In one of the first diaries I wrote for this website, I talked about how my efforts to put up a birdfeeder and wind chimes (seeming innocent pursuits) were being thwarted by the aggressive local squirrels. I was once kept out of the rocking chair on our front porch in the country once because a mother bird had built a nest in the rafters and her hungry babies were cheeping pitifully. She kept calling them, assuring them that she would be there soon (and I soon got the message and left). Now I’m being held hostage by hummingbirds. Wouldn’t you think I’d be able to make peace with the natural world?
Hummers only seem dainty and frail to those who have not tried to feed them. The Aztecs identified them as the gods of war, and once you encounter them, you understand why this was. Once you put out a hummingbird feeder (or plant the kind of flowers they like), you find that they go to war over who has the right to eat there.
When we planted a lovely bush with red cup-shaped flowers in back of our screened-in porch in Texas, we attracted what I called "The Sentinel Hummer." He would dart down to sip from one of the flowers occasionally, but most of the time he sat on one of the bush’s branches, ready to chase away any other hummingbird to dared to try to do the same. He was fierce!
I remember sitting out by the swimming pool at our country house one summer with my eyes closed, enjoying the rays of the sun, when I started to doze off. Suddenly I was startled awake by a noise like an outboard motor in one of my ears. It only lasted a second, but it was really loud. I was confused at first, and looked around to try to figure out what could have caused such a sound, when I realized it was a hummingbird that had flown by close to my head.
Here in LA, we noticed a flock of hummers zooming by one day, so we decided to purchase a hummingbird feeder so we could try to attract them to our balcony, where we like to have breakfast in the morning. They arrived, just as we hoped they would, but when we were OUT there, they wouldn’t come and eat. If we lingered over a second cup of coffee and the papers, they got impatient with us and would threaten us by "chittering" or dive bomb us with their sharp little beaks.
One of my favorite bird stories took place when we were living in our country cabin full time, before we moved to Texas and then to California. I was lonely up there, away from all our friends, but we had run out of money and had to sell our apartment (we eventually had to sell the country house where Whitley encountered the Visitors). I gazed out the window and noticed two adult birds flying from a branch to a fence post and back again. After they returned, three smaller birds who were waiting on the branch watching them would do the same thing. This pattern was repeated several times. I realized I was seeing flying lessons! It was a rare and precious moment.
Meanwhile, I’m being held hostage by hummingbirds. Help!
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