Morning Watch

Jun 15, 2012 | 3 comments

The hummingbird feeder sits right outside the east window of our bedroom.  We sit abed these June mornings while we drink our first cup of coffee, enjoying the early morning sun over the bay and watching the antics of the birds.

For a while, the feeder was filled with pretty red ‘nectar’ – that packaged stuff that is presumably just the right formula to entice the hummers.  The birds would come and sample now and then, but the level of the liquid never seemed to go down.  Periodically, the feisty little creatures would come right up to the window and look in at us.  Clearly, they were annoyed and trying to tell us about it.

We finally took the hint, threw out the red, and replaced it with colorless sugar water of recommended strength.  Now, it’s hard to keep up.  They go through a container a day, no problem.  They don’t waste time trying to get our attention at the window, either.  The moments between sips are spent aggressively chasing the other hummers away.  Friendly sharing does not seem to be a common hummingbird trait.

I’ve had several interesting hummingbird experiences in my life.  For ten years I lived in a house in California with a large atrium.  One year, a hummingbird built its tiny nest in the crotch of a Japanese maple just outside the sliding glass door to the kitchen.  It was about a foot above my eye-level and Mrs. HB soon got used to me climbing atop a little stool so that I could peak in.

She was a devoted parent, hatching her two little white eggs and constantly feeding the ugly black hatchlings that only a mother could love.  They looked like gigantic bugs and when they began to get their feathers, they appeared to be much bigger than she, soon all-but-overflowing their nest.  (I’ve read that some hummingbirds use spider webs as binding material in their nests.  Its elasticity allows the nest to stretch as needed.)

Like our Oysterville swallows, the hummingbirds came back to refurbish and reuse the nest year after year.  I always wondered if they were the same parents or the next generation.  For all I know, the nest is still in use.

Years later, I was dozing in the sun on the deck of my little house on the bay, just south of Oysterville, when I suddenly came awake to see a lovely iridescent hummingbird sitting on my upturned palm, looking at me.  The moment stretched into several moments, maybe as much as a half a minute.  All I could think of was “but I can’t feel anything.”  Had my eyes not told me so, I would never have known.  There was no sensation of weight at all.

And so I muse away our morning coffee time…


  1. Jenny

    What a charming story, Sydney. Thank you!

  2. Nancy

    Lovely images! I can visualize the nest in the maple and the tiny visitor on your palm. Thank you. “Our” Healdsburg Hummers are feasting on the nectar in the honeysuckle blossoms in view of the kitchen window…what a delight to watch them.

  3. Kathleen Shaw

    Wow, Sydney, what an amazing experience–I envy you! And yes, hummingbirds are very brave and quite pugnacious. I call them “the chihuahuas of the bird world.”


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