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Hummingbird Stories

Safe Travels Annie

I thought it was a leaf at first. The wind had been blowing and it was stormy and threatening more rain. So when I saw the movement out of the corner of my eye I naturally assumed it was a leaf. But this leaf held its ground hovering nervously at the edge of the deck. Behind it was the barren bluff, all brown and windblown already even though it is just mid November. Finally my mental fog cleared and I saw it clearly. One last hummingbird, looking for food, looking for my feeder.

But it's November for goodness sake. The feeder has been put away for the season. Why hasn't it flown off to Mexico already? Perhaps it's an orphan. Or perhaps this hummer just loves the bluffs like I do. Nevertheless there it was, and then it was gone.

I rub my eyes. Surely I am mistaken. But what if it's true and it is an orphan hummer. Annie, see I have named her already, must have food. The geraniums are spent, the impatiens are wilted and blossomless. I resurrect the feeder from the hall closet and mix up some sugar and water for the syrup, being careful to be quick but not allowing the liquid to be too hot. Within five minutes I have the feeder re-hung in its spot on the deck in case Annie stays in the area. But mentally I am telling her she'd be wise to get a move on. Pack your duds, girl. Get going. Cold weather is in the forecast in spite of the balmy November day we have today.

I head off to my office, with the feeling that I have already done my good deed for the day. I worry that in my haste the syrup wasn't sugary enough. Don't they need more energy when they're migrating? Was there enough of the juice in the feeder for a hungry little orphan? Knock it off, I tell myself as I worry throughout the day. She's probably already halfway to the Carolinas.

My morning plans the next day for platform tennis are squashed because of the constant rain and drizzle. I'm chatting on the phone catching up with friends. Along comes my little orphan, Annie. She sits down at the feeder, and stays put, alternating between watching and feeding. I am happy that my efforts to make food available to her meet with her approval. I expect I'll get a multi-star rating on the migratory bird version of Orbitz or Expedia.com.

Throughout the day she visits. Staying seated on the feeder for several minutes each time, resting, watching and feeding. After three or four visits I decide that I'll refresh her syrup with a stronger ratio of sugar to water while adding more liquid to the feeder. She must be hungry and in need of storing up energy for her long journey. She looks panicked when she sits, like she's indecisive about the trip. I can sympathize. I have stared at multiple internet sites on many occasion trying to decide which flight, what airport, what airline, will I need a car, etc. I hope the hosts on the destination side still know to expect her. She's very late.

In total she probably visited my feeder eight or nine times during the day that I witnessed, and who knows how many more visits she made to the feeder. Or maybe it was more than one bird but it didn't appear that way. I wished her well every time she flew off, hoping for her safe travels and a promise to have fresh juice waiting for her when she returns in April.

Annie returned every day to the feeder for the next three days. White caps on Long Island Sound and roofers on my building did not deter her from her many meals. I made sure there was plenty of high octane sugary juice for her and she seemed pleased, sitting and sipping quite contentedly. It was amusing to watch her acrobatics as she hung on in the stiff winds.

Last night the temperature plummeted to the freezing mark and today I did not see Annie. I'm sure she caught the last flight out to Mexico via some warm southern stopovers for refueling. It was a pleasure to be her last host and I look forward to her safe return in the spring.

Safe travels, Annie.







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