Last week I returned to my teaching job after a long and wonderful summer vacation. The transition has forced me to cram my horse care and riding into three or four hours late in the afternoon. It is always a doable challenge to perform chores efficiently leaving ample time to ride or school at least one horse, sometimes two. That is unless a distraction comes along that derails my best laid plans.
Such was the situation last week when my friend Jean, (Friends and Blessings), and I were mucking the indoor riding ring where two small geldings, Welby and Sandi had spent the day hiding from the voracious flies outside. Had these 'stars' not aligned just so, the following rescue might never have occurred and this luckless little lady would have perished for certain. But her good fortune began when I caught sight of what I thought was a shimmering green leaf lying in the dusty sand footing. On closer inspection I discovered that the leaf was the torso of a tiny female hummingbird!
"Oh, its a dead hummingbird," I whined to Jean who carried her pitchfork over to have a look.
Without hesitation I reached down to pick it up so that I could discard it in the wheelbarrow. Since hummingbirds are so beautiful, I took a second to examine it up close then touched it with a finger from my other hand. Low and behold it shuddered! Then she tried desperately to spread her wings but was only able to move them slightly.
Having found a hummingbird years ago in the same state, I knew exactly what to do. Jean too, had revived a near death hummingbird last winter in North Carolina where she lives during the cold Adirondack months. The two of us doubled the luck blessed upon this little creature.
Within minutes we were infusing the little hummingbird with sugar water that I mixed quickly in the kitchen and placed in a syringe. Immediately, her little sliver of a tongue began to dart in and out through her extra long beak. After a few slurps, she stopped to rest for a minute or two before resuming her fill of the lifesaving liquid. After a few more minutes the little bird began to perk up with wide open eyes that appeared to be surveying her present situation.
Jean and I decided to move the hummingbird into the tackroom, where the bugs couldn't bite at our bare arms and ankles. We placed her on a small hand towel where next, she began trying to activate the 'motor' in her wings. Initially, she was only able to flap them once or twice before needing to take a rest and fill up once again on the sugar water. With each passing minute, she became more and more alert. Her main focus of business was now on starting the engine that could keep those wings beating at the alarming speed for which her species is so famous. Still, they only flapped pathetically like the propeller on a doomed helicopter. At this point Jean decided to be on her way home and left hopeful that she would soon hear a favorable report from the little hummer's outcome.
For the next forty minutes the little hummingbird alternated between consuming sugar water and willing her disobedient wings to work. In addition, I noticed that one of her tiny talons was curled up and held tightly to her abdomen. I began to wonder if she had received more damage than was obvious to my naked eye. The other talon appeared to be functioning normally. By now another friend, Michele, (Friend's and Blessings), had arrived and was soon busily engaged in taking the little creature's picture with her camera.
Eventually, her wings began to obey as was evident by the slightly audible hum that generated from them. At this point I decided to get her outside where, if she did succeed at becoming airborne, she would be free to go. After a few more minutes the humming sound from her wings had warmed up and was quite distinct considering the size of the creature producing it.
All of a sudden she lifted herself off of the towel with a bit of a wobble to the left and then to the right as she rose at least six feet into the air. After stabilizing, she zoomed about 60 feet from where I was sitting in the grass. Then, she crash landed into the sandy driveway and lay on her side with her beak buried beneath her. I ran to retrieve her and dust off her beak, now caked with sand. I placed her back on the towel for a little rest. Not long afterwards, she was on her way again with the agility and ease of a healthy hummingbird! Up to the branch of a tree she flew. A leaf swung where I was certain she had grabbed hold, but after that I never saw her again. Michele and I searched the ground beneath the tree branch extending our grid large enough to assure that we had not missed her.
Although Seals and Crofts begged the tiny creature not to fly away in their early seventies hit song, Hummingbird, we were quite thrilled when our little acquaintance in fact,...did.
|When the little hummingbird's beak was inserted into the syringe, she began to drink immediately .|
|Within minutes she seemed to perk up.|
The following photos are by Michele deCamp.