My humming amigos

THE FIRST TIME I recall seeing a hummingbird was one morning as I was sitting on the porch of a cabin at a Unitarian retreat center in the mountains of North Carolina. A hummer paused briefly at a bloom not far off. It was exciting.

Years later, after I purchased a ranch house in Houston, Texas, I discovered that hummers migrated through the area every Spring — or was it Autumn? I hung a red, plastic feeder in the backyard, and they were frequent visitors. I liked that a lot.

Hummers don’t much like one another. They are fond of brawling, but there are exceptions. Once I visited Ramsey Canyon in southeastern Arizona. Good Lord! There were hummers all over the place, scores, maybe hundreds, sitting side by side on tree branches just as peaceful as you please. Maybe they were nectar-drunk.

Even more years later, I found myself atop another mountain, here where the Hacienda sits, and there are hummers in residence. No feeders required. Hummingbirds are in the yard all year. Maybe they take a break in the winter. My attention can wander.

hummerOur huge aloe vera plants put out big, orange blooms. The red-hot pokers are hummer favorites too, plus other flowers of spring and summer. All I have to do is sit atop a rocker on the downstairs veranda or on a web chair out on the yard patio, and there they are, foraging hummingbirds.

Back at the Houston ranch house, high on a backyard tree, I installed a bat house I’d purchased from Bat Conservation International. I knew there were bats in the neighborhood because summertime night walks down the street would show their presence as they flitted in and out of the lights atop the street poles.

But not one ever moved into my bat house, which I’d bought with good money.

Here at the Hacienda, however, we have bats. They live in the clay roof tiles of the downstairs veranda, leaving their bat poop on the ceramic floor in certain corners and flying out, sometimes quite near my head, at dusk. Whoosh!

I don’t know which I like better, bats or hummers. Maybe it’s a draw.

8 thoughts on “My humming amigos

  1. Felipe: It’s a draw, with the hummers holding a slight edge, because they are prettier.

    We too became members of Bat Conservation International after a visit to an abandoned railroad tunnel near Austin, where we saw tens of thousands of bats coming out at dusk, like a tornado, supposedly headed south, for a night of bug hunting. The smell of guano coming out of the tunnel was intense.

    So we built and put out a few cedar bat houses all over the yard of a cottage we had on a small lake north of Chicago. No takers. Not one. But then, during a visit to a failed condo development on the beach near Zihuatanejo, we found thousands of those buggers, hanging upside down from the ceilings of the empty rooms. They are not exactly “cute,” but I appreciate their tireless work eating bugs.

    We used to get swarms of hummers here at the ranch but for some reason they don’t come so much anymore. Neither do the monarch butterflies, come to think of it. Still, when the hummers show up, and you catch them in the right light, it’s a kick to see the sun reflect off their iridescent plumage, and to think how much they have to eat every day, just keep batting those little wings a million times a day.


  2. Cheer for the bats, señor. They are our friends. In a past life I lived just east of the Congress Avenue bridge in downtown Austin. Bats by the tens of thousands live under that bridge and in the concrete crevices it provided them. It was an amazing sight each evening to see the exit. Hated to give up all those mosquitoes.


    1. Ricardo: A past wife and I once drove from Houston to Austin specifically to witness that bat exodus from under the bridge. It’s quite a spectacular sight. However, I am glad I don’t have quite that amount living in the roof tiles of my downstairs veranda. That would be too much, I suspect.

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  3. I concur with the draw. The bats do not live at my house during daylight. They hang out out in two alcoves and two door entries resting from their nightly chores. If I am patient, I can watch them gracefully swoop along the surface of the pool lapping up the water necessary to fuel their flights.

    I suspect I have only one hummingbird visitor that drinks nectar from the yellow flowers on my vines. Because the flowers are few, the visits are brief. But consistent.


  4. Just don’t breathe too deeply under your veranda. And for God’s sake, whatever you do, please, please, please don’t make the bats into soup.


    Kim G
    Boston, MA
    Where it strikes us as batty to think that bats know what chlorine is. 😉


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