A Backyard Air Show

August 7, 2017

By Richard Burke

We had a pretty-much non-stop air show in our backyard this past weekend – the hummingbirds were battling over a patch of bee balm in our backyard.

They’ve been coming to the garden every year since we planted a dropmore scarlet honeysuckle vine and bee balm, probably 15 years ago. They arrived this year the week of July 24, about the time we usually see the first ones. At first, they’ll do some fly-bys, inspect the plants, dart off, and return sporadically. If they like what they see, or sense what they need to start preparing for their long flight south, they’ll be back.

Over the past week and a half, it’s been more frequent by the day. Only one, mind you, at least that what we assumed. We were recalling the days when we’d have a hummingbird convention in the yard. Not so much more recently – the honeysuckle had fallen on hard times because we couldn’t keep up with the aphids, which get into the buds and wreck them.

Last year, we planted a new patch of bee balm and this year, it took off. Grew a little taller than we expected, to about four feet. Stunning flowers have tubular petals, perfect for the hummingbird’s darting tongue to explore for nectar.

Friday, the show started. We’d been watching one come regularly, hover over several plants and feed, then zip back to a bare branch perch on the neighbour’s 20-foot honey locust tree. Then, another came, and another. It was like watching Top Gun, but it was the hummingbirds Cruising. Up, down, out and back. At one point, it didn’t matter we were out and about in the yard planting – yes, planting – a little hand watering, dead-heading. You know. You could feel the wind from their beating wings, they we so close.

Earlier, one had been feeding and we could hear a Stars Air Ambulance nearing (we live close to the hospital). The hummingbird just kept on feeding, but what seemed like hundreds of crows that had gathered in a couple if trees down the street were scattering like they were under attack.

The hummingbird (s) also seem undeterred by the neighbourhood hawks and turkey vultures that frequent the skies above our house. The large hawk had a nest three doors west. The turkey vultures soar back to their roost two blocks east every night around 6 or 7.

Anyway, they all put on a real show. Always have. It’s a highlight of our year.

We’ve already planned to plant a new honeysuckle next year. Well, two actually, one to replace the old one behind the bee balm and one by the fence behind the delphiniums.

But, we likely still have a few weeks of entertainment left this year, before the last hummingbird migrates south.

Who knows: maybe we’ll follow them in a couple of months to get a respite from the winter.

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