Today, however, I witnessed something pretty amazing, and wanted to share it.
A few weeks back, a hummingbird built a nest in a bush outside our front door. This was fairly spectacular in its own right as I'd never seen a nest and happen to love hummingbirds, thus ensuring my rep as a streetwise tough guy.
So, every day I'd check on the nest, pretty much acting like a nervous parent every day. I saw an egg. I saw what looked like feathers, but which might have also been a caterpillar of some sort. It was all new and exciting for me and my girlfriend, Maria. We got to share the progress, and fret over the welfare of the mom and babies as rain came and went, and day after day of wind buffeted our adopted children.
Well, recently, we'd noticed two babies who seemed to be alive and well. The mom fed them frequently, and Maria even got a photo of their beaks protruding from the nest.
Today, however, was incredible, because we got to watch as one of the babies took its very first flight.
Then, the baby flew to another branch, nearby. Not exactly graceful, but getting there.
Nothing to it, right?
Well, I had reason to hold my breath again as the mom came over to make sure everything was cool. This mother hummer has been such a dedicated mom. Scaring away other hummingbirds from "her" nectar feeder, all that.
Then there was this. These babies have been so pampered, they figure whenever mom's near, it's feeding time. Just wow.
This checking-up ritual happened a number of times as the baby started to get its footing outside the nest.
The babies were getting so big, the mother bird couldn't even fit into the nest with them. No idea where she spend her nights, but she's dutifully stuck around through the whole process.
While the mom checks up on the baby often, she seems to keep her distance, too. "Time to fend for yourself, kiddo."
As I mentioned, two babies were in the next. The sibling of the flyer seems littler, and appears to be content to just keep hanging out in the next until it's time to give those wings a test drive.
The other baby eventually made a few rounds of the yard with mom, then ended up on one of her favorite tree branches.
The mom usually sits up in the tree to keep an eye on the feeder, the nest and us. She's not shy about letting us know when we get too close. (These photos were taken with a long lens. She seems OK with that.)
The baby hummingbird definitely looks like a baby. Or at least a gawky teen.
The mom keeps a close eye on her first born, but has also kept up the feeding schedule of her slacker back in the nest.
It has been utterly mind-blowing watching this ritual unfold up-close.
There's a serenity that comes over you as you watch these simple interactions and seemingly miraculous feats of nature.
There's nothing much to do other than keep the crows and stray kitties away, and just sit and wonder about the complexity of life, and how fundamental some things are to life on Earth, like that unmistakable maternal instinct, and the bond between mothers and their offspring.
We're so lucky these amazing creatures chose us!
Update! Three days after the first baby left the nest, the second took the plunge.
A great end to a wonderful, miniature saga.