Be Aware, Amazed, and Smell the Roses
I know better, yet I still need to be reminded now and then not to take things for granted. Despite the miracles which surround us daily, we often fail to see and appreciate them. My hummingbird feeder hangs just outside our sliding patio door. My long-practiced daily habit of going outside to greet the day as the sun rises and bidding it adieu as the sun sets helps to remind me never to become cavalier about nature. Exiting onto the patio, I stand perhaps three feet away from the little circular red feeder which hangs at about eye-level.
Every day the cast of characters arrives at the crack of dawn and every day they vanish into the enveloping shadows that close in at dusk. In between, one is treated to up-close and personal accounts of the rat-race life these little creatures lead. For those who are not familiar with their habits, you should know that they are extremely territorial, especially the males. At various peak times during the year, I will see three or four birds all competing to be what I call the “boss-bird” in our yard. The typical reign of boss-birds is two to three months before they either move on or are demoted by a more worthy challenger.
The legendary “dog-fights” in the skies featuring World War I aces such as Rickenbacker and Richtofen pale in comparison to the aerial feats of these little birds as they swoop in on one another while feeding. Generally it is the dominant boss-bird who does the swooping from his lookout perch in the yard as an interloper attempts to lap some sugar-water from “his” feeder. Invariably, they high-tail it off into the blue in a high speed pursuit, the boss-bird a few inches off the tail of the trespasser as they disappear from view. Two follow-up scenarios will unfailingly play out: The boss-bird will be seen circling back to his lookout perch to resume his watch ten to twenty seconds after driving off his rival, and the interloper will soon be back for another try and deja-vu happens all over again!
When “buzzed,” the interloper goes from perched position at the feeder into a quick evasive dive and a bee-line retreat into the skies – all in the blink of an eye. Their quickness, speed, and control in flight is astounding as is their ability to hover using wing-beats which routinely exceed fifty per second. All of this in perfect flight control. While in hasty retreat from a buzzing boss-bird, escapees have many times flown within inches of my face as they take off from the feeder, but I never fear of being hit. Only once in many years of daily observation have I ever seen a hummer out of control in flight.
It happened one afternoon while I was indoors at our family-room table paying bills. I happened to look up to see a hummer leisurely feeding just outside our patio window. Suddenly, the bird exploded from the perch and ricocheted off the patio door glass in frantic retreat. My first reaction was: “He actually bumped the door!” In a fraction of a second I saw the white underside of the broad wingspan of a peregrine falcon as he swooped by the feeder flying parallel to our window. Just to be sure of what I thought I saw, I jumped from my chair and went outside. Sure enough, circling and rising high in the blue was a falcon. I was stunned at my good fortune to witness two of nature’s finest creations doing what they were designed to do – attempting to survive in their special realm. The little hummer barely lived to fly and feed another day while providing a lesson for us all: Live each day fully, taking nothing for granted. As a bonus lesson, I experienced first-hand, the magnificence and wonder of the natural world which will hopefully never be taken for granted.
Needless to say, I am enthralled by my hummingbird friends. When they first arrive on the scene, they are quite nervous about me standing only a few feet away. After visiting for several days, they pay much more attention to the whereabouts of the boss-bird (and perhaps the peregrine falcon) than they do to me. It is easy to develop a bond with the more confident birds, those that literally lose all fear of you once you gain their trust. Most individuals have their ups and downs. Sometimes they fly in, land, have a relaxed drink, and leisurely fly off. Other days, the same birds might arrive jumpy and nervous the whole time on the perch; they have their rough days too!
My time with them has provided me with a lesson in human humility as I observe their remarkable abilities and their “one-ness” with the natural world. I continue to be amazed and am always reminded to stop, smell the roses, and appreciate the amazing world in which we live.