Monday, February 10, 2014

Jimmy the Hummingbird and the Snowpocalypse

I think I should change the name of the garden from Chickadee Gardens to Hummingbird Condominiums. Let me explain.

Last week I warned that if the Snowpocolypse really did arrive and prevent us from attending the Seattle Garden show, that I'd have to resort to posting about cats this week. But something else literally fell into our lives this snowy February, that something was an Anna's hummingbird.

We call him Jimmy.

What in the world are we doing with a hummingbird in our home? 
Well, it happened like this: We regularly feed the hummingbirds here as we have a species that stays year-round, the Anna's hummingbird. In the rare occasion it freezes here, we need to be mindful of thawing out the hummingbird nectar so they have sustenance during this tough weather. They are very territorial - so much so that a female that has been hanging around the feeder out front attacked the little guy. Really. I saw it. The female was on top of him. He was on the ground with his wings splayed, his head turned and lying in the snow while she pecked at his eyes. He just lay there, helpless. 

We picked him up, brought him inside, put him in a towel-lined box in the bathroom and fed him sugar-water with a turkey baster. He ate, he sat on my hand and perked up after an hour or so.






So we took the box outside to let him fly away. We were thinking he'd regained his strength. He eventually flew out (he can fly) and landed on a branch. Within seconds the female was on top of him, knocked him to the ground and was pecking him to death. We broke it up. She flew away to continue to defend her feeders and we brought him back inside.

Now mind you I do not like handling wildlife. I think it should be left to the experts and to nature. But Audubon was not open due to the snowstorm, nor could we take him anyway as the roads were not clear. So our only choice was to help since he would have perished if left outside, via either a territorial female or Old Man Winter.

So in he came, box and all, to stay the night. We put moss in the box to make him at home and a towel, and I made a bed out of a fuzzy sock. 

Our friend who is a birder and involved with Audubon helped us with great advice and confirmed that, yes, the female would have killed him. So. What choice did we have? If Jimmy---we named him Jimmy---survived the night then his chances for survival were increased a great deal. 

Day 2: First thing Saturday morning we checked on him, and Jimmy was fine! Relief streamed through me. OK. Operation Save Jimmy was on to Phase II. We fed him more nectar which he ate with gusto. So, again, since he was fully awake and fed, we thought it would be best to bring him outside. Out went the box the second time, a little more protected. The east winds were howling so hard that with the wind chill it was about 8 degrees. We faced the box away from the wind and thought he might fly off. But he sat there. We checked on him every 5 minutes, but it was clear after an hour that he was not going to fly away and he'd freeze there if he weren't in top health.

There he is in the middle, barely visible. 


This is what it looked like in a good moment. But brutal, all the same. So in he came after an hour of that nonsense.

Interesting factoid: In the first half of the 20th century, Anna's did not come this far north in the winter, nor stay here year-round. That has since changed due to the increase of available flower nectars and increase in nectar feeders. 

A bad pic, but this is Jimmy in his box outside, he did not move from this position for over an hour, he just shivered and poofed up like you see. Not interested in flying anywhere even though he was outside and free to go.

Now inside, he had the basement bathroom to himself along with a deluxe Hummzinger feeder. I also had some mealworms that were in some suet that I extracted, ground up and mixed with the nectar to give him some protein. Operation Save Jimmy Phase III was in full swing.

We called Audubon. They said it's a very unusual situation and that we should release him, but to do so at least a couple of blocks away so as not to encounter the female. 

So, Saturday, after a minute of eating the bug-infused food, Jimmy perked up, flew around very calmly and landed on the shower door...then I rigged the Hummzinger up to hang from the ceiling. He found that quite lovely. He likes to fly in a circle, land on the shower, fly in a circle, land on the feeder, back and forth and so on.


Here he is on his feeder. He is eating on his own at the feeder, so he seems to be on the mend. Plus, he can fly like a champ. Our whole goal here is to get him back outside. The problem Saturday night is that it was freezing rain. No way I'm releasing him, I thought, until it turns to just rain. Gratefully, rain was in the forecast for Sunday, but here's what it looked like on Friday afternoon. As many of you know, it got progressively worse: 





 A Townsend's warbler keeping company with little bushtits at the suet.



 The Arctic tundra eco-roof!


 The snow got about up to Buddha's neck on Sunday.






Day 3: Sunday morning, gratefully, he's still alive, hanging out on his Hummzinger. Here's what it looked like Sunday morning after the freezing rain Saturday night:







Brrrr....so Sunday it melted a bit, but not enough - by the time any significant melting occurred, it was late in the day and the sun was going down. Not a good way to release him. Monday promised melting and freedom for little Jimmy. 



 Nitey-nite, Jimmy....Monday promises better weather for you..you will be able to leave Hummingbird Condominums!


Day 4: So Monday morning the big melt happened. So did Jimmy's release. I was so anxious and nervous, I really wanted him to be outside where his chances for survival were much greater than in my home, but the weather...it's been a tricky winter storm. Gratefully Monday it warmed to 40 degrees and things began to melt, the rain arrived. It was time.


 Here's the video of his release:



He flew away, high off into the tree next door. I haven't seen him as of two hours after his release, which hopefully means he flew far away to find his own territory. I pray that Jimmy makes it, that the female will let him be now that it's warmed up and there's plenty of food for everyone.

This is why I garden. It's for the hummingbirds, the chickadees, the honey bees and the mason bees. It's to do my little tiny bit to make it a little bit better for nature and for us. I guess this was the Universe's way of reminding me that nature is very fragile. I am still processing everything, it was really a miracle that he allowed us to help him, that he was calm and he ate, he exercised his wings and went to sleep at night in his state of torpor. It was a miracle to be with him and that he trusted us. I really believe he knew we were trying to help him.

Good bye, Jimmy. I have some hummingbird nectar for you any time, I do hope you come visit us.







38 comments :

  1. I followed this on Facebook. What a great experience to treasure forever. It is amazing that he stayed calm indoors and let you help him. I've encountered baby birds that had no fear of me, so I wonder if he was very young.

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    1. Hi Alison, Yes, we wonder that too. Not sure, really. It was amazing how much he trusted us and how much he allowed us to help him. He drank every time I gave him the turkey baster full of hummingbird nectar and just relaxed. I will never forget it! Thanks for watching and following, just an amazing experience I wanted to share with the world.

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  2. Go Jimmy! What a wonderful snowy weekend memory you have now. Much better than the NWFG Show.

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    1. You know, Anna mentioned that I was stuck at home for a reason....at least I like to think so :) Indeed, a very wonderful memory.

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  3. Miracles DO happen...with a little help. What a great story.

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    1. They DO, don't they, Ricki? I'm amazed. And grateful he hung in there. Thanks for reading!

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  4. Wow, that's amazing! He seemed very relaxed with you. It was so good of you to give him a 2nd chance. Go, Jimmy, go!

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    1. Yes, go Jimmy go! I MAY have seen him yesterday (it has warmed up considerably here in Portland since last weekend) at the feeder...a scruffy looking male. I hope it was him :)

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  5. WOW! That is incredible!! Hummers are seasonal here and I've never gotten very close to one. You are an angel! He surely would have died without you.

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    1. Hi Casa Mariposa....well, he wouldn't have had a very good go of it, we were thrilled to be able to get so close and that he allowed us to help him. He was our little miracle!

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  6. Hi, it's Tammy from Casa Mariposa. I'd like to link this to my next post. Can I use one of the pix of Jimmy?

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    1. Yes, you may! My pleasure :) Feel free, thanks for reading!

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  7. My new post is up and is linked to your blog. :o)

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    1. Thank you so much! I so look forward to meeting you at the Blogger's Fling!

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  8. We have Annas in residence year-round here in southern California but I never realized they'd spread so far north. It's hard to believe that those little bodies can withstand the cold. I'm tremendously impressed by your rescue effort and I hope Jimmy makes the best of his second chance.

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    1. I KNOW Kris! Can you believe it? My heart goes out to these little survivors! I think we saw Jimmy this morning, so....all is well!!

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  9. This is amazing. Go, jimmy go!

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    1. Go Jimmy Go Jimmy Go Go Go! He's our new mascot, sweet little guy!

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  10. What a beautiful story. I have saved quite a few wild animals (birds and mammals) in my life (in my young-hood, while growing up), and so I know the feeling of rescuing and seeing them free. Jimmy understood that you guys were helping him and he trusted you -- what a great honor to have that. Congratulations to you all :-).

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    1. Thank you for your kind words, KL - and for reassuring me that he did indeed understand that we were trying to help him. Wildlife is so amazing, very humbling. Thanks for reading !

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  11. You are amazing! This story of your rescue just touched my heart! I found your blog through Tammy and I look forward to coming along for the ride!!! Nicole

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    1. Thank you Nicole! Your blog is very sweet...thank you for sharing your thoughts! Glad we found each other, amazing thing nature is!

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  12. What a wonderful, heartwarming story. What troupers you are rallying around....and how wonderful that Jimmy is back in the wild. I totally get how difficult it is to release birds, especially after they have been attacked, I had the same problem with a robin.
    I'm over from Casa's blog, who mentioned you.xxx

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    1. Hello Snowbird, so, what happened with the robin? It is a challenge...very worrying....let's just say we got no sleep last weekend. Thank you for reading and sharing your thoughts!! I appreciate it. I am so glad Jimmy is back in the wild :)

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    2. I had to re-capture the poor thing as a robin almost killed it, in the end I released it in one of my neighbour's garden, she kept an aye on it and it did well.xxx

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    3. Oh, that's great, Snowbird! I'm SOOO happy to hear such stories. Glad you found a willing neighbour to help out! That's a good ending to a good story. Thank you for sharing!

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  13. Amazing, you rescued a hummingbird. Such a beautiful bird, for us in Western Europe an exotic bird. Enjoyed reading your story and the lovely pictures. Came here by the blog of Casa Mariposa and find another garden and nature lover. I will follow you.
    Regards, Janneke

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    1. Hello Janneke, thanks for reading from Europe and sharing your thoughts! I know...the hummingbird is a 'new world' bird and sooo beautiful, I'm thrilled you love them too! Here's to garden and nature lovers everywhere, thank you for following me, it means a lot ! :) Cheers!! -Tamara

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  14. Hi I found you through Tammy’s blog, what an amazing story!
    Over here in UK we don’t have hummingbirds so I have never seen one except for in photos. You were lucky indeed to be allowed to take care of Jimmy for those few days, I hope he will return some day :-)

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    1. Hello Helene, thank you so much for visiting! I am sorry you don't have hummingbirds, they are very special here. When one zooms by you in the garden (which they often do), we say you've been "hummed". hahha.....ANYHOW, they are pretty feisty little guys and we welcome them to the garden.
      We were lucky :) We agree with all of our hearts.

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  15. What a lovely post You did an amazing job with Jimmy. He is so cute. You are lucky to have these beautiful birds in your garden.

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    1. Hello Chloris,
      Thank you for visiting the blog! He IS cute, isn't he? I feel like a proud hummingbird mommy. We are lucky, we know it... :) Thanks again for visiting and for your kind words, I so appreciate comments and feedback! Cheers, Tamara

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  16. Wonderful post! Jimmy was lucky to have you for foster parents! My first time to visit your blog; I will be back!

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    1. Hi Deb, thank you for visiting! We appreciate it, so does Jimmy! Cheers!

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  17. A very sweet story that warms the cockles of my cold hard heart! Thanks for making my day!

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    1. Aaaw, thank you Outlaw! LOVE your blog by the way! I know, Jimmy has that warming feeling for us all...so glad to be able to share his story! Cheers!

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  18. Oh Tamara - although I followed your weekend on FB, I finally got to read this post! Feeling all warm and fuzzy all over again. The story of little Jimmy is a great one, and I'm so happy you got to experience something this fantastic! You were indeed snowed in for a reason! :)

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    1. I'm so glad, Anna! :) You had a great bird encounter too which involved hummingbird feeders! I think we were BOTH meant to stay home that weekend. Indeed! But...we must make it up somehow (our trip up north)....any destinations between here and Seattle you'd care to visit?? (Nurseries)

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