And Now The Hard Part

It’s been an enjoyable couple weeks spying on the frontyard hummingbird nest through the porch spotting scope, watching as the chicks have grown exponentially thanks in full part to the momma bird’s tireless efforts.

Then came this morning when I looked through the eyepiece and found the nest, which as of yesterday could barely hold the two babies, seemingly empty. Immediately I looked directly below the nest to our front steps and found cat Pepper sniffing around the edge of the ivy, my worst fears as a hummingbird uncle realized.

Bolting down there I hoped I wasn’t too late and also wondered how in the hell would I be able to find such a tiny creature, especially if it had fallen from the nest into the deep ivy — a very real possibility.

A minor miracle: I quickly found the bird completely still in the narrow band of dirt between the rock walk wall and the ivy jungle. See it?

It’s basically right above that gap in the concrete in the center of the frame. And worst of all Pepper had been practically right on top of the helpless creature, saved from being a quick snack perhaps only by its instinctive ability to remain absolutely still.

Here it is a bit more close-up, after I put Pepper inside:

I’m not sure how long it had been there. I’m not sure if it fell trying to fly or might have been nudged out by its sibling, but none of that mattered. What did matter was that it seemed in good health, which was good news.

What’s also good news is that I’m an absolute genius. See, yesterday morning Susan and I made good on percolating plans to make a run to Lowe’s for a growing list of home improvement things we needed.

Not on that list was one of those high-fruit pickers — those contraptions that extend like 15-feet and at the business end of it have this wire basket used to snag and catch fruit from hard to reach boughs. But as we were making our way through the garden section of the store I saw the thing and realized it might come in handy to help get them back up into the tree should one of the chicks not be very successful in taking their first flight.

You should know I did not pat myself on the back at my foresight and confidently add the $40 item to our collection of purchases. In fact I probably changed my mind about buying it three or four times before sighing and dropping it onto our cart, with the rationalization that I could return it.

And when Susan saw it in the cart she just smiled that “I totally married a nutjob” smile when I told her its potential purpose — but she understood and didn’t object.

Needless to say as I palmed the chick and it responded by opening its beak for something to eat, I remembered the picker and felt totally and absolutely righteous and awesome.

Susan held the chick while I readied the apparatus and she remarked how she could feel the vibrations of its rapid heartbeat (about 250 times a minute) and was surprised at how much warmth it radiated. Momma hovered nearby wanting to know what we were doing with her baby!

Of course, I had it in my head that I’d put the chick in the cage, hoist it up into the laurel tree’s branches near the nest and it would hop out back home all safe and sound. Yeah, no. The baby bird obviously felt no urgency to leave this cushion-y comfy new place for the crowded conditions of its birthplace. So it stayed put. Which is why if you pass by our house you’ll see this long orange rod dangling from the tree down over the ivy (image after the jump) because I hooked one of the picker’s grabber claws over a smaller branch and so far things seem to be working out fine. Mom’s gotten used to the new digs and been by to feed the chick. And the chick itself is just kicking back.

We’re certainly not out of the woods yet. Not by a long shot. There’s all sorts of things that could go wrong. The chick could fall out again and this time into the ivy, and/or the other one still in the nest  above it could take a dive. The picker could slip from its perch and fall or even potentially be stolen by some unknowing jerk. Plus its new home could draw the attentions of squirrels or crows or possums or blue jays.

But like I said, so far so good. And whether for better or worse I’ve given the amazing awe-inspiring creature a chance it certainly wouldn’t have had on the ground.

Fingers crossed.

UPDATE (06.28): At 11 a.m., the wayward chick is still in its makeshift nest doing very well, having moved from the middle to perch on the perimeter of the picker basket. But its sibling, while partially visible in the actual nest higher up in the tree, has not moved all morning nor been visited by the mother hummingbird since yesterday, leading me to sadly consider that it may have died.

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Will Campbell arrived in town via the maternity ward at Good Sam Hospital way back in OneNineSixFour and has never stopped calling Los Angeles home. Presently he lives in Silver Lake with his wife Susan, their cat Rocky, dogs Terra and Hazel, and a red-eared slider turtle named Mater. Blogging since 2001, Will's web endeavors extend back to 1995 with, a comprehensive theater site that was well received but ever-short on capital (or a business model). The pinnacle of his online success (which speaks volumes) arrived in 1997, when much to his surprise, a hobby site he'd built called VisuaL.A. was named "best website" in Los Angeles magazine's annual "Best of L.A." issue. He enjoys experiencing (and writing about) pretty much anything creative, explorational and/or adventurous, loves his ebike, is a better tennis player than he is horr golfer, and a lover of all creatures great and small -- emphasis on "all."