March 27, 2015

My Hummingbird Neighbors V

Some people believe that there is no winter in California.  Even if it is not as cold as it is on the East Coast, we have less activities during our winter time. There are a couple months of cold raining days, a couple of frosty days, and the temperature can drop down to about 30 F degrees,


I was quite lucky to have this opportunity to watch and learn more about how a hummingbird mom raised her little family during May in previous years.  After coming back at the end of April last year, I had no idea what happened but only saw an empty hummingbird nest.  Was the mom successful raising her babies?


Hummingbird mom is the most independent mother I think.  She searches for a safe area, builds a nest, hatches her eggs (usually two), feeds, raises and trains her babies all by herself after pregnancy. Finally she has to push the grown-up babies out of the home area at the end of raising them.


It didn't rain enough last winter. Not all the autumn leaves fell off the trees and we could see new blossoms or flower buds on the tree branches already.  And there were many types of evergreens surrounding.  Spring came to our location in early February when many other locations still were cold and snowing...


One day, I saw a hummingbird flying by in the garden, then she alighted on a bush. The next day to my surprise, I saw two tiny eggs in a hummingbird nest built between two connected branches of a bush nearby the wall.  But this bush was only about 1.5 meter high (about 4+ foot) from the ground. They were built on the tree about 4 to 5 meter high in the past.  I felt worried if the neighbor's cats would catch them because the nest was too close to the ground this time.  So, I tried to spread vinegar surround the area for protecting the nest, because I read that cats don't like the smell of vinegar.


Watching the eggs as they hatched was fun. I had a couple years experience watching hummingbirds, I knew that I had to be super carefully not to disturb the hummingbird mom.  


Ten days later, there were two very tiny baby hummingbirds laying on the bottom of the nest.  I realized that the only spot for me to record the mom feeding babies was our upstairs window. Then I carefully cut off one branch blocking the top side view of the nest when the mother was away.


From the watching and learning, I already knew that hummingbird mom had to feed her babies about every twenty minutes, each feeding time was only last 5 to 10 seconds.  The hummingbird is famous for its fast movement.   It was very challenging to capture this bird itself, and the mother is always overcautious.  Once I stuck out my camera from the window capturing her brooding on the nest, she flashed her warning feathers of bright magenta color, just because of my camera's shutter sound.


It was very early March, I had allergies and should have hid myself from the plum blossoms.  But I really enjoyed watching the babies growing bigger and fatter, It looked like the nest was full.  One day, I thought that the hummingbird mom would come back so I stood on my knee next to the window holding my camera preparing to capture.  Only by moving my position a little bit after a while, she already landed on her nest feeding her babies...


I captured countless images, still I wanted to capture better and better ones each year and learn a little more about their tiny lives.  Next day, I stood on my knee waiting by the opened window again, looking through the lens I saw something unusual, There was no nest, and no hummingbird babies.  I rushed into the garden and found that there was only a broken nest with couple of baby feather hanging on the branch...


It is the way of nature, sometimes it is cruel and sad,  I guess that one of our neighbor's cats finally found and destroyed the hummingbird's family.  I hope the hummingbird mom survived, and will come back again next spring with more experience to build her nest on a tall tree, not on the short bush and raise her family safely.

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