Hummingbird Garden Companion – An Unlikely Teacher I’ll Never Forget

By Caroline Bloomfield | August 13, 2020
Image by Anchor Lee
by Caroline Bloomfield
August 13, 2020

Who would’ve ever thought one hummingbird in my garden could have taught me so much? It’s true! An unlikely teacher for sure but a companion in the garden that lives on in my heart.

For eleven years, I lived on 38 acres of dense wilderness, right on the beautiful coast of Oregon. The air was pristine, although some afternoons its bluster could drive me indoors. In a thick forest, abundant with wildlife and only the roar of the silvery Pacific, my mate and I carved out a homestead with gardens, a lawn and natural landscaping. Taming a yard in the mellow coastal summers became a futile obsession.

Meet My Hummingbird Garden Companion

Our home sat on a promontory, with trees and vegetation growing up around the edges of a deep ravine that surrounded the back half acre.

There was a spindly little alder tree on the cliff’s edge. Nearby, I’d planted a huge patch of lithodora that demanded frequent weeding and trimming. One sunny day, crouched on my knees working in a sea of blue flowers, a tiny hummingbird landed on the top branch of that frail little tree. He had come remarkably close. We watched one another tentatively – he, sitting and resting, me digging and tugging. I stopped for a moment, sat back and stared at him.

As we connected – psychically, or energetically (I’m not sure how to describe it), he flashed his iridescent, ruby red throat at me in slow motion, a greeting that surprised me to the core. I thanked him for the sweet gesture and, with a pounding heart, went on with my body-taxing work, as he flitted off in search of whatever hummingbirds search for in the summer.

I began to see him every day perched in the exact same spot, sometimes hanging on tightly as the wind made the small branches bounce and sway. As soon as we looked at one another, the brilliant red flash would stun me, again and again. We began a daily routine of greeting one another. I would send my inexplicable love to him, he would send his bright signal back to me, and I thanked him, each and every time. I knew this was an unlikely relationship. I tried to explain it to friends and family, who smiled and nodded at me sweetly. They eventually did see him for themselves.

When winters arrived, my tiny friend disappeared. But early each summer he returned, and we resumed our daily, pulsating exchange of greeting and gratitude. These reunions continued regularly every summer for several years. Someone asked me how I could know, year after year, if it was the same bird. I just knew. Like you know your own child in a crowd. It was him.

As I toiled to beat back the ever-encroaching wilderness, this creature became a well-known feature in my life and yard, reminding me that any activity in nature, whether manual labor or just smelling a flower, is a joy and a blessing. He deepened my sensibilities in ways I’m still comprehending.

We added a small building to the property. A tractor or backhoe inadvertently razed the little alder tree. Very shortly afterward, I left that magical place and never returned, though I have never forgotten this unlikely teacher and companion in the garden. Another lesson from my beautiful friend: Everything is fleeting, and change is inevitable. My bond with him changed the way I view many things – birds and wildlife, as well as the profound connection among all living beings.

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  • Bymnkine
    Comment added October 4, 2022Reply
  • Bymnkine
    Comment added October 3, 2022Reply
  • Rosalie Hailey
    Comment added August 29, 2020Reply

    So happy others take a delight in the beautiful, tiny creatures. They will be leaving soon, the 15th of September is marked to be their time to go but sometimes we are fortunate to see them in October. I plant flowers for them I know they like as well as supplementing with the feeder. I like to watch them in the fall when the goldfinch go into the zinna patch.The hummers think of it as their own and try to chase the finch out.
    I posted your article on my Facebook page to encourage others to enjoy the sweetness of nature.

  • Elwood D. Bracey, MD
    Comment added August 26, 2020Reply

    What a special relationship!
    It's so easy to love nature, it's wildness & beauty

  • foster senegal
    Comment added August 17, 2020Reply

    I exitedley await summer. Hummingbirds return to the feeders in my yard.They have been coming for over 10 years.mornings while watering they'll screech. I'll offer mist, and they will fly through it. I don't think they are the same birds, but are their babies returning year after year. When the feeders are empty they will fuss at me, but chirp when new nectar is offered. They are pleasant friends to this old man.

  • Julie H
    Comment added August 16, 2020Reply

    I have such a visitor, a broad-tailed hummingbird. She and two companions frequent the hyssop plants in the garden, planted specifically for them. When I am tending the tomatoes, trying to get them to survive this year's Colorado heat, she consistently joins me, perching on a taller tomato cage, remarkably close, and we take several moments to revel in each others presence. Very vocal, she chips ardently and flutters her wings. She doesn't mind my speaking softly. It's like sharing little secrets about how beautiful the morning is and how pleasant to be in a garden. I like to imagine she is expressing some gratitude for the little hummingbird feeder, hanging on the tomato cage. "Please tend this too! I enjoy a long, cool drink on these oh so hot afternoons!"
    Off she zooms to enjoy some acrobatic flying with her friends, or is it a territorial squabble! When finished, I head off to make some fresh nectar. In between flower stops, she makes several visits a day to the feeder on the cage. In the early evening when we're sitting on the deck, she'll often zoom over and hover in place, chipping at us right at eye level. "Sweet dreams."

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