Our Baby Hummingbirds

 

 

Gretta: “I bet this needs to become a story … “

 

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ConVivio_The_Nest_Feb21-23

 

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What Passes for Excitement These Days

About three weeks ago, Gretta began to notice that a small bird — a hummingbird — seemed to be hovering, flitting, fluttering around our front door when she walked outside to water the plants or emerged from our front door to go out for a walk around the block.  Of course, as with most of our neighbors, over the past year, taking a walk around the block has been the most adventurous activity possible in our COVID world, so any variation from “the usual” attracted our attention.  We decided to name this hummingbird Charlie.”

One day, we noticed that Charlie was sitting in a crook amid the sparse, recently-pruned branches of one of the rose trees about ten feet from our front door.  On closer inspection, it looked like Charlie was perched on a small round knob of the tree a little more than the size of a golf ball.  We wondered — Hmmmm — was it a nest?  Later that day, when Charlie has not nearby, we went out for a walk, took a closer look, and found what looked like two tiny baby birds crunched into that “nest.”  She showed me, “Look at this!  It’s a nest.  A nest with babies!  We looked at each other and were stunned at the tininess of the nest and the babies.  After a few steps, we stopped and one of us said, “She’s got babies.  I guess we should name her Chelsie.”

 

The next day, we happened to look out our kitchen window in time to see Chelsie land on the nest and begin to feed the two beaks protruding out of the nest. When she was done, she flew off, presumably to find more food, and I went out to take a picture.   There they were, mouths wide open, apparently expecting more food.  At that point, the story spread among the neighbors, each of whom took their turn dropping by to examine the wee neighbors.  So, it began  …  the babies became the primary topic of conversation around the neighborhood.  Such is the level of excitement required in our sheltered world of 2021.

 

 

So, over the next week, we noticed that Chelsie’s babies grew steadily larger, squeezed together more tightly each day in that little nest.  We could see the emergence of what looked like two pairs of wings, with a slight greenish hue, on either side of each of the babies.  Every few hours, we watched Mamma Chelsie land on the nest and vigorously feed the two open beaks with whatever food she was able to scrounge up at Costco or on her travels around the neighborhood.

 

About the start of the third week of this evolving spectacle, the babies, with what looked like wings tightly squished in the nest with them, began to change positions.  Sometimes they both appeared to lay on their backs in what looked like their ‘feeding position.  Other times we saw them in alternating positions, one on their backside the other more upright.  Sometimes, they both assumed an upright position — giving the impression that they were contemplating the next step in their evolution: would they consider trying to spread those “wings” and try to fly?  For us, that thought brought up two new ideas — one exciting and the other quite scary.

 

 

 

Walking in the park, we ran into our friends Ellen and Nancy, who both wanted to hear the latest report in the lives of Chelsie’s children.  After telling them the latest developments and inviting them to drop by and take a look, Ellen asked a great question:  “Have you named the kids yet?”

Hmmmmmm.   “No, we haven’t.  I guess that’s our next task, eh?”  So, we resolved that we need to choose a couple of names.  On the way home, some obvious pairs of names came to mind:

Ralph & Alice — Ellen’s suggestion               Bert & Ernie
Sam & Diane                                                     Batman & Robin
Edith & Archie                                                   Butch & Sundance
Gloria & Meathead                                            Stan & Laurel — Ellen’s suggestion
Mickie & Minnie                                                David & Goliath

—>  —>  OK, we’ve decided.  Their names are Sam & Diane.

 

 

A second, scarier thought occurred to us as we noticed a neighbor’s grey-and-black cat prowling our street with its usual hungry look.  That nest is a pretty tight fit for two growing birds, and it’s looking smaller every day as the babies grow larger.  What if one of them spreads its wings and tries to fly before it is capable of “liftoff.”  In that case, presumably, it would fall to the ground and, if that hungry cat was nearby, the baby would become lunch.  It was a frightening thought.  As caring and responsible .. uh … grandparents … or whatever kinds of relatives we were … what should we do?  What could we do?  What do people do?

 

 

And here on the 20th day of February, 2021, face-to-face with what passes for excitement these days in the world of COVID, that’s where we are.  Do we have some kind of decision to make or is it our job to simply wait and watch and hope that Mother Nature and Mamma Chelsie actually know what they’re doing.  Maybe the responsibility belongs to them and not to us.  We’ll see.

—> —> The Story Continues — Sunday, February 21, 2021  <— <—

It’s Sunday morning and Sam & Diane are noticeably bigger.  Their beaks protrude higher out of the nest; greenish things that look like wings fluff around their torsos; and they are moving around more inside the nest.  At one point, Gretta got up on a step ladder to get a better look out our kitchen window and watched while Mama Chelsie dropped in and began feeding the babies.  “Come and look!  She’s feeding them!”  I got a glimpse; but by the time I zoomed up my iPhone to get a picture, she darted away.  She has a sixth sense for doing that.  But, I did get a picture of the kids immediately after she fed them, looking all … well fed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A few minute later, I got the best opportunity of all —  Chelsie landed on the nest and fed them again.  This time I had my iPhone at the ready and I got her in the picture.  It’s a bit fuzzy, zoomed up that close through the window from my spot in the kitchen, but there she is.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Then after she flew away, I took a chance, pushed the ‘video’ button, and a got a few moments of the kids squirming around a bit.  Here they are in the closest thing I’ve gotten to “live action.”

(Video/audio file may take a minute or two to load) Click here:   Squirming_babies

If you can play the video with sound, as Gretta narrates the scene, you might be able to hear in the background another voice in our household.  It is the voice of our kitty, Peek-a-Boo, presumably complaining that another creature is getting more attention than she is at that moment, or — heaven forefend — lamenting that she would like to get out there, visit that nest, and do what … well … we just won’t go there.

As we watch Sam and Diane squirming around in their tiny nest, ruffling — nearly flapping — their growing wings, we speculate that it is just a matter of time, maybe just hours, before that nest becomes too small for them.  This afternoon, in the photo below, we see them sitting on top of the nest, just like grown-up hummingbirds do.  They looked strong and  “ready.”

We wondered which one of those squirms and flaps will cause one of them to try to fly AND either:

One: fly away
or
Two: drop out of that nest to the ground and fall victim to … well, we won’t go there.

Honestly, they look like they’re ready to fly.

At that moment, some of the beauty and the danger came to life simultaneously.  The reality of caring for these creatures carries with it the thoughts of the inevitable: these babies – like ALL babies — will one day leave the nest and venture out into the world with all of its opportunities and perils.  When that day— when that moment — comes we will no longer be able to enjoy the sweetness that comes with the fact that they are here, being cute, posing for us each day in the nest, here at our home.  So, we watch … and enjoy the moment.

Oh, by the way, lest we romanticize them too much … we must report that one of our baby birds, the one we’ve named Sam, now has a nickname.  Gretta went out to take a closer look right after one of the recent feedings and Sam, without so much as a warning, let fly with a steam of …  well … you know … a liquid stream that traveled at least two feet from the nest, just missing Gretta’s shoes.  So, from today, Sam has the nickname “Pisser.”

We thought that was the end of the story for today … but, just before going to bed, at about 10:00

We went out to take another look and …

 

 

They were gone.

We experienced severe “Empty Nest Syndrome” the rest of the night.  You can imagine.

Of course, we were not surprised.  We knew, and you knew, that this moment would come eventually.  In fact, from the way they looked the previous afternoon (in their latest photo, above) the one perched in front looked quite strong, looked fully formed, and for the first time appeared to be sitting on top of the nest, instead of scrunched down inside of it.  So, we figured that they would fly away soon.  Very soon.  That turned out to be true.

 

 

 

—> —> The Story Continues — Monday, February 22, 2021 <— <—
                       “And it was evening and morning, the next day”

I got up and came downstairs about 7:30 am and walked out the front door to take another look.  Once again, the nest was still empty. (Well, whadya’xpect?” you may ask.)  I looked around a bit and found something on the ground.  After staring for a long moment, I realized that I was looking at a small bird standing there about three feet from the base of the “home” rose tree that contained the nest.  It was apparently the smaller of the two babies we had gotten to know in the nest.  We had read that if a baby bird falls from a nest, you can pick it up by the torso and place it back in the nest.  So, I did that.  When I first touched it, the bird flapped its wings and scampered about six inches along the ground —  I took that to be its incomplete attempt to fly.  I then picked it up and placed it in the nest.

Wow!

I took a picture and went back inside to report that one of the babies was back in the nest, for now.

Monday morning. The little guy — below — temporarily back in the nest after getting a “lift.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Well, by 10:00 am, the nest was empty again.
Looks like Mama Chelsie and her two babies
Sam & Diane (now growing, lively kids) were flying and on their own.

 

 

 

 

 

 

= = = = = = = = = = = =
And now for the good news.  For the rest of this day, Monday February 22, we have seen Mama Chelsie and her two kids flitting about among the rest of our rose trees and the large tree out in the front lawn.  And, just like the hopes and dreams we have for all of the babies we know as they grow up —  they can fly on their own.


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

—> —> And Well, that’s the story of Mama Chelsie,
and her two kids, Sam and Diane.
so far …
<— <—

= = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = =

OK. just one more thing — proof of success.  This is a picture of Diane, the smaller of the two babies, perched near the top of a tree in our front yard.  She’s on her own.

     

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Left: Diane viewed from the ground (up near the roof).  Right: Diane up close. 

8 Responses “Our Baby Hummingbirds”

  1. Jeannette says:

    Dan and Gretta, I am so excited for you. I have five hummingbird feeders in my yard, and it is delight to call them in the morning and wait a few minutes for them to arrive.
    Hummingbirds are aggressive. I think if a cat tried to get near that nest, it would not go well for the cat. They are territorial and even though there are multiple feeding stations at each hummingbird feeder, they will only allow one bird at a time to feed.
    My neighbor introduced me to her hummingbirds when I first moved here. She had named each of the birds: Joy, Love, Hope, Peanut, and Little Monster. When she would go for a walk in the neighborhood, they would follow her. They knew the sound of her voice. She was able to get them to drink out of a tiny hand-held feeder.
    Any kind of trumpeting flower that you plant in your yard will attract these sweet little birds. They will attract bees as well.
    Good luck with your new little feathered family.

    Jeannette

  2. Daniel says:

    Jim, Thanks for this solution. It may become necessary.

  3. Tom Faletti says:

    What a wonderful story!

    My neighbor Christof befriended an outdoor cat and gradually lured it to spend the nights on his porch. And so, for 10 years or so, Boris the cat was Christof’s friend and an acquaintance to many of us on the alley behind our house.

    But Boris was always an outside cat, which meant that he was always subject to the risks of living in the wild city. Boris recently was either attacked or had something else happen to him, and a few days later he died. This was a very sad event for my neighbor Christof, and for everyone else who cared about Boris.

    In a big city like my town of Washington DC, many outdoor sounds come into your house unbidden. Some are unpleasant: honking horns, wailing police sirens, angry arguments on the street. Some are neutral: a conversation that comes in an open window, the humming engine of a mail or UPS truck. But one sound that came into my house from outside was a comforting signal: Christof’s quiet whistle as he called to Boris in the hope that he would come for a bite to eat or just some companionship.

    Boris came frequently, and hopefully he enjoyed Christof’s enjoyment of him.

    For days after Christof discovered that Boris was injured, Christof’s whistle went unanswered, even as it increased in frequency. My heart tugged when those whistles went unanswered. And then Boris returned to die in the comfort of the porch my friend had made his home.

    Christof’s whistle was the sweetest sound I ever heard coming into my house from the outside — a signal of loving care to Boris, but also a signal to me that the world was a good place.

    Nature creates opportunities for connection, but it always comes with risks — to the creatures themselves, and to the hearts of the humans who choose to care.

    Bravo to you for caring!

    Tom

  4. Tom Faletti says:

    What a wonderful story!

    My neighbor Christof befriended an outdoor cat and gradually lured it to spend the nights on his porch. And so, for 10 years or so, Boris the cat was Christof’s friend and an acquaintance to many of us on the alley behind our house.

    But Boris was always an outside cat, which meant that he was always subject to the risks of living in the wild city. Boris recently was either attacked or had something else happen to him, and a few days later he died. This was a very sad event for my neighbor Christof, and for everyone else who cared about Boris.

    In a big city like my town of Washington DC, many outdoor sounds come into your house unbidden. Some are unpleasant: honking horns, wailing police sirens, angry arguments on the street. Some are neutral: a conversation that comes in an open window, the humming engine of a mail or UPS truck. But one sound that came into my house from outside was a comforting signal: Christof’s quiet whistle as he called to Boris in the hope that he would come for a bite to eat or just some companionship.

    Boris came frequently, and hopefully he enjoyed Christof’s enjoyment of him.

    For days after Christof discovered that Boris was injured, Christof’s whistle went unanswered, even as it increased in frequency. My heart tugged when those whistles went unanswered. And then Boris returned to die in the comfort of the porch my friend had made his home.

    Christof’s whistle was the sweetest sound I ever heard coming into my house from the outside — a signal of loving care to Boris, but also a signal to me that the world was a good place.

    Nature creates opportunities for connection, but it always comes with risks — to the creatures themselves, and to the hearts of the humans who choose to care.

    Bravo to you for caring!

    Tom

  5. Jeannette says:

    Dan and Gretta,

    I held my breath through most of your update. Talk about ups and downs. And twists and turns. Good for you for getting that baby back into the nest. If you put a hummingbird feeder out for them, they will become you’re a little birdies forever. And they will tell all of their little friends how good the food is at the Sapone house.

    Jeannette

  6. Cindy Herold says:

    Over 40 years ago…
    I was so pleased that you are enjoying the hummers. When I lived across the street I had a hummer, Burt. He was very friendly and talkative. At the time I wasn’t working so I spent a great deal of time on the deck. We had hung a feeder out and eventually Burt found it. I did some research on hummers and found they are very loyal. Burt would come by a few times a day to get a drink, well a few times became all the time. I decided to name him Burt. I learned to chirp like him and would chirp when he was stopping for a visit. I could call him and over time he would come. He began to trust me more and more…getting closer and closer to me. Finally Burt was so comfortable with me that I put my finger for him to perch on & he did. Pretty amazing!
    If the feeder needed filling he would come to the window and start chirping for me to come out and fill, I must admit he was not the these bit nice about it. He would sit on the glider and wait. I’d sit while he drank. When he was finished he’d come right up to my face flutter his wings and chirp a big thank you. He came back a few years in a row. Once with his mate, Gertie, they had two babies. The babies had babies & for generations they lived on in the neighborhood.
    Your story warms my heart to know my hummer Burt’s legend lives on❣️
    Cindy

  7. Megan Taylor says:

    Wonderful story! thanks so much for sharing it.

    We have a feeder just outside a window of our breakfast nook. Amazingly, we have an Anna’s hummer (or two) that visit throughout the winter — even when we have to take the feeder inside at night to keep it from freezing over. I’ve never tried to establish a personal connection with the hummer(s), but the experiences of your friends inspire me to give it a try. I have had one or more hovering insistently outside my office window, directing all their attention to me, i assume reminding me to replenish the feeder; or even of one or more hovering near me, with intense concentration, if I’m reading quietly on the deck.

    Thanks for an inspiring and very fun series of essays.

    Covid isolation presents new possibilities!

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