July 12, 2008

Hummingbird Seasons

I was sitting on the porch of the rental cabin yesterday when I saw the first rufous hummingbird of the summer.

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.


Beverly said...

As of today, here in La Veta (about an hour and a half south of Westcliffe)... I've got four kinds of hummingbirds visiting:Broad-tailed,
Black-chinned, Rufus and Calliope. Isn't if funny what a few miles makes?

It's still a mad-house at the feeders here...you could say I'm looking forward to the time when I can read that novel! LOL

Lovely story!

Anonymous said...

We had the humming birds buzzing the windows this morning. It took me a minute to realize that they were dive bombing the cat. She was peeping out of the window into their flight path. The side of our house has a forest of holly hocks that the humming birds love.

Anonymous said...

It's been a few days since I've seen hummingbirds in my wildish garden. (I'm always impressed that tiny beings can be so bold and aggressive.) But I had a riveting encounter this morning with a family of raccoons. http://www.diamondcutlife.org/nature-in-the-city-raccoons/
It strikes me that discipline in land use has much to do with our ongoing ability to observe nature as we are doing.
best regards,
Alison in Portland, Oregon

Reid Farmer said...

Connie and I just saw our first rufous at the feeder Saturday, too.