Outside my cabin window is a never-ending drama of aggression and cooperation, virtuoso aerobatics and petty bickering. But I asked for it. I put the hummingbird feeder up at the cabin last week, and within minutes seven or eight of them started fighting for a perch.
It’s amazing that I get any work done. These broad-tailed hummingbirds almost never stop moving. Even when they are perched on the feeder, they are agitated, waiting for another bird to attack and push them out of the feeder. Sometimes, two males will perch across from each other, but even as they are drinking from the sugar water, they are constantly checking each other, fluttering their wings and rearing back, as if they might need to leave suddenly or attack the other one. So much nervous energy; I feel it myself, want to do something, get moving.
The snow has melted, and all of a sudden there is life everywhere. Sitting at my computer, I noticed two black-collared mourning doves in the ponderosa across the yard. And while I was looking at them, three vultures flew over, while out of the corner of my eye I spotted something large on the ground. It was a coyote, calmly walking through the side yard.And the frogs are singing again, the ones I worried about when it snowed last week. But they must have buried themselves in the mud, just waiting for the warm sun to appear.
On my walks, I see Audubon warblers in the field that has become a marsh, almost flooded with all the rivulets flowing down from every hillside. The house wrens have reappeared, although they lost their bird house, a victim of winter’s heavy snows and winds. I see nuthatches climbing up and down the ponderosas and rabbits everywhere, eating the newly appeared grass. And the pasqueflowers are making a second appearance after the snow melted.
But it’s the hummingbirds that entertain me all day—a constant whirring of wings and splashes of iridescent color: green and pink shading into orange. While the males, the gaudy ones, chase each other, butting the other birds out of the way of the feeder, the females sit calmly, removed from all the fuss. In an attempt to impress the females (and perhaps other males), the male hummingbirds soar 40 feet into the sky and then come straight down in what looks like a kamikaze mission.
I never get tired of watching them. In fact, the more I watch them, the more I can’t turn away. After a while, I can see different personalities, like the few who perch on the clothesline and seem curious about what’s on the other side of that window (me watching them), tilting their tiny heads to get a better look. One hummingbird, perhaps younger, fan its tail out, as if still testing its body, and it reminds me of the opening of a delicate but richly colored Japanese fan.
The hummers are like little jewels on the wing, bits of color and sound flying through the air. In my bird guide, I read that hummers make their nests using plants, lichen, and leaves bound with spider’s silk. I like to imagine their tiny nests of lichen and silk holding their bejeweled bodies.