Allen's Hummingbird Family
by Noel Laflin
Weather forecasters dubbed the approaching storm, Lucifer. And when it did finally make landfall one late Friday afternoon in mid February, 2017, it lived up to its name and struck with a wicked punch.
Preparations to our house had already been put in place – rain gutters cleared, items in the garage moved to higher ground, roof leaks repaired.
But the one thing beyond my control was the pretty little hummingbird nest suspended from a slender twig in the backyard acacia tree. Had it been an empty nest it would not have been of much concern.
But on the day of Lucifer’s arrival, it was home to a family of three – two youngsters on the verge of fledgling, and mom. I referred to them as the Allen’s family, as that is precisely who they were – little Allen’s.
The acacia tree had been the very first tree planted in the yard three decades earlier, and over the years it thrived and grew and gave protection to critters of all description. Mourning doves found a particular notch a safe place to build their nest on more than one occasion. Mother opossums taught their kids to hang from its sturdy branches. Raccoons peered down on the fish pond below, salivating over what they hoped would be an easy catch on springtime midnight raids.
And then an industrious hummingbird began to construct her nest in the old acacia tree.
She chose to build on a tender branch in late December, and by early January, with the first buds starting to form, had completed the job, having chosen moist green lichen from the roof tiles and tiny leaves from our garden and beyond. We watched in amazement as she bound the nest securely to the slender twigs with spider webbing nabbed from the backyard fence. When done, it was a work of both art and wonder.
Soon she sat, and sat, and then sat some more until a tiny beak appeared one day. By the next day, a second beak was stretched skyward. The view was near perfect from our dining room table, just fifteen feet beyond the glass as mother hummer had thoughtfully chosen a branch dangling from a large overhang closest to the house. And from the balcony, we could get within eight feet of the action.
And so the day was fast approaching when the kids would be leaving home. The only problem was Lucifer’s unpredictable punch.
By late in the day the storm rolled in with serious intent. Wind ripped through the trees and rain pounded the rooftops of both men and birds alike.
I ventured the cold and wet on several occasions to get a photo or two of mother hummer sitting atop the two youngsters - spreading her wings above them, much like an avenging angel clinging tightly with her tiny talons to the edges of her tightly built nest. She held the position until I could no longer see them in the dark.
But as the torrent continued throughout the evening and early morning hours, I could only assume that she kept up the valiant effort all night long.
By Saturday morning, the worst had passed. I got up at first grey light to see if mother, kids, and nest were still in place.
To note the occasion, I took one last family portrait.
The kids left the nest the next day.
Not to be outdone with round one, our fertile myrtle of a bird hatched a second brood of twins by the first of March and we watched as the fruits of her labor flew the coup right around the first day of spring. They too hung around the yard, as did the first pair, for ten days or so.
Not quite finished, mother hummer immediately began to repair her home, gathering more replacement lichen from rooftops to patch the exterior, and attach more spider webbing from nest to tree limbs. Soft, white, downy plant material was gathered and flown in to line the bed.
It was a longer wait before the third brood hatched, but hatch they did come May. It was another perfect set of kids, born a day apart from one another, as we’d come to anticipate.
The same mother returned for one last remodel of the nest in late November that year.
By the first of March, 2018, another tiny beak appeared, and then another. In total, she hatched eight kids in that tiny home hanging by the most slender of branches in our old acacia tree – and all within a fourteen month time frame.
And although the nest is still in place, it’s looking sad and grey nowadays. I figured mom is just plain tuckered out.
I picture her having flown to Mexico perhaps – taking a long overdue vacation, and drinking hibiscus margaritas in a quiet palm overlooking the beach; hanging out anywhere other than an acacia tree.
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