After the blooms are in, the red million bells, the orange geraniums, they come: these creatures of habit as long entrenched as the dawn. They come on wings of dawn in April and May. The breaking Light reveals their tiny jeweled substance hovering above the rouge, above the nectar that sustains.
Amazing creatures these. They eat about seven times an hour, lapping the nectar through their long forked tongues as much as thirteen times a second for as long as 60 seconds in a feeding. Visiting up to 1000 flowers and feeders daily, they consume what for us humans would be 155,00 calories in syrup, sap and soft bugs. How else could they energize their rapid breathing and heart rate, maintain their high body temperature and nourish the largest brain relative to body weight of any in its phylum?
Yet, most unique is what we humans see as these tiny iridescents flit from delight to delectable. Hovering in midair, their tiny wings beat back the air, turning 360 degrees rotating both backwards and frontwards. At eighty beats per second these gossamer wings fan taking them backwards, shifting their miniature bodies to the side or trajecting them straight up or straight down. When in forward wing, they are propelled as fast as 60 miles in one hour.
Walking is not an option for these tiny birds. They can perch, but not hop on their feet. They build such minuscule nests that it takes a trained eye to discern them, camouflaged to look like a tree knot with lichen, moss and leaf hairs glued together with spider web. Their white eggs are smaller than a dime, their spider-webbed nests expand with their growing young to a bit larger than a three-dimensional quarter.
Feisty as these little creatures are, they whirl away with vengeance toward at any competitor, large, small, of the same genus or not, wanting to keep the sweets all to themselves. In their three to five years of life, they will make only a few migratory trips south and north again. The instinct to GO tells them to double their weight before departing. There is a consequent buzz about the feeders and flowers as they prepare for their long journey.
My heart stirs with melancholy as I hear their familiar musical drone increase in frequency. I long to go with them, to see what they see, to share in the journey. But, I am earthbound. I cannot fly.
And then they are gone. I am forlorn. When these little harbingers of Spring and Summer depart, it is yet another poignant signal of the Shifting of Seasons. Winter lies on the horizon. I, too, prepare.