May 5 2013

Help Name the Hummie Twins

Melissa Crytzer Fry

It’s a 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).

Before I go back in time to show you the progression, first: today’s view of the nest. May 5. Click to enlarge.

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:

I missed the first hatching, but actually caught this one in progress. Earlier in the day, I told hubby I thought I’d seen a crack in the shell (I figured this was wishful thinking, but I was right!). Click to enlarge.

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.

Can you see how much smaller the new baby is? And I swear its neck looks bent unnaturally (The neck was pinned under big sib). Click to enlarge.

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.

For anyone wondering just how small baby hummingbirds are, this should provide some perspective. This fly reminds me (in size) of the horseflies of my youth in PA. Click to enlarge.

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.’

This night-cam photo on April 25 shows how featherless these little guys are, and how large and bulging their eyes are. Can you believe how much they’ve filled up the nest in a few short days? Click to enlarge.

This is the first hatchling, whom I started to call Big Mouth, because mama always went to its giant beak first. April 28. Click to enlarge.

This is the runt, whom I began to refer to as “Munchkin,” feeding. Can you tell the difference in size? April 28.

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:

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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!


38 Responses to “Help Name the Hummie Twins”

  • avatar Julia Munroe Martin Says:

    First, let me say (as you know), I am a HUGE fan of the hummie cam and pics. Second, WHAT? I thought Munchkin and Big Mouth are already their names 😉

    Finally, I’m not sure I’m anxious comparing myself to other writers, and only rarely jealous or envious, but I am anxious thinking *my time* is running out … and now indie published, I am still chomping at the bit for a traditionally published book!

    Love the hummie cam, love the post, Melissa!! And huge congrats on Edit Palooza this go-round completion!!

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    Melissa Reply:

    Thanks, Julia. Glad you enjoyed Hummie Cam 2013. It has been exhausting AND exhilarating this year with TWO of them. I think I know what names YOU voted for .
    I am not anxious about running out of time so much as I am about “just wanting to get there already” … I am a little envious of the young, talented writers we’ve met on Twitter who ‘figured it out’ early – probably because it never occurred to me, in my 20s or early 30s, that I COULD “be an author.”
    As for others who ‘get there first,’ I don’t mind that at all and actually draw inspiration from seeing others succeed. But I DO know the green-eyed monster lurks in the writing community. But then again, who would be ballsy enough to admit that publicly?

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    Julia Munroe Martin Reply:

    Hindsight is my thing, too… why didn’t I give it what it takes? Busy with other things, etc., a million reasons. As for jealousy? I admit it publicly (as I said in my first comment, “only rarely jealous”): yes, I have my darker moments of “why not me?”

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    Melissa Reply:

    Well, there we have it: one BALLSY woman has stepped up to the plate :-). Thanks for your honesty!

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  • avatar Erika Marks Says:

    Melissa! Oh my god, I can BREATHE again! I read/watched with heart-in-throat–but this journal is without question one of the most remarkable diaries I have ever seen. My dear, kudos to you! And of course to mama and babies! Oh how we worry, don’t we? And nature manages to (most of the time) keep things where they need to be. Thank you so much for this today:)

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    Melissa Crytzer Fry Reply:

    Thank you for commiserating and enjoying this roller coaster ride with me. These little guys are tough (and looking as cute as ever). I think they’ll probably be fledging by the end of the week (the larger one, at least)! And the OTHER crazy thing is that we saw mama out testing new nest sites along the string of lights yesterday. They will begin building a second nest WHILE the kids are still being reared (for the second brood) and often will lay eggs before the others have left the nest. How crazy and EXHAUSTING is that???

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    Linda Anselmi Reply:

    Wow! Didn’t know they will have a second brood WHILE still feeding the first. No wonder they fly around like they are heaped up on caffeine!

    CONGRATS on completing your latest editing round! Can’t wait to read it!

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  • avatar Donna Says:

    I have enjoyed watching the progress of the Hummies through your posts! Your hummie cam has been an amazing way to share their progress with us. Thank you for sharing!

    Congratulations on finishing your first round of editing! I’m betting that is a huge relief.

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    Melissa Reply:

    Thank you, Donna. I’m so glad I could share the hummie progress with you – and many thanks on the editing kudos. I hope you’re off to a good start today!

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  • avatar Cynthia Robertson Says:

    I agree with Julia, Big Mouth and Munchkin are earned names, and perfect! My husband and I enjoyed each of these videos, Melissa, especially the ‘test flight’. It must have been nearly unbearable to watch munchkin getting smooshed and trampled on. How excruciating to have to refrain from interfering. (I would have chased the fly away too!) After I shared your last post with friends, one of them, a guy who works at the botanical gardens, said they have a hummie cam too, and one afternoon recently they were treated to “gory reality TV” – when a grackle found the nest, and ATE the babies in it, all caught on camera. Horrors!!! ( I will never be able to look at grackles the same way!)

    I do sometimes wish I had gotten more aggressive about taking time for myself and my writing earlier. I wasn’t raised in a family that taught me to prioritize my creativeness – my husband taught me that, and later in life, because he didn’t have that kind of upbringing either. We try not to compare ourselves to others. And also try not to live with regrets. Because, as you point out in your closing, it doesn’t matter. There is no one to ‘catch up’ to, and we are just happy to be living from our authentic, deepest selves. Some people never realize that stage or point, so we’re fortunate. (And when I say ‘we’ I mean you, too— and anyone who is there.)

    Strange that the bees left.

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    Melissa Reply:

    Oh, Cynthia… I might have been scarred for life if I’d seen that video, those nasty grackles. I once saw one (in Phoenix, on the sidewalk), trying to eat a baby sparrow in the same fashion! Ugh. Still gives me shivers (chased it away, of course).

    I love how eloquently you’ve addressed the issue of comparisons and regrets. Yes, “living from our authentic, deepest selves” – this is the greatest gift we can give ourselves. I’m SO excited that I’m on that path!

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  • avatar Shary Says:

    I love the Hummie Cam! I have to watch each video a few times and I’m going to share this post with a friend who has just started raising ducks. We’ve had a blast watching her babies grow up.

    I freely admit to feelings of jealousy when other writers have huge successes. I think it’s normal to feel that way, but it’s what you do about it that counts. When I feel those twinges of green, I remind myself that they’ve put in the time and hard work to get where they are. They deserve to be celebrated, so I put on my party hat for them and then I put my butt in the chair so maybe one day I can celebrate my own success.

    BTW… I never thought to check on what happened to the bees that were trying to move in to my living room. I hope they’re happy on the farm we relocated them to.

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    Melissa Crytzer Fry Reply:

    Oh my… ducklings must be SO adorable to watch as they grow!

    You know, I think I’ve kept my jealousy twinges in check for THE very reason you mention: I’ve looked at how much TIME so many authors have put in (eeks – some have written 13 novels before ‘making it’), and realize that I need to put the time in and work my butt off in the same way they did — as you say “butt in chair.” We both WILL someday celebrate one another’s successes. We will!

    If you find out more about your bees, let me know!

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  • avatar Jolina Petersheim Says:

    Big Mouth and Munchkin: I LOVE those names! And your blog post cracked me up and made me get a lump in my throat at the same time. You are a wonderful house mom, Melissa! And a HUGE e-hug for completing your editing!!! Glad to have you back! 🙂

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    Melissa Crytzer Fry Reply:

    Thanks, girl, for seeing me as a good house mom. Still amazed at how SMALL Munchkin is. Tonight, it was very apparent on the night-cam. GO Munchkin!

    And you, my dear, are one of those youngsters I really, truly admire for following your dream and KNOWING your dream at such a young age. A little bird told me how much she’s enjoying The Outcast. Can’t wait!!!

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    Jolina Petersheim Reply:

    Thank you so much, Melissa; I really hold your words close to my heart. You were one of the first writers I met in this lovely social media world. So blessed to know you!

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  • avatar Linda Anselmi Says:

    Wonderful video!!!

    I too have been fretting over the height and it being over concrete. But watching Mama Hummie feed them with those quick jabs of her long, very pointy beak, I keep worrying that she will damage or pierce the back of their tiny throats.

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    Melissa Crytzer Fry Reply:

    You are not the first to be concerned about the aggressive feedings. I swore that mama’s beak was going to come through the other end. But somehow they know what they’re doing!

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  • avatar Laurie Buchanan Says:

    Oh my gosh — FANTASTIC photographs and video clips! I just voted for Tic-tac and Jelly Belly!

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    Melissa Crytzer Fry Reply:

    I haven’t voted yet, but am partial to your Tic Tac and Jelly Belly pick!

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  • avatar Christine Grote Says:

    This is a terrific post, Melissa. I think this may be the best “home” movie I have ever seen. Fantastic. Did you send it to Cornell’s Ornithology site? (I may have spelled that wrong but am too lazy to check.)

    Your words of encouragement for writers are spot-on too. Thanks for giving me the heads up and the link.

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    Melissa Crytzer Fry Reply:

    Well, hubby gets FULL credit for the home videos. He set up the camera and downloaded an app that allows me to watch the nest at any time (and if I see something either push the “video” button or the “photo” button). The photo resolution isn’t that great, but it’s been so fun to see down into the nest and capture so many of those open-beak moments! I hope you attract some hummingbirds to your yard this year! Keep me posted.

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  • avatar Lisa Ahn Says:

    The kids and I have loved following the little birds’ progress. And I can say, as a fellow worrier, that it’s really exhausting! We have a foster cat mama and four kittens and all I do is worry about how skinny the mama is — when I’m not worrying about the kids, or the dog’s bizarre allergies, or my writing . . . Ugh.

    I’m definitely in a writing slump, where every single word is a battle of epic proportions. I hope I’m outside this tunnel soon. Thanks for a great post, Melissa. 🙂

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    Melissa Reply:

    Thank you for being a fellow-worrier WITH me! Somehow, that makes it all better!

    Ugh… Sorry to hear about the writing slump. You’ll dig your way out of the tunnel; I know it! In the meantime, your short stories/fables are wonderfully entertaining and poetic!

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  • avatar Christy Peterson Says:

    You would have done fine with kids. We all want to bubble wrap them. Our kids are spared only because we don’t want to be “that Mom!” teehee
    Give hubby a high-5 for the camera work. It is so fun to watch these little guys.
    I do actually get jealous of the young writers who make it big seemingly without all the agony of years and years of boring business writing, notebooks full of rejection, etc. But, I don’t think I was ready to do this at 25 anyway–didn’t have the confidence to step out and just get it done. We all have our own journey, I guess.
    The first editor that calls me about a freelance manuscript being accepted better wear ear protection though, because I’ve been saving up the celebrating for a long time! 🙂
    Christy
    P.S. I’m glad you’re back too!

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    Melissa Reply:

    Yes… I WOULD have been “That mom!” ha ha.

    You know, I’ve thought about that as well: would I have been ready to begin this journey in my 20s? A well-known published author once told me, personally, at a conference: “Every writer should wait until she’s at least 40 to write. By then you have amassed so much experience that you actually have something TO write about.” Her comment was tongue-in-cheek, of course, but had some validity, I think. I certainly view the world with more depth and a more critical eye now than when I was a youngster.

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  • avatar Natalia Sylvester Says:

    Wow, Melissa. Watching these videos is just magnificent. I am so full of awe and wonder as I watch them trying to hatch and eating, and watching Mama bird flap her beautiful wings. Thanks so much for capturing this and sharing with us!

    As for your question, I think we often feel like we’re playing catch up, but we have to remind ourselves we shouldn’t be comparing ourselves to others, only our past selves. Totally fine to want to catch up to our goals and dreams, but I’ve found that trying to catch up to others’ successes is usually an unhealthy effort. (And trust me, I’ve been there! My nearly 2 years on submission was so tough as I saw other writers sign with agents, make multiple deals, etc. I was so happy for them but also wondered when my time would come. Looking back, none of that matters now. We just have to find patience from somewhere and the will to keep going.)

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    Melissa Reply:

    I’m THRILLED to be able to share this little miracle (babies were VERY active today, and I’m pretty sure they’ll be flying away any day now).

    You are wise beyond your years, Miss Natalia: you’re right – we should NEVER compare ourselves to others, but – yes – to our PAST selves. Said so well! Was it really two years you were on submission? Where on earth has the time gone? Seems (to me, at least) like just YESTERDAY you signed with an agent!

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    Natalia Sylvester Reply:

    Yup, between the time I signed with my agent and the time my book sold, it was a year and nine months. It really has flown by, hasn’t it!? (Though if you asked me while it was all happening, I would’ve said it was crawling at a snail’s pace 😉

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  • avatar Diann_D Says:

    Wow! What a cool journey to take us one with you, the videos especially just left me speechless.

    I love the metaphors you’ve created between the birds and writing, but I truly don’t think it’s quite the same. There are no guarantees in writing at all, and though it’s not random, the things we can control (hours at the desk, diligence in the non-writing but related tasks, for example) have to be the focus, I think.

    In Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell said it took 10,000 hours to become a master, and I think of Stephen King who PAPERED his walls as a youngster with rejection letters. So telling. For those who start later, it doesn’t negate all that came before. As King also wrote, “It starts with this: put your desk in the corner, and every time you sit down there to write, remind yourself why it isn’t in the middle of the room. Life isn’t a support system for art. It’s the other way around.”

    Regardless, congrats on finishing editing!!

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    Melissa Reply:

    Ah, see… I think the metaphors do share similarities :-). There was absolutely no guarantee that either of those baby hummers was going to survive (though I am happy to report that Munchkin fledged before my eyes on May 14! Poor little things are now braving strong winds on weak wings!) And in the same way, as you point out, there are no guarantees in writing. There is, however, the occasional amount of luck and the pay-off for those who have a ‘survival’ mentality like my little runt hummingbird. Focus (and perseverance), I believe ARE the keys to getting closer in the writing world.

    LOVE both of the quotes you shared. There’s another oft-quoted comment about hard work being perhaps more important than talent. Hmm… I can’t find it and think it leaves us lots to think about. Thanks for such a thoughtful response.

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    Diann_D Reply:

    I agree!

    “There is, however, the occasional amount of luck and the pay-off for those who have a ’survival’ mentality like my little runt hummingbird. Focus (and perseverance), I believe ARE the keys to getting closer in the writing world.”

    I *just* took a writing workshop on Friday and that was a huge point. Anyway, I totally agree with what you’re saying. I think my (long-winded) point was just that it’s not necessarily bad to start later, especially if you’ve been working at writing. I believe there might even be some advantages. (Or to put another way: can’t wait to see your book on the shelves!) : )

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  • avatar Annie Neugebauer Says:

    Congrats on finishing edit palooza!! I love seeing your hummingbirds — too cool. And I am team “Big Mouth and Munchkin” all the way. =)

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  • avatar Nina Says:

    This is truly incredible, Melissa! I’m totally speechless. What an incredible mass of footage you’ve collected. It’s such a treasure!

    And congrats on finishing that BIG edit!!

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    Melissa Reply:

    And mama has already moved into a new nest, and is incubating her next set of babies! Thanks on the big edit congrats. Moving on to the next step.

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  • avatar Lori P Says:

    These videos and photos Made My Day!! L O V E !!! I’m with you. I probably would have rigged some sort of net under the nest just in case of all those “what ifs.” What a wonderful post.

    As for comparisons, I have to ignore what others achieve because I can’t force the words to come out any faster. I have a pace and a rhythm, if it happens to be that of 40-year-old plow horse, so be it. Wishing to be the dancing clydesdale won’t help me any.

    Hugs!!

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    Melissa Reply:

    Ha ha. Forty-year-old plow horse. Nah… You’re quicker than that (however that is the pace at which I edit, so I hear ya loud and clear).

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