It’s a damn good thing I didn’t have kids. Given the way I’ve carried on about these hummingbird babies (and driven my husband nuts), I’m pretty sure my own children would have been bubble-wrapped and wearing goggles and protective helmets as I sent them off to school each day (greeeaaatt for self-esteem).
Let me just start out by saying, sheesh. As truly wonderful as it has been to witness the evolution of eggs to miraculous tiny birds, I’ve been a bit of a basket case. (Scroll to the bottom of my first post to see the eggs being laid on April 3 and April 5)
At first, I was sure Egg No. 1 wasn’t going to hatch at all, since Egg No. 2 took the lead and busted loose first on April 19 (In the past, we’ve had luck with only one egg hatching, so I figured this was the case again).
Even so, I enjoyed the early videos of mama feeding this miniscule creature (when they hatch, they are bigger than a Tic-Tac but smaller than a Jelly Belly):
So imagine my surprise, when, on April 21, two days after the first egg hatched, I saw this:
This video captures the second baby trying to rid itself of the shell on its head and rear.
I was delighted by the second arrival, but the next day saw that it was trapped under the much larger sibling. For 45 minutes, I watched (in agony) as it struggled, kicking its eensy-weensy feet to free itself, but to no avail. By the time mama came to feed each time (when the larger would lift its head, finally freeing the smaller baby), it was too exhausted to attempt eating.
But at long last, I witnessed mama feeding the tiny babe (after big sib):
Yay! Crisis averted. Right?
Not so fast. A few days later, mama disappeared amidst some 30 MPH winds. For four hours. This is unnatural, since the babies need her to help regulate their body temperature and need near-constant feeding. Alas, though, mama returned home around 4 p.m., and the babies were fine. (I don’t know if she was blown away and had to find her way home? I can think of no other explanation.) Another crisis averted.
Until April 24…I just happened to check the camera and saw this giant fly inching closer and closer to the nest.
Not knowing what the giant fly was capable of (given it was two to three times larger than the babies), I ran outside and shooed it away. I later learned, from the wonderful local Arizona biologist, artist and blogger Margarethe Brummermann, Ph.D. that the Mexican Cactus Fly (Copestylum mexicanum) is a nectar forager and not harmful at all. Phew.
Finally relaxed, I began to monitor – and be amazed – by how quickly the nest filled up with growing baby bodies. Though I confess, I still worried about Munchkin, always the second to be fed, always smaller, always trying to ‘catch up.’
Of course my Nervous Nellie tendencies picked back up, right in sync with the strong wind gusts that returned days later (The babies are above a concrete floor. Eeks!) And I can’t begin to tell you how unnerving it is to see them push their feet around in the nest, the sides of the cylindrical construction expanding and morphing with their movements. This is a marvel of engineering; the nests are built with spider webs that allow for expansion (and “breathing”) as the babies move and grow.
Take a look at their early movements below. I think I captured the first faux flying-test by Big Mouth:
And, minutes later, Munchkin proves that he’s still quite the fighter, determined to catch up.
For Readers, for Writers: I think, as writers, its easy for us to become anxious about our progress and to compare ourselves and our journeys to other writers. Those of us who came to fiction later in life may feel we’re “catching up” to those younger writers who realized, early on, their fiction dreams. Or we may see other writers achieving success – signing contracts, selling books, advancing their careers – with greater speed. But I wonder … does it really matter? Does it matter who got there first? Do you really need to worry about catching up? We all work at our own pace, don’t we? And don’t things just sometimes have a way of working out when and how they should?
Consider Munchkin: Though he is still lagging behind in size, it looks as though he is going to make it. Maybe he’ll be that infamous underdog we love to root for in the books we read – the one who kept fighting and grew to be a successful young hummingbird, despite the odds.
Help Me Name the Babies
I’m not sure my nicknames are appropriate for this dynamic hummingbird duo. Help me choose official names:
P.S. 1 If you read my last post about the bees: sadly, they left Ray’s bee boxes after one night, apparently driven out by the territorial local colonies.
P.S.2 Edit Palooza is ‘officially’ complete – well, this go-round, at least!