In which a hummingbird tribe sends me a message

Around Thanksgiving fall really started to put in an appearance here. Trees along neighborhood streets in Madera, California put on their scarlet and deep red tones, some went brilliant gold. I wish I could give you the names of these lovely beings, but alas, my knowledge of the numerous imported trees around the region is still  sketchy. I am good with pepper trees, however, and those along Emily Way, the access road to our little street, have blazed their gold with true attitude. Gnarly dark trunks making their show all the more vivid.

This post-holiday week, however began with a splash. Quite a lot of that, actually. As in, bring out the bucket brigades if your home is set in a low spot. Happily ours isn’t. Neither are the homes of our avian visitors, but nevertheless they began showing up in my backyard Monday looking like refugees who had been washed out of their nests.

Many of the colorful leaves are now making Persian carpets on sidewalks, so trees with feeders in them look rather barren of refuge.

As I sat reading with tea in the kitchen the rain came down in sheets.  I looked at the hummer feeder on its pole in our treeless backyard sadly. “How many of them will survive this?”  Then an arrow of time … Arrow of disturbance shot through the fast dropping rain, and hovered like a starship over the feeder.

I positioned myself for the best possible view, and there was a tiny Anna’s Hummingbird female, presenting quite a show. Her long beak was firmly down in one of the feeder ports, while her entire body, three and a bit inches with tail feathers, shivered and shook as she constantly bounced off the rain doing its best to penetrate those tiny iridescent green feathers on her back. So metallic and smooth seem those feathers normally that they are worn like a suit of armor. But, of what use armor however cleverly contrived by nature on a day so wild and wet?

As the beak never moved — she really needed to tank up on energy — it began to look as though she was deliberately raising and lowering her back feathers. The way some of my New Mexico yard hummers used to zip back and forth through the spray of a hose. Could she be actually enjoying this shower? It was about 50 degrees out there.

Came a particularly strong blast of wind to hit her and the next thing I knew there were not one but three female Anna’s hummingbirds a couple of feet away from me, just on the other side of the patio door. And they were having quite the family argument over who would get to occupy branches among the few bonsai trees that are overwintering out there.

One buzzed my face at the door while another tapped the window above the kitchen sink, then shot over to me, back and forth a couple of times. I think I got her message: “Why the heck is there NO FEEDER right here, out of the wind and rain?”

Obediently and immediately I went to to order a patio pole with hooks for a couple of feeders (or wind chimes) and several more hoops for small plant pots.

I returned to my viewing to find that I, in turn, was under close scrutiny by a tiny being perched on the leafless limb of a small ginkgo tree. The other two had vanished. Having my iPhone handy I took a few photos and a short video of her as she sat, shook her feathers a few times, scratched the red patch beneath her chin a couple of times, dozed off for a few minutes, and ultimately stretched herself out straight, preparing for take off worthy of a starship. Now you see her, now there’s nothing. Raindrops be danged.

She got in a turn at the feeder, as did one or two other females and then in came the male, his flaming rose head and chin a bit the worse for wear for the downpour. There’s a bronze colored sun face hanging on the fence behind a planter of salvia shrubs pleasing to hummers, and HRM (His Royal Majesty) took up a position front and center, perched on one of the sun’s rays. From that commanding position he flitted occasionally to the feeder. Of him I could get no photos, alas. But he was back early this morning, amidst a brief sunny period, flaunting his gorgeousness at the feeder.

There is much to be learned about survival from very small creatures.

The rain struck, the wind ruffled her. She twisted against them, raising her own feathers at times — but that long bill never left the feeder port. Drawing by Emily A. Lee.
She studied me through the patio door for about 15 minutes. Photo quality could not be very good.
She scratched her chin…
She shook out her feathers vigorously…
She sat like a stoic just out of the rain pouring down before her…
Until after enough rest and drying out she flattened herself beak into the wind and …. Poof! She was gone into the pouring rain.
The more colorful male Anna’s Hummingbird, whom I drew in above the feeder when it was at my former place down in Fresno.

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