[By popular demand, here’s an update on Patience the hummingbird nesting in my back yard. It’s in the form of notes from the last four days. Nice to have something to write about besides health stuff – mine or the world’s.]
I take Otto downstairs for his morning pee. When I open the door to the yard the first place I look – as always these days – is Patience’s nest. She’s standing on the edge, her long beak buried below the nest’s edge, feeding something. The eggs have hatched! Seeing me and Otto she hops back to sitting position, settling in carefully.
Afternoon: I get a peek inside the nest! The weather is calm and warm, and Patience is going back and forth catching bugs and hunting nectar. She stays near the nest but once she leaves the yard and my curiosity gets the better of me and I look inside the nest. Next to an unhatched egg is a small bit of motionless gray the size of a Jelly Belly. It doesn’t move or make a sound, but I’ve been around enough newborn chickens and pigeons to know a hatchling isn’t a finished work.
I have my camera in hand – I always do when I’m downstairs these days – but the baby and egg are too deep inside to get a shot and I don’t dare stay long. I hear Patience’s distinctive buzz and back away. Otto lies in the sun, oblivious.
The temperature is down 30F/18C from Tuesday. Very San Francisco: when the fog returns after a heatwave we say the air conditioner’s back on. I check Patience several times. She’s always very busy, in and out, flitting everywhere. Once I try to look in nest again but she comes rushing back, disproving. She’s not so calm about my presence now – or Otto’s.
During one of her forages she pays attention to Otto for the first time, hovering above his head and then in front of him and at his side. He seems to have a hard time seeing her because of her size and ability to teleport to different spots but he has no trouble hearing her so he gives one of his famous head tilts and follows her buzz closely. A moment later Patience flies off, curiosity apparently satisfied.
I change the syrup in the old hummingbird feeder I resurrected. I’m not sure she uses it but I know another hummingbird has: it did so while Patience was in her nest and I in the chair nearby. I also saw her displeasure at another hummer being so close to her nest. “Territorial,” the guides describe the genus.
In the evening the winds that hit before the heatwave return as do the starlings. From upstairs I clap my hands once sharply and they fly away.
Wind, wind, wind. The temperature is down almost 40F/22C over Tuesday. The conditions outside are horrible; even Otto doesn’t want to go out. Patience’s tree whips back and forth and she rides her nest like a barely-in-control boat in a storm. I think she’s in the state of torpor hummers go into in lieu of sleep but it’s hard to tell.
The winds pound the city all day. I worry that Patience or her chicks won’t survive. I can’t imagine really how she could.
I return about 5pm expecting the worst. Yet I open the door to the yard and in the cherry sapling still bending in the wind Patience clings to the edge of her nest, feeding the invisible contents. Seeing me she settles back in, but higher up than she used to sit. I spray the nearby plants with water and leave her be. She’s struggled enough for one day.
The winds died down last night and the day is cool but pleasant. Patience is sitting on her nest when I check in the morning. I can’t stick around but I do a bit of watering before I go. The dry winds dehydrate plants in a flash and several are wilting. Also, waterdrops on plants are a hummer’s preferred way of getting moisture as far as I can tell.
I return with Otto in the afternoon and we spend some time in the yard. He sits in the sun, I putter with plants, my camera nearby. Patience is on her nest per usual. She stays put while I move about but eventually I hear her leave. I don’t approach the nest too closely. Instead I try a few test shots. The tree’s in deep shade at this point, and even setting the ISO to 1600 it’s hard to get a blur-free shot. I set it as best I can and wait for her to return.
She’s all over the place. I sit next to Otto in the sun and she puts on quite a show. Up and down and all over the yard, she pulls bugs out of mid-air, dips into flowers, goes after water sprayed on plants. At one point she stops on an old trellis and cleans herself. Otto sees her, gives a head-tilt and watches. I tell him to stay still – he’s been given free run to chase the starlings out of the yard for her benefit and I don’t want him going after her too. He doesn’t need to be held back; he seems as curious about her as she was about him yesterday.
She returns to her nest and this time rather than settling in, she settles on the rim and feeds the still invisible chicks. I use plural, but I don’t know if both have hatched or just the one; I’ve not gotten a peek in since that first day. Slowly I approach with the camera. She looks at me, but keeps on feeding. I snap a couple of shots before she gets nervous and settles back over her brood.
Evening, the winds are back and the trees are whipping about in the yard. Otto doesn’t want to stay out long. Patience is in for another tough night.