A pair of hummingbirds chose her backyard cactus to raise their young, but not everything went to plan.
In March last year, my husband, Dennis, was in our backyard with the garden hose when a female Anna’s buzzed his ear. We soon found her nest on our 8-foot-tall prickly pear cactus.
As a birder and photographer, I was delighted to see that she had laid two eggs. A couple of weeks later, they hatched, the babies not much bigger than bees.
On the first Monday in April, I discovered that disaster had struck. The mother was frantically flying around the cactus, searching for the nest. I found it on the ground, with one baby still safely inside. Sadly, the other had perished.
Dennis and I took action. He held the nest while I applied Elmer’s glue, and we reattached it to the plant. After the incident, the mother formed a bond with us. She had no problem with me taking photos or checking on the baby. Dennis could turn on the water without frightening her or Baby. She even came in to feed the nestling while I was standing there, almost as if we were family.
A week later, the forecast spelled rain, and I was concerned that the glue would dissolve. I attached pins all around the nest, hoping to prevent it from falling again, but our worries were far from over. Several storms were headed our way. To protect the nest, we rigged an umbrella on top of the cactus and even held the umbrella when it was windy.
One day, the sky turned black, with high winds and rain. I ventured outside with my umbrella when, out of nowhere, a microburst struck. Unable to hold the umbrella, I cupped the nest and baby with my hand and blocked it with my body as hail pelted me. When it was finally over, I was soaked from top to bottom, but the baby was OK, sitting snug as a bug in its nest.
Day 20 of this amazing odyssey arrived and Mom exhibited a new behavior. After every feeding, she would prick the youngster on the back, as though trying to pressure Junior to leave the nest. The next day, the young bird sat on the rim of the nest but made no attempt to fly.
Junior finally took wing, crashing twice before landing safely on the backyard wall. Mom came and fed it, and from there, it flew to my husband’s shoulder, with Mom in tow! We couldn’t believe it!
Having a front-row seat from birth and early tragedy to watching this little hummingbird grow up was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
Marion Ball Tucson, AZ