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The Hummingbird: a sentient being

Impatience! My abiding sin.

He came to my window in the mornings, hovering, darting, accelerating off like a UFO. I noticed sometimes he had a piece of grass in his long beak. I would stand there looking at him till he’d vanish. What seemed like a breakthrough happened when he actually stopped flying to sit on a nearby branch, and started grooming himself, right in front of me. I couldn’t believe this tiny, itsy creature was really a sentient being.

After a while I realized he was a she. And she had been building a nest unnoticed in front of my eyes. One day, there she was, in it, on a low-hanging branch, I mean a tiny branch not five feet from my window, probably too light for any larger bird to land on, a brilliant move.

Mama Hummingbird, before careless author frightened her off to rebuild nest nearby.

Also brilliant was how she had constructed the nest to have a perfectly horizontal space which fit her like an egg cup. I tried to utter the same soothing sounds every time we met. It’s amazing the feeling of hope she gave me. Even though I didn’t want to romanticize her, I needed the assurance she gave, just by creating life in these covid times.

I thought about getting a feeder, even though I hate introducing artificial elements to “cheat” nature. But I got one, $12, and hung it up on the bush next door to her.

That might have been my first big mistake, because it changed the look of her little corner. The other mistake was not keeping my mouth shut.

“I’ve got to see this,” said neighbor “Julie” (changing the names here), and rushed straight back to the little treed area with me trailing.

“Bruce” followed. And the noise we made, trying to crane our necks into the beautifully disguised branch and nest without breaking them must have freaked her big-time.

Or, okay, most likely, it was later that night, when I realized it was garbage day and I hadn’t taken mine out.

I thought about putting it off till morning, but persuaded myself I could creep out quietly. This was 2 in the morning. I got almost to the back gate when crash! I dropped two empty Foster’s Lager cans. Their clangs echoed out into the silence.

I knew I had blown it. I’d read how the exhausted pregnant mothers-to-be needed peace and quiet at night so they could fall into an almost zombie state just to recuperate. Impatience! My abiding sin. Next morning, no hummingbird looking out over the edge of her feathery nest. Following morning, same. “Might have blown it,” said Don, my other neighbor.

I can’t explain how devastated I felt. I’d glance out at the nest every chance I got. Empty. All that effort, lost. Two young bird lives, denied.

But some sort of consolation came on the third day. I was walking to the back gate, trying not to sigh, when with a dart and a flash, my little friend – I swear it was her – flashed past me, grabbed some grass and feathers from the abandoned nest, and whirred off. At least she was rebuilding, somewhere else. It was like the end of an affair. She had just come back to get her things.

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He came to my window in the mornings, hovering, darting, accelerating off like a UFO. I noticed sometimes he had a piece of grass in his long beak. I would stand there looking at him till he’d vanish. What seemed like a breakthrough happened when he actually stopped flying to sit on a nearby branch, and started grooming himself, right in front of me. I couldn’t believe this tiny, itsy creature was really a sentient being.

After a while I realized he was a she. And she had been building a nest unnoticed in front of my eyes. One day, there she was, in it, on a low-hanging branch, I mean a tiny branch not five feet from my window, probably too light for any larger bird to land on, a brilliant move.

Mama Hummingbird, before careless author frightened her off to rebuild nest nearby.

Also brilliant was how she had constructed the nest to have a perfectly horizontal space which fit her like an egg cup. I tried to utter the same soothing sounds every time we met. It’s amazing the feeling of hope she gave me. Even though I didn’t want to romanticize her, I needed the assurance she gave, just by creating life in these covid times.

I thought about getting a feeder, even though I hate introducing artificial elements to “cheat” nature. But I got one, $12, and hung it up on the bush next door to her.

That might have been my first big mistake, because it changed the look of her little corner. The other mistake was not keeping my mouth shut.

“I’ve got to see this,” said neighbor “Julie” (changing the names here), and rushed straight back to the little treed area with me trailing.

“Bruce” followed. And the noise we made, trying to crane our necks into the beautifully disguised branch and nest without breaking them must have freaked her big-time.

Or, okay, most likely, it was later that night, when I realized it was garbage day and I hadn’t taken mine out.

I thought about putting it off till morning, but persuaded myself I could creep out quietly. This was 2 in the morning. I got almost to the back gate when crash! I dropped two empty Foster’s Lager cans. Their clangs echoed out into the silence.

I knew I had blown it. I’d read how the exhausted pregnant mothers-to-be needed peace and quiet at night so they could fall into an almost zombie state just to recuperate. Impatience! My abiding sin. Next morning, no hummingbird looking out over the edge of her feathery nest. Following morning, same. “Might have blown it,” said Don, my other neighbor.

I can’t explain how devastated I felt. I’d glance out at the nest every chance I got. Empty. All that effort, lost. Two young bird lives, denied.

But some sort of consolation came on the third day. I was walking to the back gate, trying not to sigh, when with a dart and a flash, my little friend – I swear it was her – flashed past me, grabbed some grass and feathers from the abandoned nest, and whirred off. At least she was rebuilding, somewhere else. It was like the end of an affair. She had just come back to get her things.

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