Monday, September 3, 2012

Western New York Idyll: The Little Visitor

  It's the Labor Day holiday - the second bookend of the American summer (the first being Memorial Day, at the end of May) and it's about to rain. We're probably getting the dregs of Hurricane Isaac but thankfully only the dregs. 
  On Saturday it was much better. I was sitting in the infamous sunlounger, not much the worse for wear for its encounter with the turkey family when suddenly there was a noise like tiny helicopter buzzing past my ear. It was a hummingbird, scarcely bigger than a bumble bee, heading for the miniature tomatoes I have growing fetchingly from a hanging-basket stand.  He hovered over a tomato, realised it wasn't a flower, took a look and then, disgusted, sped off towards the petunias. 

  Hummingbirds love red things. Once, when I was wearing a red shirt, one actually brushed me with his needle-sharp beak.  People put out hummingbird feeders with fake, red plastic flowers and I used to do this. Particularly one spring when a hummingbird showed up early, with no flowers in sight. I had to rush inside and start boiling up water and sugar, which is a messy business and I'm sure they prefer the real thing.
 It's extraordinary to think that these tiny creatures fly thousands of miles to summer in Western New York - the last place I'd expected to see them. They have extraordinary spirit, are tough, tenacious, territorial and not a little tetchy.  They can hover, their wings beating so fast you can't see them and they can even fly backwards. They weave their nests with spider silk. Few of Nature's wonders are as wondrous as they.

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