Amy Roberts: Bye-bye, birdies
In Park City, the temperature and the calendar aren’t always on the same page. Anyone who has lived here long enough has seen snow in June or has rushed outside after dark to cover the tomato plants in July. I remember clearing a path to my front porch for the UPS delivery driver once after an August snowstorm. In short, summers here are short. They are as fabulous as they are fickle.
The transition from summer to fall is usually a give and take. There’s nature’s struggle between the warm sunshine-filled days that precede the nights with “hard freeze warnings,” and there’s also the emotional struggle of ushering in a new season and saying farewell to the last one.
Winters are welcomed in a ski town — they are why most of us live here. And autumn means winter is near. But even so, I can’t help but release a heavy sigh at the sight of the first crimson leaf or feel a bit melancholy as I take down the hummingbird feeders. Summers here go by quickly, and charming summer visitors are gone far too long.
Surprisingly, I’m still filling one of my hummingbird feeders. I spotted a straggler sipping nectar from it just a couple days ago. But with the temperatures dropping and most of her fellow flying Ferraris having already started their journey south, there’s little reason for her to stay much longer. I know she will soon begin her migration to Mexico, and it will be eight months before I hear the distinctive aerodynamic whirring and high-pitched squeaks again.
Last year, when COVID was still a bit of a novelty and backyards were the vacation destinations imposed upon us, the hummingbirds that visited my garden became a source of entertainment. And not just for me; much of the country needed a distraction too. As a result of our collective boredom, hummingbird feeders were backordered on Amazon for weeks. If you spend any time watching these little zooming creatures, it’s easy to see why people hope to share space with them. Their agility and speed and utterly comical personalities and behaviors are pretty captivating. Perhaps I enjoy hummingbirds so much because I can relate to them. Similarly, I can’t sit still for long. I’m deceptively fierce for my size. And, if I don’t eat every 15 minutes, it’s likely I’ll die.
Over the years I’ve intentionally planted some of their favorite flowers — trumpet vine, bee balm, lupine and columbine — to attract them. The hummers do their job and pollinate, but they make it clear their preference is the nectar in my feeders. It’s probably because I always add a bit more sugar than the recipe calls for. More than once this summer I wondered if I had inadvertently given them all Type 2 diabetes. They seem to have remembered me as “the extra sugar lady” and told their friends. As a result, I often had a dozen or so in my yard at any given time. Between making nectar, shooing away wasps and cleaning and filling the feeders, keeping these feathered freeloaders happy was a commitment, if not an amusing way to entertain myself.
I assigned reality TV show-type storylines to each of them — there were multiple affairs, divorces and the occasional lawsuit. The cast was always fighting. The plot thickened when a bright orange stranger suddenly arrived in July. I had a rufous hummingbird for about a week. He was a bully at the feeder, obnoxious, aggressive and constantly puffing out his chest. I named him Trump. He didn’t stay long. And while his appearance and disappearance were never part of the script, I suspect he’s now causing trouble in Georgia.
Amy Roberts is a freelance writer, longtime Park City resident and the proud owner of two rescued Dalmatians, Stanley and Willis. Follow her on Twitter @amycroberts.
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