Andy, our shop foreman, when asked about hummingbirds, became eloquent. He said, “One time hiking in New Hampshire, we had hiked many miles when we came upon a dirt road. We followed the road to the end where there was a log cabin with a wrap-around porch. A woman came to the railing and waved us over to the porch. She called out, ‘You’ve got to see this.’ As we approached the porch, we saw that there, among the flowers, were hundreds of hummingbirds filling the air. I’d never seen anything like it. There had to be more than a hundred hummingbirds feeding.”
Andy told me this experience led him to get a hummingbird feeder. He said, “It’s red; hummingbirds like the color red.” He said when he got his feeder, it came with sugar water. “When you get your feeder,” he told me, “just make your own sugar water hummingbird feed.”
I was helping to clean out an apartment this week. The lady had a hundred exotic spices, one salt and one pepper shaker. Then I opened a cupboard with an entire shelf of sugar, probably 30 pounds. The sugar was donated to the hummingbird project. When I get my hummingbird feeder, I’m ready. R.H.P.
Hummingbird Feeder Tips:
In response to our original version of hummingbird feeders we were under a mistaken impression that red food coloring should be added to the sugar water. We received a number of helpful emails with hummingbird feeder tips and we thought we’d share one of them. The following is from Bobbi:
Great story but one should never add red food coloring to sugar water. All they need is a feeder that has some red on it and use a mixture of 4 cups of water to 1 cup of regular granulated sugar. Feeders should be emptied and cleaned weekly to prevent mold and fermentation of the sugar water. Also never place your feeder in the direct sun. The water heats up to dangerous levels which can cause injury to the birds. – Bobbi in South Carolina
Over the years, I’ve seen a lot of nice jewelry hummingbirds. Some were fair, some good, some pretty good. This one is perfect. You can feel the wings beating. Look at the tail, there is a twitch of mid-air balance. The eyes intense, the beak poised, ready for the next flower. You can, if your imagination is powerful enough, feel the heartbeat of the hummingbird. In flight, its heart beats as many as 1,200 beats per minute. It takes a big heart in such a small creature to allow it to hover motionless before a flower.
Upon the Earth
You sit in the garden
Well-chosen flowers surround
A Sunday paper to read
A butterfly bush, just now blooming
Baby yellow and white butterflies gather
And there, behind you, a whoosh of air at the neck
You feel the air, it’s close.
You turn, nothing, nothing at all
A hummingbird touches lightly upon the earth
A spirit, a ghost, a haunting on a sunny summer day
I think that to see them, it’s like tuning an
Old-fashioned radio: you need a gentle touch
Rare enough we notice
Quick enough we never get enough
At the extreme edge of flight
A tiny beating heart
Colors red, blue, green
All electric in the summer light
One week, an egg
Smaller than a jelly bean
Two weeks, a baby chick
Three weeks, flight
A summer of flowers
Poised, centered, sipping
Only seconds: three, five, seven, then gone
My sister had The Big Book of Eggs. I’ve inherited it just in time to discover that a hummingbird’s egg is smaller than a jelly bean. An egg is pure magic. It is astounding that in two weeks, the contents of an egg can move from a yoke to a beak, body, feet and wings, and most amazingly of all, feathers, A structure so delicate, so soft, colored and patterned, feathers so beautifully arranged that when it comes time, the baby bird jumps from the nest and flies.
How in the world can that much magic be packed into a jelly bean?
I’ve been thinking about hummingbirds this week. I was visited by one for a few seconds this summer. It was at our summer cottage at the granite dock where we have four big containers of purple petunias. I was sitting in a butterfly chair watching the rising tide when I could hear and feel the air flutter a sound near the ear and a brush of air near my neck. I looked slightly to the right. Five seconds more, dip beak, hold, hold, hold, then fly away, all total, seven seconds. A Ruby-throated Hummingbird. They always seem to be in such a hurry, wings that beat 50 to 200 times-a-second, sound like vibrating rubber bands which allow them to hover in place.
Though they may be faster
Then a speeding bullet
We must slow to see
We must quiet the heart
We must still the mind
We must let the soul connect
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Our extended ninety days, for a small business, is almost unheard of. Truth is, we shop for gifts too, and rather than scrambling at the last minute and feeling the tension of time, we like this more relaxed approach. We wish everyone did something like this… it would be a kinder, gentler world.