Monday, September 11, 2006


Well we finally had our first hummingbird at the house. It happened a few days ago, just after breakfast. We were sitting in the family room finishing off the morning paper when Mars suddenly shouted "Jim, look!" Which I did. At her. And she quickly added "out the window!"

And there it was, a couple of inches long, green with a white throat, hovering with its blurry wings at one of our Phlox flowers, and sucking in its early morning meal.

"I thought at first it was a giant green insect." said Mars.

I understood what she meant. Several years ago I saw what, at the time, I thought could have been our first Hummer. But now in retrospect I think it also was in fact a "giant green insect". It startled me with its darting motion as I was working in the yard next to our official Butterfly/Hummingbird garden.

The Phlox, it should be mentioned, is not located in that plot. Instead it is right up against our house in a small catchall garden containing a random assortment of perennial flowers that were given to us by various people, most of whose names we don't remember - the flora's not the home sapiens' . The Phlox came from our niece Leslie and have unassumingly grown along the back of the plot for ten or more years without, as far as we know, attracting anyone's or anything's attention.

The Butterfly/Hummingbird garden is in our side yard and was started many years ago in response to the gift of a Butterfly House to us from our son. That house, it turned out, was not intended to attract anything, but instead to serve as a resting and nesting place for any Lepidoptera otherwise drawn to the area. So we ripped out some thick rooted shrubs, went to our local nursery, and planted a combination of perennials designed to attract both the large winged colorful insects and the small-winged hovering Hummers. During the Summer we also added feeders into which we poured an incredibly sticky red sugary liquid that immediately drew the interest of every ant and bee in the neighborhood.

But no Hummingbirds. The garden however did and does bring in the butterflies - and the above-mentioned strange "giant green insect".

It hovered and darted like a Hummer. But visually it seemed to be lacking some of the basic attributes of the tiny nectar-sucking bird, for example a visible head, a feathered tail, and a long curved bill. Within a few seconds the creature was gone. In spite of these anomalies my second reaction (my first being fear) was that this must be a Hummingbird because we had worked so hard to create a colorful cafeteria to feed them. But I had no corroborating witnesses and over a very short period of time my opinion changed.

We've had plenty of definitive Hummingbird sightings in New Mexico on our many trips out there. The first time was at a motel in Taos that had a set of feeders arranged around its hacienda style courtyard. The little guys would queue up in rows of five or six at the sugar stations - impatiently waiting, and angrily tailgating those in front of them when they felt they had overstayed their sipping time.

We've also seen them "in the wild" out there, flitting around in seemingly inappropriate environments like half-dead pinyon trees.

And now we've had one at our own house in a not necessarily unsuitable, but somewhat surprising place.

In our bedroom we have a small, wooden wall sculpture from New Mexico with the words "the best tears are unrehearsed." I guess maybe it is also true that the best joys are unorchestrated.

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