Farewell to summer and its buzzing creatures

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  • Publicado : 23 de enero de 2011
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ITHACA, N.Y. — It's 6:45 a.m. Sitting in an alcove near the back window, I watch summer packing to leave -- the yard's hummingbirds busily feeding. Any day now they'll migrate to their winter homes.But at the moment, they're gobbling sugar to build the fat reserves they need for long solo flights.

I've spiked their drink, sweetened their water 3-to-1, since putting on weight is so urgent.Trees and flowers only dispense nectar in doses (to encourage pollinators to move to other blooms), but feeders provide a steady source of sweetness, and where in life can any creature find that? So Itend the feeder carefully -- change the water every other day, keep ants and wasps at bay if I can.

I saw a baby hummer at the feeder for the first time this week, a late visitor I mistook for abumblebee until I noticed the helicopter blur of its wingbeats. Here it is again. Smaller, darker and jerkier than the adults, it sips, elevates, swallows, sips six times more, then angles backward in areverse swan dive. Yesterday morning it squawked a faint tearing-cardboard sound when a yellow jacket vexed it. One or two wasps a hummer can keep an eye on, joust with, and usually drive off. Butthree become gangland dangerous.

(Yellow jackets plagued the adult hummers all month. Yesterday I learned why: the wasps had built a hive inside the back wall of the house.)

The three hummingresidents of the yard -- male, female, baby -- take turns at the red plastic feeder. Why waste valuable energy chasing each other around the yard? So they line up. The menu is always the same -- treacle.Sometimes treacle laced with raisin-like ants.

In these precious last days with the hummingbirds, I sit quietly on the ledge of the morning, watching the sodden darkness lift like a stage curtain,and the tiny players arrive one by one, do their dance, engage in a little swordplay, and leave in fast arcing backdives.

At nightfall, I see them darken and linger, sip seven or 10 times in a row,...