Our First Winter Storm Together, The Anna’s Hummingbirds and Me.

Anna’s Hummingbirds, ink and watercolor 2020 by Julianna Paradisi

“Whoever saves one life saves the world entire.” the Talmud

It’s just after 9 am. The air temperature is 27 degrees F, and snow is coming down at a furious rate usually reserved for rain. Sometimes the snow falls straight down, until a gust of wind blows it sideways or into swirls.

The hummingbird feeder on our small deck is miraculously weighted so it remains nearly motionless, despite the wind gusts. It’s my first winter having a hummingbird feeder.

In Oregon, Anna’s Hummingbirds are a year-round resident. Other species migrate south for the winter, but not the tenacious Anna’s. If you look carefully when walking outdoors, it’s easy to spot their tiny silhouettes backlit against the sky, perched on the branch of a barren tree.

This is the first hummingbird feeder I’ve had, because I understood if I put one out, I was making a commitment to the Anna’s in my neighborhood. The feeder is cleaned, and sugar nectar is made and replaced weekly, more frequently in hot weather.

This is our first winter storm together, the Anna’s Hummingbirds and me.

When I woke this morning and checked on the feeder, an Anna’s was already there. I took this as a good sign. Through the window, as I watched, my tiny visitor with a bold personality appeared to gaze at me full-face, implying, “Hey, what gives?”

After he left, I went outside and checked the feeder. The nectar wasn’t frozen solid, but it was slushy in texture. I shook it a bit to loosen the liquid.

The metabolism of a hummingbird is very high, and they need to eat about every 10-15 minutes, all day long. To cut off their supply during a winter storm strikes me as unnecessarily cruel. It’s wrong to enjoy their jewel-like beauty in the summer, and then abandon them when they need assistance.

This morning happens to be the day I routinely clean and refill the feeder, so I boiled water, dissolved the right amount of sugar into it, and then waited for it to cool. I made a little extra and placed it in the refrigerator, in case I need to add more nectar later today, as 27 degrees F is our projected high, with continuing snowfall.

Several Anna’s Hummingbirds have visited my feeder, since fresh nectar was added. Busy eating, they now ignore my presence in the window, watching them as I write.

Visit this Audubon webpage to learn more about hummingbirds and feeding them.

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