The clock of the seasons had just struck.
From late April until late September, hummingbirds divide the spring and summer into five periods:
- Broad-tailed Spring -- The first male broad-tailed hummers show up, looking to stake their territorial claims. There is always at least one snowstorm after they arrive, leaving them sometimes to sit huddled on the porch roof beams while the heavy, wet snow comes down. Torpor can be a good thing.
- Broad-tailed Summer -- They are busy mating and breeding. We talk about the Noise of Summer or, when they all hit the feeders at dusk, the Bumming Herd.
- Rufous Summer -- Having flown up the West Coast to their breeding grounds, the rufous hummingbirds start working their way home along the Rockies. The males are even more aggressive than the broad-tailed males, leading to spats at the sugar-water feeders that seem to prevent anyone from getting a drink.
- Quiet Summer -- Finally the rufous hummers leave, and there is less aggression in the air, but the broad-tailed population is starting to dwindle.
- Reluctant Summer People -- Finally, in mid-September, only a couple of broad-tailed females are left. I start suggesting to them that it's time to hang the storm shutters and lock up the summer house. But I always hear the same thing: "It's so peaceful now that the kids are gone, and besides, I haven't finished my novel."
By the equinox, the last one has packed her bag and the pretty rocks she found and has gone, and all is quiet save for the yelling of the jays.