I’ve had guests this year in the tree outside my studio window. A mother humming-bird has built a nest! She’s been the perfect guest, going to bed at dusk and not starting her day before dawn. Never complaining when we had torrents of rain and winds strong enough to blow over our fence. She laid two eggs and sat on them throughout all the storms. She’s a good mother and an amazing engineer. She built her nest in a “Y” branch of our tallest tree, with an umbrella of leaves over her head.
The storms passed, the eggs hatched and my humming-bird mother continued to sit on her nest, keeping her two tiny babies warm. The babies weren’t much to look at, so small I could hardly see them, but I could tell mom didn’t care about looks. She’d fly off for food, snuggle back in the nest, and push her delicate beak down into the nest to feed them. While all of this was happening, I was reading the book called “The Fastest Things on Wings” by Terry Masear. Her book is funny, interesting and delightful. Because of it, I knew what to expect from these amazing little birds. If you have a backyard feeder I think you’ll enjoy this book.
My challenge was to figure out how I could photograph the babies. My studio is on the second floor and trying to take a photo through a glass window doesn’t work very well. I decided to brace our tall ladder against the house near the nest, and climb up with my camera. You can imagine how that went over when I asked my husband to put the ladder against the house. I didn’t get very far.
With me back in my studio, several weeks went by as I watched the babies grow. I was beginning to think I might not get pictures. Then I decided to remove the screen from the window furthest from the nest, use my telephoto lens, and lean out the window with my camera. Success!
Just about the time I had all of this figured out, the mother hummingbird left the nest. Thanks to Terry’s book I knew this was normal. The mother returned every 30 minutes to feed her babies.
Then suddenly last week, my humming-bird nest became a hub of activity. The babies were much more active, changing positions, pecking at the leaves over their heads, and preening.
The first baby tried out its wings, clinging to the side of the nest while flapping at a pretty good speed.
Then the second baby tried its wings, but more cautiously. Flapping away while still in the nest (not easy to do with a sibling right next to you).
Every 30 minutes mom was back to feed her “teens”.
Then a week ago it happened. The first baby began sitting on a tiny bud of leaves just outside the nest. Soon it was showing off its flight skills while its sibling looked on. Mom flew back to feed it and then baby was up and away!
Just one baby left, but mom was diligent with her feedings. It poured rain all night, and in the morning a soggy baby was still in the nest. Finally the sun came out, and when I looked baby number two was gone! Mom came back to check on the nest, and then she was off. I was left feeling like an empty nester.
But, then the next day I saw them! Both babies were sitting in the tree, flitting from branch to branch. As I watched, mom returned and fed both babies! She continued to do this off and on over a period of several days. I read that the mother humming-bird spends this time teaching her babies where the best food can be found, the tastiest bugs and the sweetest nectar. She’ll lead them to the humming-bird feeder and show them where to drink. I see them in the tree less and less, but they still return with mom close by. What a miracle of life these little birds are!
Hope you’re having a great weekend! Happy Saturday everyone!