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.

Hummingbirds

I was in my 40s before I saw my first hummingbird in the feather.

That day sticks in my mind clearly. I was sitting on a porch at a Unitarian retreat center near Highlands, North Carolina. Yes, I used to hang out with Unitarians as I once hung out with the Democratic Party. I have given up on both. They tend to be one and the same.

Definition of Unitarians:  People who have abandoned Christianity but can’t break the habit of going to church on Sunday. The first two times I married, it was a Unitarian minister who did the questionable deed. The third time was a Mexican judge.

Stick to Mexican judges. That’s my advice.

HummerWell, anyway, I was sitting on that porch when a hummingbird flitted through the bushes in front of me. It was exciting since I had never seen one.

Nowadays, I am very familiar with hummingbirds. After that day in North Carolina, I installed hummingbird feeders in my yard in Houston, and enjoyed plenty of hummers during their annual migrations.

And now, here on the mountaintop, I have hummingbirds year-round, and I still love seeing them. Hummers have odd personalities. They are quite brave. They will fly right up to you, hover and stare boldly into your face.

And they loathe their own kind except, one imagines, when it’s hootchy-koochy time. If there’s no sex on the menu, the last thing a hummingbird wants to see is another hummingbird. It really pisses them off.

They are the Siamese fighting fish of flight.

What brings this to mind? I was just downstairs in a rocker on the terraza, enjoying the cool morning, when a hummingbird decided to sit a spell on an aloe vera branch just a few feet away. It never gets old, and it’s always fun.

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(Hummer art by Olechka.)