Jun 3 2012

Roostin’ & Hummin’

Melissa Crytzer Fry

My husband is a saint. For years, the man has built a plethora of platforms to quiet his wife’s frantic squawking.

“But they’re building over there, and their twigs are falling. Can’t we help them?”

Yep. I’m talking about birds and bird platforms (and me doing the most chirping, not the birds).

This is one of two roadrunner platforms that hubby installed in our house-under-construction. The roadies kept building in the rafters on narrow 2x6s, so most of their twigs fell to the ground. They quickly abandoned the first (lower) platform in favor of the rafters again. Finally, after construction of the higher platform (pictured), they built once more and eventually had two baby roadies. Click to enlarge.

Then there was this argument:

“But they’re trying to build in the lights. We have to help them.”

This time it was the orioles stringing their dried grasses throughout the compact fluorescent bulbs under the breezeway (you know … the high-energy bulbs that look like squiggly piggy tails).

So, I asked hubby to build this platform. Though the orioles didn’t take to it, the resident Say’s Phoebes did. They had three babies this spring. Check out their nest. Click to enlarge.

In early May, I was actually minding my business with no intention of intervention as I worked from my own perch in the writing studio on wheels. I noticed a mama hummingbird zipping back and forth, and her frequent rest stops on the outdoor white lights. When I realized she was building a nest (something she attempted in the past, but aborted), I couldn’t resist that urge to “help.” Big surprise.

May 5. This is the spot our girl chose to build her nest (I named her Anna, thinking she was an Anna’s hummingbird, but I confess I'm not sure what she is. She could be a Black Chinned, a Broad Tailed?). Click to enlarge.

Despite my yearning to find some way to stabilize the lights (they really rock when the wind rushes through the breezeway), I decided I would sit on my hands not ask my husband to intervene this time. We’d just see how it went (how do you brace dangling lights, anyway?).

Our hummie mama uses her beak, chin and body to press spider webs (the ‘glue’) into her nest ensuring that each dried paloverde flower and piece of grass goes exactly where she wants it. Click to enlarge.

May 6. What a difference a day makes. Hummers go to great lengths to camouflage their nests, even so much as to find paint chips to match the color of the house. That’s precisely what those tan strips are! Click to enlarge.

May 15. Look at the size and depth of the nest now. To put things in perspective, the nest is still only the size of a walnut! Click to enlarge.

Even though nest-building is complete, she keeps repairing and strengthening her nest. She is pictured here with more flowers in her beak. You can see her first nest attempt to the left. Click to enlarge.

Okay … so, given my past history, you knew I couldn’t sit around and do nothing, right? So – in the midst of Mama Hen’s building, I did some research and came across some cool hummingbird houses:

All the components within the Hummingbird House – includes a little leaf for shade, and materials for nest building (two houses come in the kit). Click to enlarge.

The hummer house screws on to an eave and is positioned this way (though I need to bend the branches back to give her more room to fly on/off her perch). Click to enlarge.

After my purchase (and more research), I realized that Mama Hummie was too far along in the building and egg-depositing process to use the new houses. That means, for now, the Hummingbird Houses will wait until the winter nesting season, which also means, for the first time, I have let nature take its course.

Stay tuned for mama and baby progress reports  and check out our Hummie Cam, which updates with refreshed images every 30 seconds.

For Writers: Hummingbirds and writers have more in common than you might think.

  • A hen is already carrying eggs when she begins the nest-build, and sometimes lays the first before construction is complete. When writers come to a new story or project, they already carry ideas inside them. Some are bursting and ready to be born while others stay in our bellies until we’re ready to build that next special thing.
  • The hen begins building two different nests at once, testing various locations to see which is best (for shade, wind, protection), and then she picks the most favorable. The writer often starts with multiple story ideas, themes, and characters. She might build some of them up and quickly abandon them, testing them along the way … until she picks the one that appears most stable – or shall we say most saleable.
  • When chicks are only days from buzzing out of their nests, mama begins constructing a second nest. She’s a multitasker, just like novelists who finish up one story and are off to the next before the ink has dried on the first. *

In what ways are you like a hummingbird in your writing?

Nest shot from above. Click to enlarge.

*Insight about hummingbird behavior from Dan and Diane True, and World of Hummingbirds.

May 29 2012

Reunion with Nature

Melissa Crytzer Fry

It probably goes without saying that nature began whispering in my ear at a young age, taunting and teasing and pulling at my imagination.

You might be surprised, however, to learn that we – nature and me – stopped sharing secrets for years. Too many, in fact.

To find out how my move to Arizona’s remote Sonoran Desert resulted in a long-overdue reunion and a creative metamorphosis, read my guest post with Patrick Ross at The Artist’s Road, a 2011-12 Top 10 Blog for Writers. Patrick is a professional storyteller who has returned to an art-committed life, bringing readers creativity and writing insights. I’m thrilled to share my experience with his readers. Thank you, Patrick.

View of May's super moon rising over the desert mountains in front of our home. Click to enlarge.