I’ve been hearing a hummingbird scolding from our neighbor’s treetop ever since the first hard freeze not too long ago. The last fuchsia’s and sage blossoms had finally given up the ghost, and the bird was protesting. I thought at the time, you should have gone south, little bird. His head was mostly black, his breast caught the sun now and then and sparkled chartreuse, but mostly he was greyish brown, maybe even a she, I thought. I’m pretty sure it’s an “Anna’s Hummingbird,” and I’ve read that they do over-winter here in the Willamette Valley. Poor wee thing.
Yesterday, Day Two of the Big Snow in Corvallis, I heard that shrill-pitched scolding again, this time from my front porch. Perched defiantly on the end of a rhododendron bud, he was trying to warm himself in the thin sunlight. Every few minutes he would zoom off to do battle with other hummers, and birds many times his size as they approached the neighbor’s porch and their feeders, including the frozen hummingbird feeder. The neighbors had thawed it and re-hung it several times, and we did once when they were gone for awhile, but with the temperature in the teens, not much you can do. He took on starlings and robins and pigeons and scrub jays until he was so exhausted that I was able to get within a few feet of his perch, and take photographs. And then, the incredible happened – the sun caught the top of his head and it shattered into a million ruby crystals. I literally gasped – I’ve seen pretty little birds before on National Geographic TV specials with ruby throats, but never anything to compare to this, and certainly not on my front porch. That dark head was a fabulous source of reds and pinks and rubies and black light, and I stood out there in the cold in just my houseslippers long enough to almost capture it on film twice.
He was out there again today, this time perching on a plant stake nearer to the house and out of the wind. But he didn’t fight as much with other birds, he seemed to sip from melting snow a bit, and just rest. Cruel cold. I hope he makes it through another night to share his magical colors again. Good Luck, little bird.
This sketch is in my sketchbook that I’m going to be sending to the Sketchbook Project next month. The topic is borders… here I was wanting to shatter the border with the jewels from the bird’s head. Almost made it work. The paper is too thin for watercolors, so I’ll need to put in different papers if I can’t resist watercolors again. Or maybe crinkly pages is one of things that makes the sketchbooks so real, so immediate.