There is a hummingbird, right now as I type, perched on the top of a feeder out back. He/she/it will rest there awhile, then drop down to imbibe, then fly back up and perch. King/Queen of the Feeder, is what it looks like from here.
Prior to this summer I had not given hummingbirds, or most birds, much of a second thought. We had hummingbird visitations back on Irwin Street, pausing briefly by Lynn’s hanging flower baskets, but they were not a crop to be cultivated.
That was before we moved. Now I am all about the hummingbirds, because I am sure my friends Mark and Kym would never steer me wrong.
Or not: between them, Mark and Kym have steered me in many different directions: horseback riding, Egyptian hieroglyphs, rodeo club sponsorship, adjunct teaching, Cattlemen’s Days committee, poetry . . . at one point they were teaching themselves Arabic, but I didn’t go there with them (the hieroglyphs were hard enough). Suffice it to say, the two of them have a surfeit of interests, and I’ve gone along — or been lured into — several of them.
This year life changed for Mark and Kym. He retired from teaching creative writing at Western Not State, finishing up with the weird on-line semester necessitated by Pandemia, and, after over a quarter-century in the Gunnison Valley, they moved to Montana.
While sad for me, it’s a prudent move for them: with a heart attack and a stroke in their past, moving near children and grandchildren seems like a very good idea. One daughter’s spouse is the fourth or fifth generation of Montana ranch owners, so Mark and Kym bought a little piece of the ranch and headed north in early June.
With the probability high, although an invitation to visit has already been extended, that we might not see them again, and Kym reasonably sure that she came through a month-long bout of covid (she didn’t get tested, but her real estate agent did, and it was positive), we had them over for a last supper just after Memorial Day.
Which is when I complained about the mosquito overpopulation in our new neighborhood. As always, Mark and Kym had an answer, and their answer was: hummingbirds.
After we bought our property, long before a house went on it, we hosted our first gathering out here under Lynn’s market tent. It lasted precisely until dusk, when the mosquitoes crashed it, big time. Last summer, before we moved in, I would come out with Lynn and Oz for their evening walk until it stopped being fun. I would have to bring a windbreaker, put the hood up, zip it up, cinch the waist — and it was 80 sweaty degrees.
This year, while I’ve heard plenty of complaints from people living both north of us and in town about the viciousness and quantity of the mosquitoes, and Lynn has remarked on it after her walks, I haven’t noticed too many.
Now, I’m early in my hummingbird cultivation project. Mark and Kym said their entire second-story deck out in (not that anyone is ever really “in”) Doyleville would vibrate with the thrum of the hummers; so far our deck is only sort of humming, not thrumming. Lately, though, my two feeders out back are a veritable beehive, as it were, of hummer activity.
After Mark and Kym lit out for parts north, I went to Tractor Supply and bought four cheap feeders. I also took Kym’s advice to not buy pre-mixed feeding liquid and just mix my own sugar and water.
Three of these feeders I have recklessly located within bear access, which I am aware is not my best move. This was — and is still intended — to be temporary, but you know how these things go with me. They may stay like this until the day I open the front door to encounter a bear up on its hind legs, pulling down a feeder.
In the meantime the hummers don’t seem too crazy about the flower-shaped feeders (neither am I: they’re hard to reload) out front, although they might be imbibing from the one I hung from the baby cottonwood. But they are making themselves t’home with the two out back, including still perching as I type on top of the feeder. The wire demarcating our deck also seems to be a popular perch spot, as I noticed last night while hanging out on the deck for really the first evening ever.
Our deck has a lovely view of the pond, but: it’s on the south side of the house. And since our orientation is toward the southwest rather than due south, it sits in the sun all day and well into the evening.
So Lynn’s birthday present, and the reason you didn’t hear from me yesterday, was a cantilevered deck umbrella that arrived in several pieces. I spent yesterday morning while Lynn was at work retrieving the pieces from their hiding spot at work and putting them together.
It’s a nice umbrella, although the company’s idea of burgundy is hardly the same as our roofing company’s (my hope was that they would see eye to eye, but they don’t), replete with solar lighting (except the main light is non-functional) — and the weighted base required for any cantilevered umbrella does not work with this umbrella, despite coming from the same company.
Using the deck railing as a temporary counterweight, we road-tested the umbrella (after the sun had gone behind the trees, so not much of a shade test) last evening. Now, I’m not saying Mark and Kym are always right, but I didn’t see so much as a single mosquito — and humming birds were everywhere, completely unfazed by our proximity.
The umbrella may have scared off other bird species, for whom I also bought a feeder (from which they are making a big mess), although they were certainly out and about in the air, but the hummers were up close and personal.
I see that I have much to learn about them, because I don’t know if the dive-bombing attacks toward each other are a territorial thing or just for sport. I don’t even know if different colorations mean different species or they’re just part of a broad hummingbird spectrum, same as humans.
Lynn keeps doubting their ability to eat mosquitoes, pointing at their narrow, long beaks, at which I finally got a good look last night, but the internet, and more important, Mark and Kym, tell me it’s true so I’m believing it. And there were no mosquitoes to mar our evening under the umbrella, which is about as empiric as the evidence gets. (I’m sure it has nothing to do with the spraying the mosquito control district did, although Lynn tells me that only deterred mosquitoes elsewhere for a week or two.)
Welcome, hummingbird paradise — and us with a seat at the now-sun-protected table.
Check out the little row of solar lights! It’s a shame you can’t see the foxes out hunting, but we could, and I guess that’s what counts.