It is truly a wonder to be able to watch my
(Archilochus colubris)all season long, although it is primarily the adult female I watch day-in, day-out, manically nectaring mainly on my Beebalm (Monarda) in the early part of the season, then going back and forth between the Beebalm and the Firecracker plant when it flowers. Of course, as the season goes by, and the Beebalm withers, I break out the feeder, which now seems to be their focus as they get ready to migrate. I say “they” because not only does the male occasionally zip through, but the one juvenile of this season (also a female) has been very busy now, feeding, feeding and more feeding, then generally just hanging out and looking around, preening, scratching herself (mites, I wonder?), looking for all the world like she’s quite taken with her surroundings. Kind of silly and typically “kid-like” it seems. Even I (not a Hummingbird, except at heart) know how very dangerous the wild is for these incredible creatures (most young don’t make it through the first year) and I try to tell her she needs to be more careful, to watch how her mother rarely rests and is always leery of predators. She doesn’t listen to me (that I can tell) and just sits there looking around, tongue flicking from her short beak (one sure sign of a juvenile). Then suddenly Mom flits through and she tears off after her and I’m sure she’s trying to teach the young one to be more wary and to keep moving. I really love these creatures. I love watching the adult female as she nectars ceaselessly - literally dawn to dusk - and gleans small insects and spiders to take back to the tiny one, all through June and July, day after busy day. I’m at the payoff now, in August, watching the beautiful, slightly smaller juvenile female as Mom - and occasionally Dad - put her through her paces, probably trying to get her fit for the long journey south - and they don’t go together (I was kind of shocked when I first realized that). First, the male will leave, then a week later the female. After that the juvenile will depart - alone - on an almost 3,000-mile epic with only her genes to tell her the way (unless maybe her folks give her detailed flight-instructions to remember). Truly and literally incredible.
Scientists are baffled how hummingbirds do this, but indeed they do, and the adults seem to always retrace the same route and return to claim the same territories - the same patches of Beebalm, clumps of Purple Loosestrife and stalks of Joe Pye Weed. I wonder if in the winter in Central America, if they trade stories of ancestral fields and meadows far to the north and oftheir epochal journeys back and forth (which usually includes one 500-mile shot straight across the Gulf of Mexico!). I think I’ve run out of words to describe these wondrous, little high-energybeings, but my love and respect for their indomitable fearlessness knows no bounds. Fly safely south little friends, hopefully on good tail-winds to help you along and near to plenty of nectar. Not only do I know they care for each other, I know they are not always afraid of us and even (warily) care for us, as well. I really believe they appreciate our feeding them and keeping predators away. How fortunate we are to be visited by them.
(For more on Rubies, please see www.journeynorth.org and Google “Ruby-throated Hummingbirds”. Thanks.) Take Care, “Ranger”Dave Holden
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