Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Summer's Hummers

When Julie's parents, Leroy and Judy, moved from Raleigh to a quiet cul-de-sac in west Sanford, just a few miles from us, they had no idea about the hummers. But now they do...

They moved in just after breeding season had ended, about the time the hummers began getting serious about fattening up for the southward migration.  

Swarms of ruby-throated hummingbirds, male, female and immature alike, flirted with the single feeder hanging on the deck, high above the wooded back yard, pausing from time to time to rest on the peak of shepherd's hook from which it hung. 

In recent days, the numbers seem to have dwindled a bit. A single mature male dominates the scene, perching in the bare lower branches of a large loblolly pine which overlooks the deck, and darting down like lightning unleashed to harass all other comers. 

When the hovering hummer is positioned just right relative to the sinking sun, its ruby throat feathers capture the light and cast it forth with all the shimmering iridescence of a fiery orange-red opal, warning would-be interlopers away.

Encroachers deterred for the moment, it returns to the very serious business of building its fat reserves for the long trip south. As the days grow ever shorter, fewer hours of sunlight will trigger hormonal changes which urge it ever further south.  Likewise for its more northerly kin, who will take his place at Leroy's feeder in the coming days, as they respond to same inexorable instincts.

Eventually they will all make the journey across or around the Gulf of Mexico, where they will over-winter in Central America with a continent's worth of their ruby-throated brethren, before working their way North again in the very early spring. 

 So drink up, tiny traveler, and may the wind be always at your back...

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