set up a video camera at our house. We agreed. Year after year, he filmed the hawks, monitored the same nests, and recorded the young as they hatched and learned to fly. It was very educational. One year, the hawks swooped down to attack the meat on our barbecue. That’s when we decide to keep the Cat inside the house. The Cat probably knows the names of the birds. He watches them from the windows.

As for this year’s crop of hummingbirds, I feel guilty. Are they Anna’s hummingbirds? Are they Allen’s hummingbirds, which have been seen in this region? I don’t know. Who was Anna? Who was Allen? Why are birds named after them? I don’t know.

The males are brightly colored. The dull-looking females try to attack me. Now that we have a relationship, I should know their names, genus, species, mating rituals and food preferences.

Thanks to the Proper, I can name 10 kinds of gin. I know the names of heirloom tomatoes, sushi, Supreme Court justices and state capitals. Why not birds?

Gin doesn’t fly around our house. There’s no fish pond, either. The birds are right here, free, free-flying and ubiquitous. I should know more.

Apparently, the Allen's hummingbird breeds in coastal California and southern Oregon. Anna’s hummingbirds are more common, but they are tiny, the size of a Ping-Pong ball. I think the attack birds are Allen’s hummingbirds, which have been spotted at Descanso Gardens.

We need a feeder with red syrup and a high-speed camera.

Meanwhile, the mountain lion is thankfully gone. One large coyote appears at dawn and dusk. A bobcat comes and goes. At night, the owl. In the daytime, there are the hawks and lots of rabbits.

Spring is here. The tomatoes are growing. The beautiful Foothills. It’s hard to leave for work in the morning.


On April 13, Miss Audrey Hepburn, a black Lab rescue dog from the Pasadena Humane Society, the star of Bark 4 Life and the subject of innumerable Around Town columns, left Foothill Boulevard for greener pastures. Hopefully she's with her original human companion, the late 2LT Andrew Torres, USMC. There are many hummingbirds and many hawks, but only one Miss Audrey Hepburn.


ANITA SUSAN BRENNER is a longtime La Cañada Flintridge resident and an attorney with Law Offices of Torres and Brenner in Pasadena. Email her at and follow her on Twitter @anitabrenner.

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