Down on the Redneck Riviera I put out a hummingbird feeder in the spring and counted myself lucky to have as many as three of the hovering jewels hanging around over the summer--Panama City just wasn't on the hummingbird list of favorites it seemed. Different story up here at the northern end of southern nowhere.
I put out a feeder on the 1st of April and, within hours, the first hummingbird of the season paid a visit. He hung out alone for a few days and then was joined by a female who he couldn't chase off--hummers are notoriously anti-social. Over the next several weeks a few more birds drifted in and out, presumably making pit stops on their road trips from the Yucatan to Yankee land.
Toward the end of July, I increased the number of feeders out my back door to four and the hummingbird numbers have jumped dramatically. It's hard to count hummingbirds--they don't sit still for long--but I think I have at a couple dozen hanging around at the moment. This count pales in comparison to what my parents experience at their place each summer--I have counted as many as 75 hummers at their feeders in late summer and the rule of thumb is that you have that many again out of sight waiting their turn to tank up.
This morning I stood with the rising sun at my back and my nose not 18 inches from a feeder as a procession of the birds buzzed in to drink the high calorie sugar water needed to keep their wing-blurring metabolism fired. As I stood still, the tiny birds zoomed right up to me, hovered within inches, and studied me as if trying to determine my intentions. Satisfied that I was a non-threatening observer, they spun to light on the tiny railing ringing the feeding station, poked their needle-like bill into one of the holes, snaked out their thread-thin tongues and drank from my offering. The sun-splashed back of these ruby-throated hummingbirds sparkled like an emerald-studded cape, and, at the distance of a foot and a half, the green flash was mesmerizing. That close, I could make out details that differentiated each bird. One's head feathers was ruffled and mussed as if it had risen late from its slumber and raced to breakfast without combing. Another's tail was missing a feather--didn't seem to affect its aerial acrobatic capabilities that I could tell. Yet another had a splotchy coloration on its breast--probably an immature male.
I could have stayed there watching them for hours, but five minutes is all the time Miss Brenda lets me goof off when I'm home and chores need doing on Eegeebeegee.