Thursday, July 22, 2010

The Summer of the Hummingbird

In keeping with Native American and Asian ways of remembering events, the summer of 2010 at the High Mountain Lodge promises to go down in the Beckwith Family Annals as the Summer of the Hummingbird.

Looking West from the Deck of the High Mountain Lodge

As I write this out on the deck of the High Mountain Lodge, a swarm of 12 to 18 hummingbirds (surely the collective noun for hummingbirds must be a "swarm" and not a "charm" as one website reports) are fighting a pitched battle over the feeder we installed on the balcony outside our bedroom. We have another, similar feeder hanging outside our sitting room balcony, and an even larger one hanging outside the windows of the dining room.

We are filling the feeders at least twice a day. We have almost gone through the 50-pound bag of sugar we bought at Costco in Denver in late spring to feed the two hives of bees we are keeping down in the hayloft of the ruined barn on the property. We've only filled the feeders for the bees twice; the hummers have sucked down all the rest.

It has gotten to the point where, when the feeders are empty, the hummingbirds will fly up in our face as if to remind us to feed them. This afternoon when I filled the big feeder off the dining room, the moment I cranked open the window to get to the feeder, I had three hummers buzzing around impatiently; they turned angry when I took the feeder away, and when I brought it back a full ten minutes later two of them landed on the perches before I even had a chance to hang it on the hook outside the window.

One flew into the office this afternoon when Julie was figuring out the sales taxes, and later I found another one trapped in the dining room trying to get to the feeder outside the window. I had to catch it and gently shoo it out the window. It immediately flew to the feeder, not a bit the worse for wear.

These creatures are fearless and violently territorial. Years ago, Julie and I visited a couple who, in their retirement, had bought an alfalfa farm down by Cortez, Colorado. At the time, we thought they were insane to work that hard in their retirement; that was before we bought the High Mountain Lodge.

Anyway, we were having breakfast one morning, and I commented on how scrappy the birds were (I'd never seen that many in one place before, being an Oklahoma boy). "Yeah," said our friend, "if they were any bigger, we'd have to shoot 'em."

At the time, I thought she was exaggerating, but a few mornings ago, when it had been warm enough overnight to leave the sliding glass door open to our balcony, the hummers started fighting over the feeder at 4:30 a.m. The noise woke both Julie and me up. Perhaps a better collective noun might be "an annoyance of hummingbirds."

We have created a monster--a collective monster. The peace and quiet of the High Mountain Lodge is now punctuated by the various and varied noises hummingbirds make. Earlier today, I was in our sitting room and began to wonder if Denver air traffic control had, for some reason, begun to divert airplanes over Grand County. But no, it was just the hummingbirds at the feeder--two, and sometimes three trying to feed from the same station.

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