When most people think of hummingbirds their minds go to tiny delicate bodies and fast moving wings beating wildly against the air to move against the wind and use their long narrow beaks to pollinate various species of flower and fauna. While I hate to burst any idealist bubbles, hummingbirds are egocentric, territorial little pit bulls dressed in dainty bird clothing. I love spending time on my back porch and have placed two hummingbird feeders to facilitate the feeding of a plentiful tiny fluttering population. One feeder is secured near a pagoda Harold built soon after he retired and still thought fifty miles was still just a hop, skip and jump to drive to a Home Depot. The second feeder is on a shepherd’s pole near the garage and is at least thirty feet from the other feeder. I call my resident hummingbird Lester and I named him that because he has become more stationary this summer and stirred less and sits more. I didn’t like the name sits more so I named him Lester, as in less stir. Hold the applause please.
Lester is not in the yard by himself. There are birds of all descriptions around him at all times of the day and he is perfectly fine with them sharing his space. Lester likes to sit on one particular branch of our old Oak tree very close to the porch and stare at me. He will sit there for a full half hour and just look at me. I am not quite sure why. I don’t know if it is my red hair or freckles or if he is just trying to figure out, like most of San Saba, just what the heck I am but he sits quietly on that branch and just stares. He was doing just that the other day when an upstart hummingbird had the audacity to drink from one of the hanging feeders. Lester went from zero to sixty in a millisecond. He was on that other hummingbird like caramel on a Snickers and I am talking all over that poor bird. I seriously thought I was watching a bird sword fight! If Lester had been wearing a mask that other bird could have gone away sporting a big L carved into his feathers because there was no way was Lester going to let anyone leave without knowing whose territory it was!
Once Lester was sure his feeders were secure, he returned to the oak branch to continue staring at me. I decided to use the opportunity to have a little talk with him about sharing because it was apparent to me he had been absent the day they had discussed the subject in bird school. I told him the reason I had put up two feeders was to accommodate a large population of hummingbirds and the reason each feeder had more than one resting station was for the same purpose. I explained in simple terms there was no possible way he could feed from both feeders at the same time so another bird drinking from one while he was at the other, or not drinking at all, could not possibly be an affront to him. Lester’s head tilted one way and then another as I spoke and I had great hope he was really listening. Just as I was thinking I had made a real break through, the other hummingbird came back into the yard and was sipping the sugar water. This time Lester was so quick in response my eyes did not even have time to make the transition from one bird to the other; I just saw the two meet somewhere mid yard in jousting battle, wings in flying furry and beaks like piercing needles at the ready to wound the enemy or at least deter them into submitting to the will of the other. In my mind I half way expected Mel Gibson to step in and start narrating the whole thing like some really bad nature adventure. Once again, Lester chased off the intruder and came to rest on the oak branch.
I looked up at him and could see his tiny heart beating almost out of his chest. I wondered why a little sugar water was worth so very much when certainly there was plenty for him and many more? It was Lester who answered my question when he swooped down and went back and forth first to one feeder and then to the other, taking tiny sips from each. Just as this house in San Saba is my home and the land it sits upon my land, the city is my city, and the county, my county. The people who live here are my friends, my neighbors and the ones I care about and like Lester, I too will defend them with all that I am, all that I have, and all of my heart. Later that day when Lester was sitting on the oak branch staring at me I told him I understood and while I didn’t defend a bird feeder, I sure did have a great place and great people I called home and I wouldn’t want anyone to take it or them away from me either. I love each of you with all my heart.