Zippy is our hummingbird. Well, insomuch as a hummingbird belongs to anyone. Zippy is the female hummingbird who, in the dog days of summer, finally discovered our optimistically hung feeder.
The feeder, a gift from my mother-in-law, was filled and hung out in the late spring, probably a little late for hungry hummingbirds, but with high hopes of emerald-and-ruby visitors with delicate probosces and barely visible wings. It was ambitious, frankly, as we live in a dedicatedly suburban place, with plenty of green and flowers and gardens, but also plenty of noise, cars, homes, pets, and people.
Initially, it wasn’t the hummingbirds who found the feeder. Wasps and bees discovered its design flaws and hovered drunkenly, gorging on our homemade nectar. The bees didn’t bother me overmuch. They already frequented the perennials, rolling in rhododendron and azalea pollen and performing their particular alchemy in the neighbors’ peach tree. The wasps were troubling, though, especially when we saw the beginnings of a paper nest in the peak of the fascia.
I left the feeder hanging empty in defeat, a kind of passive-aggressive hopeful gesture. Nothing for you, wasps, but if the hummingbirds should inquire…
About three weeks ago, I was doing dishes in the early morning when Zippy pulled up to the empty feeder. She was a good-sized bird, quick and agile, mossy-green and flecked brown-gray, and disappointed by the empty state of the feeder. I froze with my hands in the running dishwater, disproportionately happy that she was even there.
I had the feeder inside, cleaned, and filled with a fresh batch of nectar in no time, and Zippy, bless her, came back again the next morning.
The bees and wasps staged an attempt to scare her off, and depending on the heat of the day, the concentration of the nectar (one of the feeder’s flaws was a tendency to leak sweetness in great, fat drips from the feeding flowers), and Zippy’s appetite, it was somewhat successful. By the end of the second week, Zippy was coming by less frequently, and I wasn’t sure if it was because of the early sting of Autumn in the air as August wound down, or if the local winged insects were keeping her away.
Mark bought me a new feeder, this one meticulously researched, and touted as being insect proof, and boasting a perch around the feeder’s circumference. Zippy could settle in, if she wasn’t too afraid of the delighted humans on the other side of the window screen. Felix and I washed and filled it, then fought our way to the hanger and took down the wasp-ridden one, sending it to the recycling bin.
Since then, the nighttime temperatures have dropped significantly, and the kiss of fall is in the sunlight. I haven’t seen Zippy in days, and the nectar levels are untouched. I suspect she has decamped for warmer places.
The instructions on our lovely new feeder suggest leaving it out for two weeks after the last bird sighting, just in case, and so I shall. I have a tender hope that Zippy will come back in the spring, perhaps with a gentleman caller, to raise some kids.
I woke from a dream of Zippy at the feeder with that strange, waking feeling of certainty, unsure if I was dreaming or remembering or seeing. The feeder, full and bright in the morning sunshine, tells me she’s not here, but I can’t quite give up hope that one last visit might let me cling to summer a little longer.