Still images can be moving and moving images can be still. –Chien-Chi Chang
Not long after Walela laid an egg in her remodeled nest, her incubation periods became increasingly erratic. I observed her from the front window, so as not to disturb her.
And still, somewhere in that gauzy, cotton-candy pink period of time between dawn and daybreak, last Wednesday–mama hummingbird flew from her nest for the very last time, leaving behind the solitary egg in this, her second brood of the season.
There weren’t any signs of violence or struggle—a fact from which I drew some comfort when I stared out my front door at the tiny nursery, suddenly stilled. But on the off chance that there was something I could or should be doing, I sent a private message to my new friend, Carol Meadows. A former moderator for the world-renowned Phoebe Allens Hummingbird WebCam, I thought she might be able to offer me encouragement; maybe, too, an explanation.
Another hummingbird could’ve chased her away from the nest, Carol said, in which case, other females would steal its cottony fluff. Hmmm, maybe Walela fell sick. It’s certainly possible that she ran into trouble with this heat wave we’re having. But hang on, she might come back!
Or maybe her instincts kicked in, I thought to myself. Maybe she abandoned the nest because she realized her egg wasn’t viable…
Maybe. Possibly. Let’s just wait and see.
Hummingbirds are ephemeral creatures. They soar on iridescent wings, pure magic, pierce the veil between death and survival everyday, with their long, thin beaks. So no, this situation isn’t at all uncommon. But when you’re keeping a close eye on one of Mother Nature’s creatures–and when like-minded people gather around their screens to share your joy in watching one tiny miracles after another take place–well. I know you’ll understand when I tell you it’s been a real challenge to find the right way to share with you the circumstances that occurred last week, beyond my field of vision.
Just yesterday, when I knew for sure that Walela was no longer incubating the egg, I gently scooped it from the nest with a plastic spoon, so as to keep potential predators from homing in on its scent. The nest itself remains intact, save for some plundered fluff, undisturbed by human hands. An architectural wonderment, it bears silent tribute to Walela’s innate mothering skills.
Please forgive me if this next set of pictures offends your personal sensibilities. I mean no harm or disrespect, but given the time for careful reflection — and the rare opportunity for direct observation—I like to take the full measure of things.
Curious by nature, I like to examine things closely, to view things from all angles.
Reflective thinker that I am, I like to compare and contrast objects and experiences, and to challenge what it is that I think I already know.
Impulsive as I can sometimes be, I might also treat myself to a change of scenery, so as to appreciate more fully the wonderment of things, within and beyond their original context.
As someone who cut her wisdom teeth on Bible metaphors, and who is now the proud owner of a time share in Woo-Woo Land, I enjoy doing these things in a way that gets me out of my head and into the moment. Irreverent is good; church giggles are the crown jewel!
Your approach might be different; I respect that. But in all circumstances, whether I’m photographing a nest or writing memoir, I like to show-and-tell the essence of things. It’s the perpetual student in me, I guess; the perennial teacher.
Absent some important facts, the mystery of the abandoned egg (of Walela’s absence) remains unsolved. Here, the unseen hands of Mother Nature, moving as they always do, in grace and wisdom…the hands that guided Walela as she built her nest, and then shielded from harm the brood that successfully fledged.
Earlier this morning, I buried Walela’s egg under the First Love gardenia bush in my backyard, right below the hummingbird feeders.
And still, life. My springtime garden is vibrant, colorful. Birdsong floats through the air on ocean breezes; goldfinches line the fence, waiting their turn at the birdbath. Honeybees hum as they pollinate the salvia; those rascally rabbits still munch the leaves of my roses.
I placed a single white rose atop the freshly-turned earth. It was then that I heard a familiar click-click-click, followed by the tiniest of wind currents and the fluttering of wings.
Life, still. My camera, this storyteller, is ready for the next chapter.