Sunday, February 12, 2012

Emmy Update

Emmy is alive and well, but I have to start off here with the disclaimer that I did not take this lovely photo of a female rufous hummingbird - someone from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology gets the credit. I found it on their wonderful All About Birds website after being unable to get a good photo of Emmy this morning. Heaven knows it wasn't for lack of trying. That little wisp of a bird is hard to capture with my camera. She's so fast that by the time I get my camera focused - she's gone! She does perch in the rose bush for periods of time, but she's so tiny. Even with my telephoto lens, it's hard to to focus properly on her tiny body perched on the branch. Maybe I need hummingbird photography lessons.

The wind chill was minus 4 degrees when I woke up before dawn to set up her feeders, in what I was sure would be a useless exercise. The wind had been howling relentlessly at 20-25 mph all night, our coldest night of the winter so far. I remembered all too well the website I visited during the last cold snap, a website that proclaimed rufous hummingbirds able to survive to 4 degrees, given a reliable source of food and other protective factors. Before going to bed, I had checked the weather. The windchill was 1 degree.

I dreamed of Emmy while I slept. She was inside, in the kitchen, hovering near me. I raised my hand to her, and she immediately alighted on my index finger. I was enthralled! She was light as a feather, and so sweet - looking around and totally at ease. She then dropped over, hanging upside down from my finger like a bat. I watched in wonder and amazement as she rubbed her head against my finger, much the way a dog would to show affection. I was awestruck, and filled with joy. It was so very real, in that way of dreams. Even now, I can remember how her little feet felt, grasping my finger. 

When I awoke, the happy feelings from the dream clung to me, even though I had a sense of foreboding that she had died. How could it be otherwise? Nevertheless, I ventured out into the wind, plugged in the heat lamp and stood by the window, waiting for dawn. I didn't want to put the feeders out too soon - the nectar begins to freeze so quickly at such frigid temperatures. I would wait until the other birds showed up to feed, since that's usually when I first see her. But I stood by the window, watching, just in case. Then I spotted a flash of movement out of the corner of my eye. Shock, disbelief and hope jolted me...what was that...a leaf? I stared. Within seconds she was back, hovering in front of the heat lamp, looking for the feeder. I almost tripped over my own feet in my haste to get that feeder out there.

Factoring in the windchill, it has warmed up to 1 degree now, at 9 am. She sits in the rose bush, feathers ruffled in the blowing wind, an emerald green winter warrior. And I defrost hummingbird feeders every 25 minutes or so, immersing each frozen feeder in a shallow pan of warm water until the icy nectar melts. Tomorrow will be warmer, and there will be less work. Until then, well... I know what it's like to hold a hummingbird on my finger, and that makes me smile.

So this hummingbird food business is all well and good,
how about some dog breakfast?


  1. Mum of sidekick has taken such good hummingbird photos before. Perhaps will have to try to find and put on blog for to see!

  2. So glad to see tiny Emmy is still zipping around. You are such a wonderful guardian angel for that little bird, no wonder she visited you in your dream!

  3. What a tiny survivor!!! Loved this post. You get an A for effort!

  4. I agree with Heather. You are a wonderful guardian angel for Emily. I'm so glad she's okay. Think of the relief for her when she saw you. How fun for you that you held her on your fingers Brenda. That's something you won't soon forget (if ever).

    Stay warm and keep Emily safe.

  5. Brenda, I am so glad to see that tiny Emmy is still flying around your garden. Great photos!
    I think it's difficult to take photos of hummingbirds, they don't stay still... I always fail to photograph them.

  6. Brenda, you had such a lovely dream. I can see how it gave you an inside glow. I am glad Emmy is doing well. You are her guardian angel!