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HomeLife In the BerkshiresIlluminating the Hidden...

Illuminating the Hidden Forest Chapter 11: Hummingbirds say goodbye

I do feel that I have a special relationship with hummingbirds. Sometimes during the summer, while watering the garden, they have danced in the spray from the hose, even coming almost up to the nozzle.

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A few days ago, while sipping my morning coffee and gazing out our sunroom windows at the birds enjoying their seeds and nectars on their feeders, a strange thing happened. Three times, one after another, a hummingbird flew right up to the window, hovered looking in, then swerved off and away.

My good friend, Midge, may she rest in peace, told me that here in the Berkshires the hummingbirds arrive on May 5 and depart on September 5. Darned if she isn’t right.

Now, two days later, the hummingbird feeder hangs lonely, except for the pesky wasps who, attracted to the sugar water, plagued the poor hummers during the sticky days of summer. I keep meaning to buy a trap to lure them away, but somehow never got to it. Darting and sparring with the wasps, the hummingbirds always seemed to find a pathway into the feeder and take their delicate thirsty sips.

Now they are gone. Were they saying goodbye, and maybe even thank you, at our sunroom window before their long trip south?

I do feel that I have a special relationship with hummingbirds. Sometimes during the summer, while watering the garden, they have danced in the spray from the hose, even coming almost up to the nozzle. I stand still, awed by this tiny creature gamboling and sparkling in front of my eyes.

I’m a good hummingbird mother, in my human way. They have two feeders in case one runs out, one of brass and glass with little red enameled flowers around its base, the deluxe version, the other a small plastic tube with feeder hole that I hang from the garden fence. On occasion, when their food ran low, a hummingbird would fly to the window and look in, as if to say, “Have you forgotten to feed me?”

Every week I wash out the two feeders with hot soapy water, flushing out the bodies of ants enticed by the allure of sugar. (Sound familiar?) I boil the water for their nectar with one part sugar to four parts water, cool it, and then refill the feeders. The hummingbirds seem to appreciate my cooking, as the nectar slowly but surely disappears from the feeders each week.

But is there more than that? They seem to know that behind their attractive and salubrious banquet is a human hand, and in particular, my human hand, loving them, caring for them, feeling responsible for their well-being.

At a time when we’re learning that plants can communicate, though not in a language that we can hear, that a whale cut loose from a fishing net by courageous and caring humans can swim alongside to say thank you, is it not possible that our hummingbirds came to our window to say goodbye?

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