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Meadowlark Hospice

Dawn's Notes

A Hummingbird's Morn - July 2019
by Dawn Phelps, RN/LMSW

“There’s one!” I would say to my husband Tom when I spotted a tiny hummer sipping nectar from a feeder.  2018 was the first year that hummingbirds visited our house, and it was very exciting!

In previous years, I had hung out feeders but had no takers—I probably hung the nectar out too late, after they had already found another place to eat.  So that spring I decided I needed to figure out how to attract the little hummers to our house.   

Around the first week of May I boiled a batch of syrup and hung it out in our red-flowered feeders.  Then Tom and I waited.  No luck.  Then someone from our town reported that he had his first hummingbird in his yard! 

A week or so later, I finally saw our first little hummer, a ruby-throated, sample the syrup.  He took a sip, flew up close to our large kitchen window, paused in mid-air, looked inside at me, and flew away.  I was so excited!

Next, I watched a little iridescent-green hummer take a sip from another feeder under our water maple tree.  He too flew away.

I wondered why they only took a little sip and left.  I went out to check the syrup.  I dripped a drop on my finger, sniffed it, and realized the syrup was sour!  I wondered if the ruby-throated bird was saying to me, “What are you thinking?  My dinner was sour!”

I took down the feeders, washed them, cooked a new batch of syrup, and hung it out after it had cooled.  Dinner was ready!  Now I hoped my insulted guests would return, and they did!

The interesting thing is that the hummers were not the only birds that sampled the nectar.  To our surprise, every now and then, we saw Baltimore orioles sipping the sweet syrup.      

It was a thrill to watch an oriole land on a feeder, turn almost up-side-down, and sip the syrup.  Both the male with its bright orange and black feathers and the less colorful female visited our yard to eat.

A couple of weeks  prior to our first oriole visits, an article in the Salina Journal told how orioles like grape jelly and showed a photo of how to make a jar for the jelly.  So Tom and I made an oriole feeder and hung it out.  The orioles soon showed a preference to grape jelly over the hummingbird nectar. 

The rest of that summer, my husband Tom and I watched our birds.  We observed their personalities and named one hummer “The Boss.”  He truly was the boss in charge of the feeders, for a while.

He would perch high on a shepherd’s crook that held one of the feeders and chase away the other hungry birds.  Finally, the other hummers ganged up on Boss, and he allowed them to eat too.

But there is irony in my hummer story.   After the hummers came to visit our house, my sister Joan discovered a handwritten poem about hummingbirds, written by my younger sister from Tennessee who had died a couple of years before.  Her poem was entitled “The Hummingbird’s Morn.”  Joan had the poem designed and framed for each of her siblings, and I hung mine in the kitchen near the window where I watch our hummingbirds.

Not long before my little sister died, she told me she liked to get up before daybreak, sit outside, and listen to the birds singing as the world awakened around her.  And I believe she must have loved hummingbirds too.

Just maybe my younger sister is watching those little hummers in heaven while Tom and I are watching our little hummers here on earth.  It is comforting to think that her poem may be a sign, a connection with her.     

If your heart is sad, I suggest that you consider feeding some feathered friends.  For hummingbird syrup, the recipe is 4 cups of water to 1 cup of sugar (4:1 ratio).  Boil and cool.  No food color.  Then allow your new visitors to bring joy and healing to your heart.  Maybe they will bring you a “Hummingbird’s Morn,” a new day, new hope, and healing for your grief. 

Call about the next "Living Life after Loss" Group at:
Meadowlark Hospice
709 Liberty, Clay Center, Kansas
(785) 632-2225
Dawn Phelps, RN/LMSW, Group Facilitator