The last few weeks have been magically cool, for the most part, with some fairly high winds. We've kept an anxious eye on the hummingbird's nest which has been built with great skill and sophistication in the low-hanging and weedy-thin branches of the Chinese Elm on the patio just outside our kitchen. We've tiptoed in and out to the grill and finally moved our main outdoor dining table to the back patio to discourage anyone from sitting within 10 feet of the nest. Then we fixed the screen door to stay in the open position just because we were tired of yelling at one another for letting the door slam. And then we kept a close watch.
We started pointing out some of the nest's materials, the minute twigs and fluff and spidery web lashings that she gathers. There is this obviously artificial, plastic-looking stuff which she has favored with this nest and which renders it near artificial, almost as if an artist wanted to create the most perfect hummingbird nest ever and stooped to use non-natural materials to achieve her goal. We've finally figured out what that fake material is, clever sods that we are. A couple of years ago we'd had a shoot at our house for this green, yoga(y) type catalog that actually has some wonderful things in it. It was only April but this was for their annual Christmas catalog. Our Topanga Canyon home was turned into a rustic and cozy Maine cottage. Organic, flannel sheets were lovingly Army tucked into our bed which was moved into our little family room, right off the kitchen. Christmas wreathes were hung and dusted with snow. Fake snow. Plastic stuff that even months after their departure we were still finding in the oddest of places like the inside of a camellia flower or dusted along the ledge of a rarely opened window. Grrrrrrrr, I would think and then promptly forget it. Until the nest presented itself in all its snow-dusted glory.
Were there eggs in it? We didn't dare get close enough to look in case some of our garlicky human breath left an unfavorable impression on the hummer mum.
What if the nest falls? The winds are so high. Jesus, what kind of hummer mum is she to build her nest in such an obvious spot. I'll tell you what kind of mum she is, she's a good one. Only a hovering bird could raid the nest and hummingbirds leave one another's young alone. There is no way any scavenger bird could perch on the willowy branches of the Chinese Elm, try as they may.
She sat patiently on the nest for what felt like weeks, disappearing every now and then for some nectar or the odd bug but flying back before I began flapping my hands in baby worry. If I happened to go out the kitchen door and lingered too long in the vicinity of her nest, she'd swoop up and around me, leaving the fast thumping flutter of her wings echoing in my head for tens of seconds after her erratic switch-back departure. Gradually she became more and more comfortable with our habits and would just hang on her nest staring at us as we went back and forth, always giving her a wide berth.
And then she stopped sitting there. Oh Christ, has she abandoned her babies? Should I call the Hummingbird Rescue folks? Should I climb up there and...? And then she started flying around my head and I knew everything was okay. I came inside and got my camera and oh...babies! See their little beaks? Those black things aren't so cute (fecal sacs) but a necessary part of keeping the nursery tidy.
And then they just started growing and growing until the nest was beginning to look decidedly too small. (Hah, I thought it looked small at this point)
But now, half the time they're just draping themselves over their snug roost dreaming, no doubt, of flying. Oh Christ, please be careful (and tell your Mum to clean up that fake snow that's loosening and making your perfect home look a little shop-soiled...like any nursery, I guess).
And now look at them...I turn away for two days and this happens. They're almost ready to fly the nest, I can just tell. It happens so quickly. So very quickly...just like with our own babies. So fleeting.