The Unexpected Journey
Chapter 21

Who Has Your Back? 

One of the joys (of the many) that the atrophy has not taken from me is watching my hummingbird feeders.  Hummingbirds fascinate me!  About the time I think I have them figured out, they do something I never expected.  Their ability to maneuver—stand still in flight and instantly change directions—constantly fascinates me.  Watching them chase each other is quite entertaining!  In fact, I do not often get tired of watching them.  If my wife sees me silently staring out the window, I probably am watching hummingbirds.

I typically have two feeders up about twenty feet apart (which is too close).  There have been times I had as many as five feeders out—however, in our small feeding area that is entirely too close.

The first thing that fascinates me about them is their incredible greed.  Hummingbirds are a very small bird about the size of a typical person’s thumb.  The feeders I use hold 16 ounces of sugar water.  (I attempt to maintain two flower beds near the feeders to help attract the birds.)  The reservoirs that hold the liquid for my feeders would hold several hummingbirds.  Yet, it seems every hummingbird appoints itself to be the guardian of the feeders to see that no other hummingbird drinks any of the sugar water.  The object does not seem to be to drink, but to keep anyone else from drinking! 

When, I see this behavior, I inwardly (silently) laugh and laugh and laugh.  First, one would think “the guard bird(s)” put the liquid in the reservoirs and was itself tirelessly protecting all that “hard work.”  However, the bird(s) had nothing to do with putting the liquid in the reservoirs!  Second, each bird acts as if it could drink all that sugar water all by itself!  I seriously doubt that one bird could drink all I put out (before it molds) if nothing disturbed it!

The second thing that fascinates me is their behavior.  The day seems to begin with an enormous game of chase.  Everybody seems to chase everyone else.  Sometimes there are up to five (that I can identify) that chase each other.  They will dive at each other, fly after each other, face each other as they rise into the air, etc.  As two chase each other, a third will attempt to sneak a drink.  As soon as the two chasing each other see the third drinking, the two in unison go after the third.  The enemies suddenly become allies as they band together to intimidate the third who would dare drink from “our” sugar water. If four or five go after each other, nobody pairs up, nobody drinks, and everybody swarms to prevent anyone from drinking. 

Occasionally a finch will light on a feeder.  He will be so much larger than the hummingbirds that he will just ignore their antics.  When the hummingbirds are ignored for a couple of minutes, they simply disappear until the finch leaves.  However, this tactic does not work if a hummingbird tries it—the attacks (which never inflict harm) continue on and on. 

About mid-morning as the temperature rises, one I refer to as the “general” will perch on a nearby tree limb.  (There is a tree about fifty feet from the feeders.)  He will watch the feeders.  If any hummingbird dares to try to drink, he will dive out of the tree, chase the hummingbird away, inspect the feeder (not taking a drink), and return to his perch in the tree.  I guess he is just making sure everything on the feeder is still there!

Then late in the afternoon the chase begins again.

The only time I have observed a significant departure from this behavior occurred when a storm was approaching.  Suddenly, everybody drank and nobody chased.  Seemingly, the “rules” briefly changed.  Everyone needed to prepare for the threat.  When the storm passed, the chase began again.

For a reason I do not understand, these birds will “adopt” only one feeder at a time.  The feeder selected (the feeders are always in the same place) will change from summer to summer. I have seen them empty their favored feeder and not touch or visit the other feeder—and both feeders are identical, filled with the same solution.

In order not to disturb the hummingbirds’ patterns, I usually clean and refill the feeders at night.  While the birds sleep, I clean the feeders and refill them with the liquid they love so much and that never runs out.  They think I am their dreaded enemy who would destroy their lives.  If I go near their feeders when they are there, they quickly disappear.  They have no idea that the one they dread so much and identify as their enemy actually sustains them in ways they never see at cost to himself—not them.

Question: Who fills your feeder while you sleep?


Parting Thoughts

As I close this, I would like to give you some “think abouts.”  I hope that they are worth your time and consideration. 

1.     Never allow your frustrations to blind you to your blessings.

2.     Just because you ignore the presence of something does not meant it is not there.

3.   Refuse to be defined by negative qualities. 

4.     Seek to be the best you that you can be, not the worst

5.   Guard against an attitude of possessiveness.

6.   May you honestly see your flaws before others see them.

7.   See friendship where friendship exists.

8.   Being honestly able to distinguish between friends and enemies blesses.

9.  Genuine threats change behavior.

10. Because I know myself does not mean I accurately understand others.

11. Make it your goal that knowing you is a source of blessing to others.

May we all have the wisdom and insight to make any journey we take beneficial—unexpected or otherwise.

 Copyright 2010

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