Yard Missiles

Stare hard at the hummingbird, in the summer rain,
shaking the water-sparks from its wings…

~ Mary Oliver

With a thunderstorm kicking up outside and rain (much needed rain) starting to fall, I sit inside watching the yard missiles go at each other at the four feeders we have scattered around the house. It still baffles me how their daily energy budget balances out in their favor with all the zest and fury that they exhibit for most of the day. The calmest feedings occur when I am outside near one of the feeders, apparently keeping at least one of the bejeweled jets at bay (although this doesn’t always hold true). They also tend to dine unbothered when they sneak into the yard vegetation and partake of sips of nectar from the lone surviving Cardinal Flower (a favorite of the yard bunnies I’m afraid) or the abundant Jewelweed. We have plenty of the latter growing just outside our kitchen/sun-room window. I love this up close jungle because it allows me to watch our hummingbirds as they deftly maneuver through the tangle in search of the bright orange flowers. It also gives us a great view of the many butterflies and other insects that visit the nearby Joe-Pye-Weed and Ironweed. The recent appearance of a pair of Green Treefrogs clinging to the look-alike plant stems is an added bonus.

A female Ruby-throated Hummingbird takes refuge in a shrub near one of our feeders (click photos to enlarge)
One of three male hummingbirds that have staked a claim to our yard
That darned background stick…would have been nice if this male had landed a bit off to one side or another

My favorite encounter with our yard missiles happened a couple of weeks ago when I went out to bring in a feeder for a cleaning and refill. The hummers frequently zoom close when I am putting up or taking down feeders, but this time, as I grabbed the feeder and lifted it off the hook, a hummingbird landed on it and started feeding. It was an immature male and it occasionally glanced my way as I stood there with bird at arm’s length. They usually only stay a few seconds at a feeder, but this one kept on, so I slowly pulled the bird and tube closer. I finally had it about 8 inches from my face! What an incredible sight. They are so tiny and so beautiful up close. He finally streaked off (my arm thanked him) when another adult male came in for a challenge but veered off when it realized there was a new hanger for the feeder.

A heavy crop to show the delicate beauty of the bright red feathers of the male’s gorget (iridescent throat feathers)

While that was a special moment, my mom told me this week about one that tops it. She loves to sit on her front porch in the evening and watch the hummingbirds as they contest the air space around her feeder. She happened to glance down and saw that one had landed on her knee and was just taking it all in. She said it sat there for several seconds until she gently moved her leg and it zoomed off. Here’s hoping we all get such special moments with these flying jewels before they head south in the coming weeks.

10 thoughts on “Yard Missiles

  1. My partner had a hummingbird drink from the fountain of water coming out of the hose as he held it! We are bedazzled here in Oregon with rufous hummingbirds! Your post resonates.

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