Summer of the 'hummer'

The season demands a title. It took me a while to recognize this one.

Michael Sullivan/The News-Review/AP
A hummingbird in Stewart Park IN Roseburg, Ore.

Every summer has a flavor to me and earns a title, such as the beautifully mild summer when tomatoes would not produce, the summer that I painted the porch, or the summer a new wicker sofa entranced us into a wicker sofa summer on the porch.

Last summer appeared to be a normal summer, awaiting its title. The house displayed its freshly painted siding, the vegetables grew larger, the flowers flourished, the days warmed, but the summer had no specific flavor, as yet.

And then a hummingbird flew into our world and gave it the sparkle and title it was waiting for.

To me, a hummingbird was an ethereal creature, a leprechaun of sorts, an elfin figure that others saw, but I did not. I longed for a sighting in my yard, or anywhere; but to that point, bird books and documentaries had been my only sources of images.

Our family has always loved birds, and we have a variety of them at our feeders. After hearing a friend talk about her hummingbirds and their apparent preference for her own sweet mixture rather than the store-bought kind, my son and I decided to try a hummingbird feeder. Maybe we'd catch sight of one this way.

We filled the feeder, hung it on a clothesline, and waited.

One day, as I looked out of my kitchen window, I saw a very small bird, head tucked in, resting on the clothesline and sunning himself. Well, that must be some kind of little finch, I reasoned, for hummingbirds are constantly moving. This bird just sat there. I looked away and moved on.

We continued hoping and searching each day for a sighting of the Tinkerbell of birds. Then one day, after about a week, my husband shouted, "There's a hummingbird at the feeder!"

We all ran to the kitchen window, and there it was in all of its iridescent green finery, with a two-inch-long black bill that was the size of a toothpick and had a slight curve on the end. Its wings buzzed in a blur as it sipped nectar from the feeder. It was poised in the air, a sprightly fighter plane joined with a refueling tanker. It was an amazing and enchanting moment. Then it flew to the clothesline, where it perched and sat perfectly still. Well, that was an eye-opener, so I did some research on this new pet of ours.

They do rest. They are territorial. I witnessed a duel with another hummingbird and also with wasps that were attracted to the nectar. Hummingbirds have the tiniest nests, lay eggs the size of a navy bean, and can fly nonstop across the Gulf of Mexico. What amazing little creatures.

Hummy, as we came to call it, continued to delight us day after day. With summer's warmth fading, our bird-store man advised us to leave the feeder up until November, as some hummingbirds were slow in departing and might need our nectar to store up the energy to get on their way. We did. I think our Hummy left in October.

As long as I place the feeders out, I know that every summer will be extraordinary and filled with surprises, for I have seen a hummingbird at last. We're awaiting their return – any day now – and the sparkle they will surely bring to our summer.

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