This morning we were all up extremely early, as we have been every morning this week. Child Number One is in horseback riding camp, and the kids are all expected to be working in the stables at "first sparrow-fart", as my father used to say.
After returning home with the whiny remaining children, I handed them each a little bucket, and instructed them to accompany me out to the Garden. I gave each child a section of flowerbed to weed, after carefully explaining which plants were WEEDS, and which were NO-TOUCHY. They are always happy to be out in the garden, and thank goodness, felt "big!" to be helping their mother with such a grown-up task...
I then grabbed my "garden claw" tool (which is AWESOME by the way-- it does a nice shallow soil-turn-over, without necessitating that I wrench my back over the pitchfork), and made for the Butterfly flowerbed.
I've been trying really hard to perfect the Butterfly bed, not only because the plants I've chosen will hopefully turn out to look spectacular, but also in an attempt to coax more of the lovely, ethereal creatures to visit us. I once read that if a gardener is able to attract butterflies, he or she has managed to create a perfectly balanced little ecosystem. It has been my goal ever since.
A few weeks ago, when the flowers began blooming in the Butterfly bed, I went into the shed and searched out the hummingbird feeder, which I have not attempted to use for several years. I cleaned it thoroughly, mixed up the liquid food, and hung it over the blossoms, hoping for the best. While I have yet to actually set eyes on one of those lovely, elusive little miracles of nature, I have been full of hope and anticipation... because day by day, the food-level in the feeder has been diminishing. And not just because of bees and wasps, either! I have been watching and waiting and brushing away any insects that have happened across the feeder. Anyway, it is simply not possible that a bunch of bugs could be responsible for draining the liquid almost entirely, week after week.
This morning, as the girlies and I weeded, we kept a close eye on all of our birdfeeders. We have a remarkable amount of gold, purple and house finches that are feasting almost constantly, and noisily beating one another to the "best" perches. We have rose-breasted nuthatches and downy woodpeckers who delight the girls by hanging upside down on the suet as they peck out their meals. There are a pair of beautiful red cardinals who appear at least twice a day, and take turns swooning over one another and feeding each other safflower seeds (my husband figures that they are still very "early" in their marriage, and haven't had kids yet). We've got squawk-y blue jays who push all the other birds around, and a flock of grackles and red-winged blackbirds who clear the place of ALL the smaller birds, and descend like a nasty gang of ornery teenagers and gorge themselves until one of us shoos them away.
And then there are the Chickadees, my very favourite birds. They are EVERYWHERE this year, cheerful and twittering and bouncing around. Last spring, a nest of six babies hatched in one of our big old fir trees, and they've been our constant feeder visitors ever since. There are even more tiny babies this summer, and we just love the "wheek-y, wheek-y!" noise they make, before they are able to come out with a robust, "CHICK-A-DEE-DEE-DEE!!"
But, after an hour in the Butterfly bed, there was nary a hummingbird to be seen. Not a single, solitary hum. I kept glancing up every few minutes as I weeded, and tried to keep as still and as quiet as I could... but nothing.
Nothing, that is, until I had almost given up completely, had gathered up all the weeds and tools and was about to stand up-- there was a sudden flurry of wings.
I looked up-- and finally laid eyes on the tiny, tiny bird who had been enjoying the garden and the nectar I had provided...
It was one of the baby chickadees. One of the sweetest things I've ever seen. He was little enough to wrap his tiny toes around the hummingbird perch, bent forward like one of those toy "bobbin' birds" we used to buy at Woolworths when I was a child... He stuck his tiny beak into the feeder again and again, sucking up the sweet liquid with great enjoyment. If he had had lips to smack when he was finished, I'm convinced he would have.
He then glanced down at me, gave a little "Wheek!!", and was gone before I'd fully registered what I'd just seen.
I've just about given up on attracting hummingbirds to the feeder this summer. But I've decided that I really don't mind that much. After all, how many people can boast having "Hum-a-dees" in their garden?
Very rare, I assure you.
Just wait till the Audubon Society finds out.
The Ontario Hum-a-dee