(This is part of The Hidden Life of the Hideous Tree, a nine-part series about discovering nature in my front yard. View previous installments here. The entire project is also available with additional images as an e-book.)
I first noticed the tapping when I was concentrating on a hummingbird flitting around our flowering currants. They are plants that I brought to the property. They have a history in my family.
It begins with a plant originally owned by my grandmother. She passed a start to my mother, who gave me a start when my wife and I bought our house. It has flourished into a lush shrub that wraps around our front porch.
Hummingbirds love it. Its bright pink flowers shine like a beacon, summoning them to feed. And once a hummingbird discovers that it’s a source of food, it becomes a regular stop on the bird’s daily route.
That’s how I ended up standing in the doorway at 4:30 in the afternoon. It was early spring so the sun was just over my right shoulder. The angle of the light added a touch of contrast, but not so much that it would overwhelm my camera’s ability to capture it. The hummingbird arrived moments later.
My telephoto lens is almost like a telescope, requiring extremely careful coordination to follow the tiny bird as it zigged and zagged through the flowers, pausing for just a few seconds at each to slurp up nectar. It was exhausting trying to keep up with the action and I missed more shots than I got, but I got a precious few.
After a few minutes, we would both need to catch our breath. The hummingbird temporarily retreated to the top of a nearby tree. I leaned up against the house.
That’s when I heard it.
Tap. Tap. Tap.
The sound was coming from the elm.
(The Hidden Life of the Hideous Tree is available as an ebook. Follow Kevin Ebi's photography on Facebook or Instagram. Prints of his images are available through LivingWilderness.com.)