For the last hour, on a warm, still day, as the daylight dims at 8:15, I’ve been watching the lives of the Ruby Throated Hummingbirds with sheer delight as they flit like emerald fairies between the tree outside my upstairs window, and the hummingbird feeder placed strategically below.
There must be at least a dozen: Plump males with their full red gorget that flashes fiery red when they turn their heads toward the setting sun; dainty females with their white front and emerald backs; and juveniles which are smaller and thinner in size, and which try to evade the territorial male from guarding the birdfeeder, to sneak in for a long, satisfying lick.
I have never paid much attention to the tree before, except that it casts needed shade near my kitchen door. The mess of its florettes is evident when they fall to the ground, as are its leaves when the fall approaches. As the florettes are a similar color to the leaves, I had not paid much attention. A showy tree, it is not. Useful, it is!
This afternoon, I became aware of the excited chittering of the birds as they danced back and forth around the feeder and up into the tree, to hover at every possible angle, feeding at the yellowy-green florettes which remind me of long thick hairy caterpillars, or alternately, of yellowy-green kitten’s tails! The hummers have been VERY busy feeding from the individual tiny flowers which collectively make up the long florettes. They alternated between the tree, also attended by what look like bumble bees from this distance, and the hummingbird feeder, zipping up and down and darting around to avoid the territorial male gorging himself on the sugar water, happily supplied by me.
A boat-tailed Grackle alighted on the wall. It stepped into the birdbath placed to the side and below the hummingbird feeder. The hummers retreated to the safety of the leaves of the tree. The Grackle hopped down to the path, which was strewn with wild bird seed. It greedily gobbled up as many seeds as it could in a short time, hopped up to the birdbath, had a few sips of water, lifting its head up to the sky each time it allowed the water to slide down its throat, carefully scanning for other predators. As soon as the Grackle noisily flew off, the hummers returned to continue their dance.
I watched in silent fascination and appreciation for over an hour. With a pang of memory, I remembered the previous season, when my husband, now departed, had learned to watch with me. He would stand on the doorstep, smoking his cigarette, when hummers would zip around the corner, hover in midair in front of his face as though challenging him, and then alight on the feeder for a long drink, glancing at him now and then.
Not only are the hummers in abundance this May, but a pair of ladder-backed woodpeckers have taken up their abode in a tree on the other side of this apartment. That tree has lavender florettes, gracing the canopy like a crown on the head of a queen. The hummingbirds zip and hide and hover and lick at those flowers with glee, while the woodpeckers chirp below, in their long conversation with one another, as they look for insects and grubs upon which to feed.
What wonders the world has to offer if we only stop to look and remain still and silent in appreciation of the beauty of God’s creation, and in the 18 minutes it has taken me to write this piece, the sky has darkened, and the birds have found a place to rest until the break of day!