January 17, 2007

Hummingbirds in the Snow

Now here's a wonderful natural metaphor for hope... the brilliant flash of hummingbirds in the cold of winter. Even in the depths of snowy winter, these flashing brilliant creatures arrive like magic.

The amazing Anna's Hummingbird lives year round here in the Pacific Northwest. Even after watching them for years, their wonder never fails to delight.

They are such otherworldly creatures... so magical... buzzing around with aerial acrobatics. The humming of their wings is amazing in itself... you can feel it on your face when they're close. Sorry my digital camera doesn't have sound... (and that it's out of focus for part of the movie).

Trying to catch them on film requires either total luck or reams of patience. Basically they only fly down to challenge the intruder (me) on the first visit out each day. After that they mostly ignore me. And they only feed once every 15 minutes or so... since they've evolved to wait that long for their flowers to 'refill' with nectar. So that can be a difficult thing to time.

Day glow neon colors flash from their head caps and necks. The colors seem as unreal as the rest of their magic tricks. It is explained that this supernatural sheen is created by microscopic bubbles in their feathers that act to reflect light by the same means as a highway marker. This little film just barely manages to capture a bit of it.

At night they puff up into balls of fluff... yet I still feel sorry for them sitting out there in 15 degree weather. Apparently they go into a state of torpor, so I guess nature provides a way for them to bear it. The reason they can live here year round is that they also feed on sap from pine trees... and there's no shortage of those around here.

When two or more hummers get together, their antics are truly extraordinary. They go whizzing straight up 40 feet into the air, in tight twisting circles... and then come buzzing straight back down. Each trying to drive the other out of their territory. But the lucky winner sits faithfully outside, almost like an outdoor pet... and can usually be found on the same two or three branches.

flower fairy.jpg

The painting is one I did up thinking to try a new market niche... along the lines of Cicely Mary Barker. Just one of those tangents that never quite worked out... but maybe someday.


Anonymous said...

Magical moment captured John, especially for me here in the UK! No humming birds here.
I would love to feed those little birds.
Is it a special syrup you feed them? I couldn't quite work out how the bird was feeding from the feeder, though I know they have long thin tongues to probe with.
Thanks for your patience in capturing this to share.

John Nez said...

Hmmm... I can't imagine why they wouldn't live there... since the Pacific Northwest has about the same climate as the UK... and both areas share so many of the same plants.

Ferns, mosses, giant cedars, lush green lawns, mild winters... rain and gray all winter.

Sometimes they put their beaks into the feeder holes... and sometimes they just sort of lick around the edges.

Anyhow, they're an endless joy to watch, especially when there's two or more.


Anonymous said...

I love hummingbirds, and once I found an hummingbird nest...
so tiny!

John Nez said...

I've never seen their nests... but I read that they make them out of lichen.

Nature is just too amazing... verging on the miraculous.


Anonymous said...

What a fun video that was! I love to watch the hummingbirds...they are such amazing little things. Oh, and I love the fairy illo with the hummingbird as well. Keep up the wonderful work!