Words On Birds 05-17-24

Words On Birds by Steve Grinley

Hummingbird Encounters Create Memories
May 17, 2024
By Steve Grinley
     Hummingbirds are back, and the antics of these fascinating birds leave fond memories for those who encounter them. I would like to share some of those stories with you again: 
     Robert Mussey of Milton shared his hummingbird story:
     “We have 4-5 female and 2 male hummingbirds zooming around this year in our garden and at 3 feeders, trying to sort out who trumps who, and who is higher status. One male and one female are the dominant ones. Yesterday I took a break from writing and for the first time this year decided to take a break and sit in our screened in gazebo. As I approached, a hummer zoomed past me and flew directly into the gazebo screen, thinking he could fly straight through, impaling his beak through the mesh and capturing himself firmly. It was one of the males. Furious buzzing of his wings could do nothing to free himself as his beak had penetrated to its full depth.
     “What are the chances that I would happen to decide to drink tea in the gazebo at this exact moment, on this exact day? Tiny, but there I was. Gently grasping his body to restrain his wings, eventually I managed to work his long bill free while he squealed in protest with his highest pitched little voice, then immediately opened my hand to free him. In an instant, he zoomed off at warp speed to his next adventure. Was this the alpha male or the more recessive one? Hard to tell when his energy was captured in the screen and then my hand.
     “Hummingbirds are meant to fly free. What are the chances? I should drink tea more often.”
     Catherine Fisher of Lee, New Hampshire shared a similar experience:
     “About a dozen years ago I was chilling on our back porch on a warm, June evening. I’d left the porch door open and was sitting at the far end, drinking a stronger beverage than tea, when a male hummingbird, pursued by another male in one of those aerial battles that resemble a WWI dogfight, flew straight down the length of the porch and got his beak jammed in one of the tiny squares of the screen mesh right beside the chair I was sitting in. He kept up a kind of ventriloquist-type vocalization while I tried to get him loose – if you’ve ever seen end of the old movie The Fly, that’s kind of what it sounded like; “Help me!!! Help me!!!” 
     “My heart was pounding as I worked to free him – my mind kept offering impossible and hideous scenarios like I’d get the hummer free, but his beak would remain in the screen, but I got him loose fairly quickly. 
     “I had him cupped in my hands, but I felt his toes curl around my little finger, and I remembered my Dad telling me about offering his finger as a perch for a hummer that had gotten disoriented in my folks’ large garage: the hummer was flying from window to window trying to find a way out, and my Dad walked up with his pointer finger offered as a perch and the hummer alighted and Dad walked her out. So I did the same. 
     “With my guy perched on my pinky, I walked him out of the screen porch – he flew off as soon as we got to the door. It was one of those experiences that release a gazillion happy molecules in the body and for the rest of the evening I couldn’t stop smiling.”
     Dana Duxbury-Fox of North Andover, MA shared an interesting story of hummingbird courtship behavior:
     “Bob and I were up at our camp on Lower Beech Pond in Center Tuftonboro on Monday afternoon. While sitting on our deck about 3 PM we observed 2-3 Ruby-throated Hummingbirds – a male and possibly two females as the females seemed to have very different styles of feeding. I had put out my two big feeders a week earlier (May 16th) one at either end of our deck and immediately afterwards a male came in to feed.
     “Well, as we were sitting there, we twice saw the male with that rapid zooming up and down behavior that he does when he is courting a female.
     “A couple of hours later as we were sitting on our porch in view of their favorite feeder, I suddenly saw something new – this floating dance of a pair. They would float up and then down maybe three feet in distance up and down around the feeder in unison. One might pause and feed and then the floating dance would start again – up and down. Imagine in all my years I had never seen this before. Being at the right place at the right time and being there at the correct moment in their courtship cycle I guess.” 
     So, if you haven’t had the pleasure of being mesmerized by these birds, you might try adding a hummingbird feeder to your yard or garden this year. Soon you will be telling stories of your own!

Steve Grinley
Bird Watcher’s Supply & Gift
Port Plaza West Shops
45 Storey Ave, Suite 7B
Newburyport, MA 01950

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