Wednesday, March 24, 2021

The Hummingbirds Are Back!

 The hummingbirds are back!  They have a very distinctive squeak, I hear them more than I see them.  Unfortunately,  I saw my first one this season stuck up in the clerestory windows of the barn. Once they get up there, they never figure out how to fly down the 15 feet and escape out the big barn doors.  I usually use a telescoping duster to gently knock them off the window to force them to see the open doors.

On Friday morning, this wee little male just flew higher into the peak and disappeared. I didn't see him again until he fell in the aisle just as I was finishing feeding the horses.

Ordinarily, if I catch them right away, I can prevent them from dying from metabolic collapse by administering emergency warm sugar syrup.  I hold them in a dark box for an hour and pump them full of carbs, then release them.

This little man wasn't even sticking his tongue into the syringe, not a good sign. I figured some syrup was seeping into his mouth anyway because I could see him swallowing.  He barely opened his eyes.  Only plaintive little squeaks.  Give up on him?  No way.  Back in my youth, when I thought I could save the world, one injured and stray animal at a time, I had read 'Behaving As If The God In All Life Mattered'.

The author put into prose how I felt about even the most 'insignificant'  animals.  In my mind, there are no insignificant animals, they all play an important part in the ecosystem.  Most importantly, they all have the will to survive. 

A friend once asked me why I was nursing a baby squirrel back to health, "It's so small, what does it matter?".  It matters very much to the squirrel, this is his only life and I'm quite sure he's attached to it! 

Same deal with the hummingbird.  When most of us can't find our way around town without a navigation app telling us where to turn; this little guy, with a brain the size of an elderberry, manages to migrate thousands of miles twice a year, making it through all the storms we'd had the previous night... no way I was going to let him die an ignominious death in the barn.  He is significant.

I decided to bring him in the house, propped him an on heating pad and went about creating him a little habitat in my bathroom.

Throughout the evening, even though his eyes wouldn't open, I kept administering the syrup.  I turned the lights off and let him go into torpor overnight (to help him conserve what little energy I had built up in him).  By morning, he was squeaking and he flickered his tongue into the syringe.

When he ventured off his branch and started flying laps in the bathroom.

 I knew he was ready.

He's still around!  The males also make a little honking noise, he beeped at me when I came home last night! 

So, get your feeders out.  They're back.  But, please bring your feeders in on cold nights, you can kill them if they drink really cold syrup.