Today was a fretful day for the hummingbirds. At least three were trying to stay close to the honeysuckle and the feeders, vying for a favored pair of branches in the pear tree. They chirped testily, launching attacks from far less desirable perches in the wax myrtles, occasionally looping the house in frustration.
They didn’t seem to mind my noisy camera, even when I moved to a chair beneath the tree. They were too busy guarding their airspace.
It seemed to me that every calorie they gleaned from the honeysuckle and the feeders, they quickly spent on aggression.
Watching them, I realized that I have often lived in similar fashion. Wasting my energy on ambition and envy, when it would have been wiser to sit still and enjoy the sunshine.
The honeysuckle has been in full bloom much of the summer, but hummingbirds are rare so far. I’ve only seen one a handful of times, and each of those visits has been brief.
Last summer was our first hummingbird summer, so I don’t have a feel for “normal” hummingbird activity. I’m looking forward to seeing what happens as the summer wears on.
Publication Note: My poem “Doppler Effect” posted at vox poetica on June 19. Many thanks to editor Annmarie Lockhart!
In May, the yard’s hummingbird hopes suffered a setback when a family of house finches plucked the honeysuckle’s early blooms.
But the honeysuckle recovered quickly, and by the end of June there were enough blooms to attract renewed attention.
The salvia also bloomed steadily through June and July, adding a second source of nectar.
Now I see hummingbirds daily. They zip through the yard at reasonably predictable intervals, one or two an hour, and I occasionally find them resting high in the wax myrtle.
If I stretch the camera’s zoom to its limit, I am able to catch several frames before they become suspicious of my fixed attention and clicking shutter.
When two individuals cross paths, fierce and noisy bouts of aerial combat break out, with both birds squeaking rapidly as they dive and swerve. They are too fast for my camera during these skirmishes.
For that matter, they are too usually fast while feeding. These photos represent several hours of stalking. (I suspect most of my photos feature a single individual who has established a repetitive feeding pattern.)
Whether one bird or many, I hope the visits continue. I’m looking forward to a few more months of summer — a few more months of hot, humid afternoons in which to hone my hummingbird reflexes.
At last! Hummingbirds!
Not a lot of hummingbirds, yet, but enough to attempt a few photos as they feed in the honeysuckle.
The honeysuckle has bloomed in such profusion that I’ve been blissfully planning a long, bright summer filled with never-ending streams of hummingbirds. I should know better, by now, than to make such plans. The yard is not a blank page, waiting for me to write its future. There are always surprises, always factors I cannot control.
About three days ago, the honeysuckle’s flowers began falling, sometimes before they opened. Many of the blooms appeared to have been cut at the base.
The weather has not been stormy enough to account for such damage, and I can’t find any caterpillars to blame. So I started checking periodically, watching from the kitchen window in hopes of solving the mystery. Yesterday, I caught the thief in action.
This little house finch was not alone. His mate was with him, and a very hungry fledgling.
Unlike hummingbirds, house finches’ beaks are not designed for sipping nectar. So they nipped off the blooms, drank the nectar from the broken end, and left a pile of empty flowers on the ground beneath them.
The house finches have not returned today. Why should they? There’s nothing left to tempt them. But I suspect they’ll remember their feast, when the next wave of honeysuckle grows heavy with nectar…