The Hummingbirds

Kanab, Utah
June 2018

Did I mention that we found a hummingbird nest?

Brad says that this is the most excited I’ve been about any other single element of our RV Adventure. I would never have asserted such a thing, but I’m also not going to argue with him.

When we pulled into our site in Kanab, UT, we were delighted to be parked right next to a large, green, shade tree. It was within the first hour of arriving that I noticed that I could see a robin sitting on a nest right outside my bedroom window. “How fun to get to watch baby robins in a nest!” I told Brad.

This robin’s nest was so exciting for about one day!

But these poor robins only delighted me for about 24 hours, because on our 2nd evening eating dinner underneath the tree, I just happened to look up and make eye contact with a tiny hummingbird sitting on the tiniest little bird nest I’d ever seen.

Tilly.

And thus began my month-long obsession with hummingirirds.

I made her a redneck window feeder, but Tilly refused to use it. I can kindof see why…

Now, I’ve never been much of one for bird watching. But I watched her activity throughout the day, every day. I googled information about brooding time, species types, and nesting behaviors. I opened the camper door and said good morning to her every day. I talked to her in the same overly sweet voice each time we interacted, and I kid you not…she knew me. The first few days she would fly away anytime someone came bounding in or out of the camper door, and she wouldn’t hang around when we were at the picnic table. But slowly, over the course of the days, when I would open the door and tell her she was beautiful and ask how her eggs were this morning, she would stare at me and slowly bat her eyes at me. She stopped flying away when we were nearby, and she eventually stopped being bothered by my intrusive phone camera that kept appearing near her next to get pictures of her and her eggs.

(June 3) We learned the hummingbirds almost always lay 2 eggs. I can’t even tell you how complicated it was for me to monkey up here to take pics of Tilly and her eggs. Let’s just say I got to know the management and had a ladder at my disposal by the end of the month.

We read that it takes the eggs about 2 weeks to incubate, so once we had been there for 2 weeks we started to wonder if they would hatch soon. I lifted one of our phones up on our not-a-selfie-stick to take a video, and I was heartbroken to see that only one tiny, bright oblong egg remained.

I know that I’m overly sentimental about animals, but even I was surprised by how upset i was about this. I did some reading online that night and learned that larger birds, including robins, and even other hummers, can occasionally swipe the tiny eggs or chicks to feed their family. I was furious with the robins. Their 5 eggs had hatched a few days before, and the bald little cheapers with their overly wide mouths no longer looked cute to me. They looked like menaces, hungry to devour these precious little pieces of rare magic that I wanted to watch grow.

Look how ugly & terrible they are!

The next morning, the girls and I were on patrol. When we were anywhere near Tilly’s nest, we started noticing that the robins would always hover just a couple of branches above, staring down with predatory eyes. Tilly would dart around their heads, chirping and buzzing her wings, but they acted like they didn’t even notice her. We decided that if the 2nd egg was going to make it hatching day, that it would be up to us to help protect it from these evil, hungry robins.

I’m not proud of this, but we started shootings them with water guns.

I know, I know…. #naturesmetal and we shouldn’t interfere. But I really wanted to just see at least 1 baby hummingbird, dangit!

It kept them away from Tilly’s nest at first.  But after about a day of intermittent splashing, the mother & father robins no longer feared the streams of water, which occasionally wet their feathers, but more often just sprayed aimlessly into the air and then splashed back down into our faces. Sometimes we would shake our fists and yell at them, or even wave a stick in their direction, but they seemed completely unshaken, as they would perch on a branch just out of reach and stare down at use angrily, as the single hummer mother tried tirelessly to protect her last baby.

During all of these goings on, Tilly seemed to realize that we were on her side. When we came outside to shout at the robins, she would sitting happily on her nest and watch us. I like to believe that she knew we were on her team. I started to wonder if it would be even harder on us to discover an empty nest after all this trying to protect her.  Perhaps it would be, but it still felt worth it.

One morning I lifted my phone, video rolling, up over her nest while she was gone to feed.  I was hoping hoping hoping that the single egg would still be in the nest, unharmed by the vicious, gluttonous robins.  I got even more than I was hoping for…

The “dark spot” I’d seen earlier in the nest wasn’t a missing egg…it was a teeny chick!

So we named it Teeny.

Later that same day…Tiny hatched, too! (June 16)

 

Teeny & Tiny! Aren’t they adorably hideous!? (June 17)

It’s hard to look at this picture and appreciate just how small they were.  But the stringy stuff connecting the nest to the limbs…those are SPIDER WEBS.  Hummers use them to make their nests strong and flexible.  The nest actually stretches to fit the babies as they grow.

To get some perspective of size, make a circle by touching the tips of your thumb and index finger together.  That’s about how big around the opening of this nest is.

Do you see the paint chips that Tilly used to decorate her nest? They are pros at find items in their surroundings to help their nest blend into the area.

They were so small, and reaching up to peek in was so difficult, that they only way I could see them was on video or photo as well. Needless to say, I filled my phone with hummingbird photos! It’s incredible how many new people you meet when you spend lots of time in a campground, standing on a chair, on a picnic table, holding your phone in the air. One woman said, “We thought maybe you were trying to get reception!” But lots of neighbors came over to marvel at the miniature nest and it’s minuscule inhabitants, Tilly, Teeny, & Tiny.

By the 20th, we could see their little heads coming up above the edge of the nest to eat.

Ok, so I’m ashamed to admit that we learned that hummingbirds often build their nests near larger predatory birds because they protect the entire tree from other predators.  So it turned out that the Monstrous Robins were not after Tilly’s eggs after all….they were protecting the tree from US!

Oops….sorry, nature.

They grew incredibly fast! (June 24)
June 26 – it’s starting to get crowded!
Here’s one with my hand for perspective.
June 28. They seemed to be most comfortable twinning like this with their beaks out & ready for Mama. At this point, Tilly could no long sit on them. She would perch nearby.

 

Streeeeeetch, spiderwebs, stretch! July 1
Once we finally borrowed a ladder from the campground office we were able to go up to see them with our own eyes and get better photos. By this point they were so used to us being nearby that they weren’t bothered at all.

We had to say goodbye to the hummer family on July 2, likely only a few days before Teeny & Tiny fledged.  Maybe it’s just as well, because it would have really stressed me out! But it was unbelievably hard for me to say goodbye to these fascinating little birds. Our neighbor friend Darren (bunny man from Best Friends) promised to keep the feeder filled for Tilly and to keep an eye on them in our absence.  The campground office promised to warn the next people who parked in our site so they wouldn’t bump the nest.

Don’t they look enormous bursting out of the nest?  I put my finger into this video as a reminder of their actual size.  Even after watching them for weeks it’s still almost unfathomable to me.

Goodbye, precious friends.

Less than a week later we got an email from Darren saying that the babies had flown away.

5 Comment

  1. Janet Clark says: Reply

    Sarah, Just LOVED YOUR HUMMINGBIRD STORY! They are one of My Favorite little birds!😍 You all did a good Job, looking after/protecting the babies! I know what you mean…it’s the “Mother” that God put in us to love, and nurture little things, I Love Animal’s, just like you All do!😊❤❤❤❤

  2. Janet Clark says: Reply

    Loved your Hummingbird Story!❤❤❤❤

  3. Michal says: Reply

    Hi Sarah, thanks for sharing this amazing experience and photos! Now I realize why you had a feeder when I met you.
    Michal (Crested Butte)

  4. Janet Clark says: Reply

    Very unique /clever hummingbird feeder (Brad?)
    Those Robbins, were just doin their “job!)

  5. Brenda says: Reply

    You are amazing! I will miss these adventures!

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