Life on the Mountain — Hummingbirds’ Surprise!

Thankful hummingbird (Photo by Blaine Howerton)
By Blaine Howerton, Publisher
North Forty News

It’s been three months since my sons and I made the decision to move to my mountain property and live off-grid. With so many unexpected challenges, while I have mastered most, I am anticipating many more. We don’t regret this decision and every day we look forward to new adventures.

With the start of school, we’ve had to adjust to getting up earlier. In contrast to the 5-minute walk we used to have, the commute is now about 40 minutes. Now, in a Jeep, we drive down a 4×4 trail through Poudre Canyon and then on into town. But I am happy to report that we have made it to school early every day! Challenge 101 mastered!

On to the surprises: Summer wildflowers have begun their transition to fall plants. Beyond that, the hummingbirds’ habits have changed. They actually seem rather desperate! Now I’m wondering if I’m going to go broke buying sugar for the homemade syrup they seem to thrive on. I can’t believe how much these tiny creatures consume. And there are scores of them! I also can’t believe how habitual and territorial they are.

If a sane person saw me most days while I’m relaxing and watching the hummingbirds, they would swear I’d lost my marbles. I have full-on one-sided conversations, even one-sided arguments with these hummingbirds. One female, in particular, makes it a point to perch herself on a nearby bush and guards against others who come in for a drink. When they approach, she swoops down and fends them off. I warned her the other day, I was going to cut down her perch if she didn’t stop!

Shortly thereafter, 3 males tried to feed. She did her usual thing, then I witnessed an amazing natural phenomenon. One bird distracted her while the other two fed; then they switched off until everyone got a drink. This continued many times. And there I am yelling: “Show her that! Go team!” (No nearby neighbors to witness my mania.)

They seem to feed continuously all day long, every day. I have also seemed to win the trust of the tiny little birds. Many times, they have hovered at eye level only a few feet away. They seem to be studying me.

Recently one of them flew into my small writer’s studio and couldn’t figure its way out. I put my sleeve over my hand and he climbed on — he didn’t seem nervous at all. Then he cocked his head while I gave him a gentle whistle. I slowly moved him to the door where he safely flew away. I bet it was an amazing experience for us both. That same bird flies up to me almost every day now (he has very distinct feather markings). He looks me in the eye and slowly flies away. It seems his way of saying thank you — at least that’s how I take it.

We couldn’t be happier watching these amazing little creatures. Now, if I could just figure out how to get their energy from sugar and water, (a dreadful combination for humans) I might be able to solve some pretty big world challenges. Perhaps that’s challenge 102. I’m thinking on it!

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