The Hummingbird

During the writing of Monday’s entry, as I put fingers to keyboard and pictures to words, I told you that I was “pursuing a hummingbird” that was, in her mind, trapped in the upper rafters of the covered porch. There had been two hummers, quite small but fully developed, which led me to believe that they were siblings — probably born a few weeks earlier and now “on their own,” able to fly and forage.

I was able to scoot one out into the open but the second wouldn’t budge. She (no ruby-colored throat, so a female) stayed up high, flying from rafter to rafter and tragically flying into the stone wall.

It was morning, about 7:45 and while readying for my day, I had gone out to the porch to check on the happenings in the yard.

Having my morning planned and wanting to get an early start, I was confused by a sound I didn’t recognize. Looking up, I saw the two younglings circling above, chipping nervously. Hoping to resolve the situation quickly, I grabbed a ladder and broom. The first had been quick to find her way out, but the second was much more stubborn. For an hour, I tried gently to coax her out. I even had her on the broom a few times but before I could lower it enough to reach the open air, she’d fly back to her new prison.

I had to go. I had errands to run. My day was set. I hoped that while I was gone, she’d do some exploration and find her way to freedom. No such luck. An hour or so later, when I returned, she was still up there. It was now 10:15, and just from when I found her, I could calculate that she hadn’t eaten for about 3 hours.

OK, I’m home now. I brought my computer and paperwork outside and decided to work at the table on the porch, able to keep my eye on her. Hearing those wings beating against the rafters and stone was terrible. I tried everything — a gentle nudge with the broom; I brought the hummingbird feeder onto the porch; I played hummingbird songs and chirps on the computer. Nothing. It was now lunchtime. She was going on five hours without food.

When this first happened and I returned from errands, seeing her still trapped, staying to her same patterns, I thought, “survival of the fittest.” Maybe she doesn’t have the stuff to survive. But as time went one, I changed my mind. I now thought that this was a tough little bird, continuously trying to break free. She wouldn’t give up, confused, hungry and tired as she must be. I admired her and determined that I would not leave her. At some point something had to give. I just hoped that she wouldn’t end up dying on a rafter where it would be very difficult to retrieve her.

I watched as her speed diminished; I watched less frantic fights with the wall; I heard her wing beats barely make a sound as she made lazy circles above my head. Either out of necessity or exhaustion — maybe both — she slowed her body movements down to the bare minimum.

Finally, around 2 pm, she made a slow effort over to the glass doors that separate the sun room and porch. She landed on the stone work above the doors, and as she tried to will herself upward, her wings let her down. Exhausted, trying to grab contact points as she descended unwillingly, she spilled to the ground.

Dear God, how small a creature, what grand will. Her wings were splayed, her tail feathers ruffled. It was easy to put her in my cupped hand and smooth her out. A few alarm chirps, but with no fight left, she sat in my hand without trying to get free.

I immediately took her to the hummingbird feeder. I gently pressed her beak in some loose nectar around the base of the feeder. Her tongue flicked in and out of her beak tasting the nectar. I carefully dipped her beak into the feeder and she took a drink. She rested a bit longer in my hand, then I dipped her beak again, and she began to take long, satisfying sips. I could see her whole body working to get nourishment from the nectar. I sat her on the feeder, she stayed and allowed me to smooth her feathers. Then, excitedly, off she went into an oak tree.

I went to get up and felt something in the hand that had been holding this little sprite. A feather. Yes, a little worn, and probably loosened by her ordeal, but I like to think she left it just for me.

#hummingbirds #nature

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