A Second Mother To Nature

Mother Nature has seen it all!  But sometimes we can’t help wondering if she needs a back up too.   Please welcome new contributing writer Melissa Crytzer Fry, who experienced all the anxiety of a hovering second mom as  she watched the progress of her Hummingbird Babies being streamed in from the Hummie Cam set up in her carport last year.

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It’s a damn good thing I didn’t have kids. Given the way I’ve carried on about these hummingbird babies (and driven my husband nuts), I’m pretty sure my own children would have been bubble-wrapped and wearing goggles and protective helmets as I sent them off to school each day (greeeaaatt for self-esteem).

Before I go back in time to show you the progression, first: May 5th view of the nest. Photo credit: Melissa Crytzer Fry

Let me just start out by saying, sheesh. As truly wonderful as it has been to witness the evolution of eggs to miraculous tiny birds, I’ve been a bit of a basket case. (Scroll to the bottom of my first post to see the eggs being laid on April 3 and April 5)

At first, I was sure Egg No. 1 wasn’t going to hatch at all, since Egg No. 2 took the lead and busted loose first on April 19 (In the past, we’ve had luck with only one egg hatching, so I figured this was the case again).

Even so, I enjoyed the early videos of mama feeding this miniscule creature (when they hatch, Hummingbirds are bigger than a Tic-Tac but smaller than a Jelly Belly):

So imagine my surprise, when, on April 21, two days after the first egg hatched, I saw this:

I missed the first hatching, but actually caught this one in progress. Earlier in the day, I told hubby I thought I’d seen a crack in the shell (I figured this was wishful thinking, but I was right!). Photo: Melissa Crytzer Fry

The second baby trying to rid itself of the shell on its head and rear.

I was delighted by the second arrival, but the next day saw that it was trapped under the much larger sibling. For 45 minutes, I watched (in agony) as it struggled, kicking its eensy-weensy feet to free itself, but to no avail. By the time mama came to feed each time (when the larger would lift its head, finally freeing the smaller baby), it was too exhausted to attempt eating.

Can you see how much smaller the new baby is? And I swear its neck looks bent unnaturally (The neck was pinned under big sib)  Photo: Melissa Crytzer Fry

But at long last, I witnessed mama feeding the tiny babe (after big sib).

Yay! Crisis averted. Right?

Not so fast. A few days later, mama disappeared amidst some 30 MPH winds. For four hours. This is unnatural, since the babies need her to help regulate their body temperature and need near-constant feeding. Alas, though, mama returned home around 4 p.m., and the babies were fine. (I don’t know if she was blown away and had to find her way home? I can think of no other explanation.) Another crisis averted.

Until April 24…I just happened to check the camera and saw this giant fly inching closer and closer to the nest.

For anyone wondering just how small baby hummingbirds are, this should provide some perspective. This fly reminds me (in size) of the horseflies of my youth in PA. Photo by Melissa Crytzer Fry

Not knowing what the giant fly was capable of (given it was two to three times larger than the babies), I ran outside and shooed it away. I later learned, from the wonderful local Arizona biologist, artist and blogger Margarethe Brummermann, Ph.D. that the Mexican Cactus Fly (Copestylum mexicanum) is a nectar forager and not harmful at all. Phew.

Finally relaxed, I began to monitor – and be amazed – by how quickly the nest filled up with growing baby bodies. Though I confess, I still worried about Munchkin, always the second to be fed, always smaller, always trying to ‘catch up.’

April 28 – This is the first hatchling, whom I started to call Big Mouth, because mama always went to its giant beak first. Photo: Melissa Crytzer Fry

 

April 28. This is the runt, whom I began to refer to as “Munchkin,” feeding. Can you tell the difference in size? Photo: Melissa Crytzer Fry

Of course my Nervous Nellie tendencies picked back up, right in sync with the strong wind gusts that returned days later (The babies are above a concrete floor. Eeks!) And I can’t begin to tell you how unnerving it is to see them push their feet around in the nest, the sides of the cylindrical construction expanding and morphing with their movements. This is a marvel of engineering; the nests are built with spider webs that allow for expansion (and “breathing”) as the babies move and grow.

Take a look at their early movements below. I think I captured the first faux flying-test by Big Mouth:

Minutes later, Munchkin proved that he’s still quite the fighter, determined to catch up.

More videos of last years hummingbirds and various other desert neighbors can be seen on YouTube at Thefryranch


*Originally published at What I Saw.  Reposted in full with permission of the author.

2 Replies to “A Second Mother To Nature”

  1. What an amazing adventure Melissa. Um, the fly, no. It needed to pick on someone 10,000 times it’s size like it usually does.

  2. Love your description of the new hummie babies being — “bigger than a Tic-Tac but smaller than a Jelly Belly.” Wow! And I’m with you all the way on being an anxious observer!

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