Thursday, April 27, 2006

A Sad Ending

I like happy endings. I know that sad endings are probably more realistic in many stories, but I really want everyone to live happily ever after. My sister Bay wrote a fabulous blog entry about happy endings when one of her real life experiences came to a joyful conclusion. I wish I had a happy ending for my story.

Now, don't panic. The babies, as far as I know, are both fine. Typical siblings, they don't hang out together, so I don't know if I'm seeing brother and sister or if it's just one coming to the feeder. They're wild birds and the world is a dangerous place. They might meet with an unhappy end. That's beyond my control.

What I could have -- should have -- controlled, though, was the disposition of their nest. I spent so much happy time this spring watching that nest. That nest was at the center of an event that I couldn't have asked for, couldn't buy with money. It just happened and it made me happy and I wanted to keep the nest as a memento. That is, of course, after the mama bird used it again this summer. I hoped she would. Since the babies fledged, I've spent a lot of time just gazing at that tiny nest and thinking about what a wonder it was.

I didn't mention it on this blog, but I had talked to some landscapers, a husband and wife team, about removing that bush. It's in an awkward place and it's untidy and when it flowers in the spring it attracts little flying bugs. When the female hummingbird started sitting on the bush, though, I told the landscapers not to remove it. She liked sitting there. Later, I told them the happy news about the nest. I told them that the silly bird had built a nest on a dead branch. I told them that the bush has to stay for good now. I told them. I told them. I said, in so many words, "Now we won't even trim off the dead branches." They knew how important it was to me. While they were working on a neighbor's yard, I offered to show the wife the nest. She was in too much of a rush, but we said we'd look at it later.

We didn't get around to it.

They came today. Things were hectic. The dog was going to the groomer. We left the gate unlocked. We had already walked around the yard with them months ago -- before the nest -- and shown them what we wanted done.

They cut the dead branches off the bush. They cut the nest off. It's gone and thrown away. And I'm broken hearted. It's somewhere out there in a garbage bag in the yard. My husband tried to find it. I've cried.

Silly, I know. It's ridiculous to be so attached to a hummingbird nest. But the thing is...well, it was just a little unexpected blessing in my life. It made me so happy. It gave me hope that the mother would come back again this summer and have another little family there. I made plans to find a shadow box so I could keep it and remember this happy spring.

Tonight the hummingbirds came to the feeder and then zipped away. They're wary because there was so much activity in the yard. They're unsure because the trees and bushes have been trimmed, so many of their perches are gone. I know they'll get used to the changes. I know they'll come back and be comfortable at the feeder again.

What I don't know is whether they'll ever feel comfortable enough to build another home in my back yard.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

What to do?

Wow. It seems so quiet around here these days. I keep wanting to check the webcam, but there's nothing to see at the nest, so I've relocated the camera to a place that's a little more exciting. Hope you guys enjoy the view, too! I'm going to take the camera down in another week or so, but enjoy it in the meantime. I know I'll be checking in now and then!

Update: The camera was offline for much of the day. If you had trouble viewing it on Thursday, give it another try.

I keep hoping that mama hummingbird will come back to the same nest for her second brood this summer. My reading says that they often have a second brood in a summer, and she got such an early start, surely she'll try again. I'm worried, though, that she might find her current nest location less than satisfactory because...well, frankly, because of the darned paparazzi! I mean, the constant intrusion of cameras being thrust into her face -- sheesh! If she's smart, she'll go to Namibia to have her second brood.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006


At about 7:30 this morning the second baby left the nest. I have empty nest syndrome already. Thank goodness I'll be seeing the two juveniles at my feeder in coming days.

Sniff! They grow up so fast!

Monday, April 17, 2006

Smart boy!

Well, Baby #2 has decided to be smart and stay in the nest for another day. Excellent decision! Today was, as the weatherman promised, another very windy day. The wind seems to have died down now, so maybe tomorrow will be a better day for learning to fly. I think I spotted sister flying around today, still a bit uncertain with her skills, but getting better all the time.

I know it's very difficult to see the dark pictures I've put here, but the first shows the mama bird feeding our stalwart nest dweller. The second picture shows him trying out those wings. I'm almost certain he'll take flight tomorrow. It's been such a thrill watching these babies begin their life in my back yard. I hope I get to see them come back for many years.

I think fate must have sensed my disappointment at seeing the babies go, because I did have an unexpected and unusual visitor in the back yard. I first spotted him on the hummingbird feeder, where he was not being too successful at extracting any nectar for himself. I haven't seen him at all since this morning and don't know if it would be worthwhile to buy an oriole feeder, but if I see him once more, I'm buying one. I've never seen an oriole of any kind before. I lived in Baltimore for four years and never saw an oriole there (well, except for Cal Ripken), so it was a real treat to see this hooded oriole checking out the offerings.

Please forgive the grainy pictures. This bird was very skittish, so when I came to the patio door he flew to a nearby palm. When I came closer to the door so I could see him in the palm, he flew further into the palm. I finally had to retreat to the breakfast nook and hide behind the blinds to get a picture of him.

So maybe it's not the end of the world that the babies are fledging. There are other surprises to be found. I'm glad this bright fellow came by to remind me of that.

Sunday, April 16, 2006


Whew! Busy weekend. There were lots of things going on this weekend, including several hummingbird-related adventures, so let's start at the beginning.

First of all, the boys are back in town. We saw three or four male black-chinned hummingbirds in the yard on Saturday evening. In my reading about black-chinned hummingbird nesting habits, I had learned that the male generally disappears while the female is on the nest and when the chicks are growing. Who knows where they go? They're so territorial, though, it's probably best that they not be around to attract attention to the nest. I haven't seen any males in the last few weeks, but now they're back with a vengeance. The mother still runs them off as well as she can. In fact, it was a convoy of males that we saw her chase across the yard and over the neighbor's wall.

In the midst of the male bashing there was a very frightening moment. The mama bird was dashing around and flew off the feeder and smack into the patio door. My heart stopped. She tumbled to the ground. Her wings were splayed out and she sat still on her stomach in front of the door. I watched her gather her wings in to her side. I noticed what looked like a light colored spot right in the middle of her long, slender beak. I wondered if that light spot indicated where her beak might have bent when she hit the glass. Leon the bulldog took a few tentative steps in her direction, and Paul and I both dived for him. In just a few moments -- probably no more than 20 seconds, our little mother gathered up her wits and flew away. I didn't see her anymore Saturday evening, and I was worried sick that she was dying or that her beak was broken and she wouldn't be able to eat or feed her babies.

Let me quickly say that she was back at work this morning, as if nothing had happened. Thank goodness they're such resilient little creatures. The babies were so close to fledging, I couldn't help but wonder whether they would have been able to learn to fly on their own. Would they have found the feeder? I'm so glad I didn't have to find out the answer to that question.

And, of course, speaking of fledging, we now have one more hummingbird flying around our yard. I believe it's the female who's started flying first. She must have been the first to hatch. I saw her on the webcam this morning, but by 11:00 or so I could only make out one beak on the webcam. I went outside and peeked, and sure enough, one little bird was alone in the nest. I sat on the patio and waited, and after a while here came the mother, flying confidently, and the baby, flying like Woodstock. I wish she hadn't decided to start her flying lessons on such a windy day! We occasionally have these days in Las Vegas -- probably since we don't have weather, as such, like snow or rain or whatever -- when the wind blows at gale force. I saw a weather advisory on TV tonight warning of high winds through Monday at 11:00 a.m. Our new flyer made it through the day without being blown away, at least. I saw her in one of the canary palms in the yard as evening fell. Let's hope the smart one who stayed in the nest stays smart and doesn't try out his wings until the winds have diminished a bit.

The lone baby left in the nest has been doing calisthenics. He's turned around in that nest, stood on the edge, flapped his wings, and chirped his little lungs out. Mama bird comes by and chirps at him as if to say, "OK, buster, now when are you going to get off your lazy butt and fly like your sister, hmm? You want me to feed you your whole life? Not likely!" And then she feeds him a bit. (Pushover.)

I'm betting that by tomorrow night we'll have an empty nest. Sigh.

Easter flight

Baby #1 has taken flight. I'll try to add pictures as soon as I can, but I've found it impossible to follow her Woodstock-like flight patterns so far. She chose an especially windy day to start flight training, but so far, so good.

I have lots of hummingbird news to write about, but I hope you'll forgive me if I wait until later to record the events of the last couple of days. I have many pictures to download and several stories to tell. In the meantime, though, be sure to watch the webcam, where the one baby remains. He should fly today or tomorrow. Such excitement!

Friday, April 14, 2006

If I had wings...

I'd try them out, too. Look what I just saw on the webcam.

They'll be flying soon.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

I think we have an answer to the boy/girl question

Take a look at those chin feathers! I do believe we have a little boy there on the left and a little girl there on the right. I think that's going to be a black chin on that black-chinned hummingbird!

Welcome to all the wonderful people from Infotec's eagle nest cam. I was amazed at the number of hits my little hummingbird cam got today! I hope you weren't too disappointed in the quality of my webcam after seeing the great image of the eagles. I hope these stills help make up for the fuzzy webcam.

Hey, look! I spy some green on that little bird! I think this is the first picture that shows any green in the feathers. I usually take the pictures in the late afternoon, so there's no bright sunshine. I'm sure we'll see lots more green soon...when they're coming to the feeder on their own!

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

More flip-flops than Miami Beach

OK, now they're just showing off. Beak to tail, then beak to beak, and now they're beak to tail again. Tomorrow I bet they're going to be stacked one on top of the other holding sparklers in their beaks and whistling "Entry of the Gladiators." (Don't recognize the name? Here's a sample of the music. You'll recognize it!)

I've been looking around for better webcam technology, and boy, have I been shamed. Take a look at this eagle nest cam. The subjects themselves are breathtaking, and I have some serious technology envy. I almost got depressed, but then I remembered -- I have a hummingbird nest in my own back yard. I feel better now.

Besides, the eagles would probably wreck that bush.

Monday, April 10, 2006

Twin Beaks

Good heavens! Where did the babies go? These are practically grown birds. I keep looking at the calendar and realizing how soon it will be when they fly on their own. I asked Paul today whether we could just Super Glue the babies to the nest. OK, I won't do that, but it is tempting.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

We interrupt your regularly-scheduled hummingbirds

To bring you this non-avian news.

My sister is brilliant.

Now, this is something I've known for quite some time, but she's not convinced. It took a writing contest to provide proof.

Miss Snark is a New York literary agent. She runs an anonymous blog. She tells it like it is. Thousands surf in to read her wisdom and learn how to be good little snarklings. She doles out advice on submitting to literary agents, cover letters, publishing, editors, and anything and everything related to the task of getting published.

Miss Snark decided last weekend to hold a little writing contest. She limited entries to 500 words and gave points for using certain words and phrases -- "Bat Segundo," "bunion," "snark," "muddle," and even "Drop everything and give me ten...books!" I pointed out the contest to my brilliant sister with the comment that I was afraid of the judge -- Miss Snark can be quite, make that honest. I couldn't take honest criticism of my writing. I wouldn't pass the test.

Like I said, Miss Snark's blog has thousands of readers. As it turns out, 111 of those readers felt up to the challenge. My brilliant sister penned a quick entry and submitted it. Within a week, Miss Snark had reviewed all the entries -- a herculean feat -- and has just posted her selections. My brilliant sister's entry earned an honorable mention! Now, let's review.
  1. This was a competition between serious writers who read Miss Snark's blog.
  2. Miss Snark is a tough cookie with very discerning tastes.
  3. My brilliant sister's entry was written quickly; hers was one of the first submitted.
  4. Her entry was selected by Miss Snark as one of her favorites.
  5. Ergo, my sister is brilliant.
Next step: We must convince her that she needs to write a book and get published and make a bunch of money. Seems like the logical next step to me.

Hey! How'd they do that?!

When last we visited the nest, the babies were positioned beak to tail, wedged in as tight as they could get. I figured that's how we'd see them until they fledged, since there's no possible way they could jump up, turn around, and reposition themselves beak to beak. Well, I guess I was wrong.

And look! That's a little eye peering back at me! It's nice to know they can now look around and see what's going on in this corner of the world. I imagine they're thinking, "Sheesh, mom! Couldn't you have chosen one of the green branches on this bush instead of a dead branch? And what's with the bulldog? He acts like this bush belongs to him!"

Also, we've decided on names for our little family. After calling the mother bird "Mama Bird" for a few weeks, that morphed into Mama Rose. That would make the duo in the nest Baby June and Louise, right? (And we can always fall back to Baby James and Louis if necessary, right?)

Mama Rose is enjoying her relative freedom these days. She's not at the nest all the time anymore, but she does come by to feed the kids now and then, especially around dusk. She spends much of her time running off interlopers who want to help themselves to her feeder, or just resting on a nearby palm...on the other side of the yard. Mother's day out, right?

Friday, April 07, 2006

That face

What a face!

It occurred to me today that this is the longest rest a hummingbird will get in its whole life. It's no wonder they're so lethargic. Imagine how much energy they're putting into the simple task of growing.

I am looking forward to their being big enough to get their faces away from the...well, let's say "untidy" edge of that nest. I've read that hummingbirds sometimes reuse the same nest for their second brood in a summer. I hope she cleans it up a bit first! Eww!

Thursday, April 06, 2006


They're growing like weeds. These hummingbird babies are now big enough that they can't hide their heads in the nest. Those long beaks just won't fit!

Speaking of beaks, take a look at this screen capture from the webcam today. I've discovered that the mother feeds them quite a bit at dusk, so check in between 5:00 and 7:00 Pacific time.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Caterpillars don't have beaks!

And that, my friends, is a beak! (Click the image to see a larger version.)

I'm still not a very convincing mama bird, I'm afraid. This is as much activity as I could get out of these little birds this afternoon. I moved the branch just a little, and one lazy little beak popped up as if its owner were saying, "Umm, yeah. See, I'm sleeping here. And if you really, really want to stuff something into my crop, I'll let you. But right now I have some resting to do, 'K?"

I continue to fiddle with the webcam in an effort to get a faster refresh rate. I may be moving everything to another computer because now I'm thinking that the computer I have the program running on just isn't fast enough. Purely selfish -- I want to see these babies move! And they're about to be big enough to pop their little spiky heads over the top of that nest!

Why, hello there!

My heavens! Somehow the word has gotten out about my hummingbird nest! Welcome, hummingbird fans!

The stars of the show seem a little quieter than usual today -- do you suppose they know they're being watched? If you haven't seen mom and the kids yet, do check back now and then. I promise they'll make an appearance sooner or later. I occasionally watch the camera from work and after a few minutes I start worrying that mom has abandoned the kids. Just about the time I get panicky, she's back on the nest, feeding the kids. I'll try to get some good stills this afternoon. I haven't had great success yet, but I promise my next picture will look like birds, not caterpillars.

I'm just so glad y'all are here! Thanks for sharing this fascinating event with me!

Sunday, April 02, 2006


I'm going to have to start being more disruptive, I guess. I'm going to have to start making the babies think mom is back to feed them so they'll raise up their heads and show us their beaks! Here's a picture I took earlier today, and I swear it looks like a couple of fuzzy caterpillars have crawled into the nest. They're baby birds, I promise!

If it's daylight, check the webcam. It probably has a better image than this one!

Hooray for the new camera!

Adjustable focus makes a world of difference! I'm no longer ashamed to point people to the webcam. You can now see the nest! You can see the mother! And you can, if you're watching closely, see the babies move! That's -- tell your friends!

I don't know about you, but I'm going to just sit here and stare at the computer for a few hours and marvel in the beauty of auto iris and backlight compensation.

Oh, and nature. Don't forget nature. It's cool, too.

Eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!!!!!!!!!!!!! The camera works! The camera works!