It seems to me that the natural world is the greatest source of excitement; the greatest source of visual beauty; the greatest source of intellectual interest. It is the greatest source of so much in life that makes life worth living.” —David Attenborough
Little wings flutter
Morning starts with eyes smiling
Birdbath needs filling. ~Ormond
I had my doubts, but our burbling fountain is already attracting hummingbirds. Goldfinches, too! I snapped these photos through our backyard slider, so as not to interrupt their private bath. Can you spot the bird behind the lemon tree leaves, patiently waiting her turn?
Red’s not my favorite color, but our backyard fountain draws quite a crowd. And lucky me, I have a front-row seat to sweet moments like these, all day long.
As with haiku poetry, simple pleasures really are the best.
A well-tended garden is the sign of a happy heart. That’s what I think, anyway.
It welcomes visitors of all kinds,
and swings wide the gate to our most delicious memories. Juicy secrets, too.
It heralds Spring’s arrival, and the turn of every season.
It’s where the seeds of our wildest dream take root, burrowing deep before they flower.
My own garden isn’t tightly curated, as you might guess. It’s a quasi-random blend of colors and textures–a joyful noise, like this blog, where order and chaos co-exist.
It’s at once a playground and a sanctuary–
home, at the intersection of Elegant,
It makes my heart sing, when you drop by for a virtual visit! If it shows signs of neglect sometimes, it’s not because I’ve forgotten it–or you.
We’re sometimes called to tend a different garden for a while–it’s the rhythm of life, isn’t it? In this case, I was temporarily sidelined by an injury. I can’t wait to feel the grass underneath my feet again! But even from this distance, I can watch the hummingbirds feed their hatchlings. And as the milkweed sprouts new leaves, I can recreate, in my mind’s eye, the life cycle of the Monarch butterfly, from caterpillar to chrysalis.
I wanted to plant bulbs and flowers on Easter weekend, and to gather the first rosebuds of the season.
“Not yet,” my doctor said. So I’m resurrecting my blog instead. Moving ever forward, in joy and without judgment …It’s the gardener’s way.
So tell me: how does your garden grow?
Well now. Looks like mama hummingbird’s granting us another bird’s-eye view of her nursery!
I don’t know when she laid her eggs, but I suspect it was shortly after she put the final touches on this nest–very likely, a few days ago. Hummingbird incubations typically last about 14-16 days, but since we’re having a cooler weather (low to mid-60s), the hatchlings might wait a while longer to poke their beaks through their shells.
We’ve lived at Chez Shore for almost four years now, and in that time, we’ve watched lots of hummingbird mamas build their walnut-sized nests in this sheltered alcove, right outside our front door. Their instincts must tell them it’s a safe place to be. Tucked into the furthest reaches of this “Thalia” Fuchsia, their nests are well-camouflaged. The tile roof is a barrier against winter storms.
Look closely: Can you spot her nest in this leafy nursery?
A quick note of reassurance: I took these photos at a safe distance–at least 10 feet from the fuchsia. The nest is about 10 feet above ground.
I’m settled into my backyard glider, watching the hummingbirds sip nectar from native wildflowers and then zip across the sky.
Earth Day is tomorrow, I just remembered, and I’m hosting our Art Challenge on this blog.
But first, I will watch the sun slant through the palm trees, and listen to the sparrow’s lullaby. I am a child again, sitting in my Nana’s porch swing and blowing dandelion wishes into a rainbow-sherbet sky.
We’re so easily distracted, all of us. We lose sight of what’s important, ignore our inner longings. Hence, these monthly Art Challenges!
I like best that they invite me outdoors–playful spirit at the ready, all senses engaged.
Like tiny seedlings, our prompts are rooted in the things that matter most. Our environment, for instance, and the beautiful creatures with whom we co-exist.
We’re a diverse group, amateurs and pros who express ourselves in different ways. Using a monthly prompt as our muse, we come together in the name of “art.”
These challenges aren’t a competition, by any means. Participation is our goal, not perfection. It’s all about capturing a fleeting memory, exploring our passions, renewing our childlike sense of wonder, and yes! making a joyful noise.
It’s about storytelling, in words and pictures–being transported to another time and place, or finding our way home.
For this art challenge, we’re showcasing our beautiful home, in all its glory.
Let’s get this party started, shall we? Some artists will lag behind, but no worries: That’s what comes of being members of a global community. Take the tour when you’re able, and then return for another visit!
Gallery of Artists (with links to their Earth Day entries):
Sunlight spreads itself across the neighboring hillsides, nudging the earth out of its slumber. A hummingbird glides easily between palm dates and salvia, chittering as it sips nectar, and I celebrate with her the sweetness of this new day.
This is my first entry in the monthlong, collaborative photography project, “August Break 2016,” a mindfulness activity that draws participants away from their daily routines and into the wider world. Inspired by a specific prompt, you snap a new photograph every day in August. No need for fancy equipment, and you can bend the rules to suit your needs or interests.
I’m using Susannah Conway’s #AugustBreak2016 as an opportunity to practice something I’ve struggled with: capturing sharp images of hummingbirds in flight. I’ll also be spending lots of time at my writing desk, polishing up a special project. Each creative act, inspiring and informing the other…
Some of you might remember that I participated last year. Aside from the healthful benefits of venturing outdoors, those photography outings had carry-over effects on my writing, all for the good. Focus. Experimenting with light and dark. Seeing things from different angles, and expressing myself in new ways.
If this sparks your own creative urges, I hope you’ll grab your camera and join us!
Treat yourself, why don’t you, to our hummingbird hatchlings’ pre-fledge antics. Watch as Rain helicopters above the nest, hovers mid-flight, and manages a graceful landing on a twig beside the nest. Beau’s feathers get ruffled, but he looks on with rapt attention. Aryana chirps in the distance, as if to say, “Come into the garden, kids–let’s play!”
Not long after I filmed their playtime, Rain zipped off to join Aryana in the flowerbeds. Beau surfed the ocean breezes, hanging ten on the rim of the roomier nest.
See the shadowy “beard” on Beau’s chin? That’s a simple way to differentiate a juvenile hummingbird male from its female counterparts. Rain has white-tipped tail feathers, instead.
I revisited the nest before dinnertime, and voilà!
The nest is empty now, but my heart is full. I’m grateful for Aryana’s mothering instincts; thankful, too, for the fuchsia that camouflaged and provided shelter for three successful broods.
I also appreciate everyone who gathered around Aryana’s nest with me, watching her tiny eggs crack open, revealing featherless hatchlings that grew overnight, it seemed, eventually sprouted gossamer wings and needle-shaped beaks.
And yes, I’m glad for this schoolbus-yellow ladder. I’ve climbed it again and again with my camera, over the past several months…
…receiving firsthand the gifts that come of observing up close those tiny jewels of the sky.
Rainbows, flights of fancy, shimmery magic, and Mother Nature’s sensibilities: I’m grateful for this embroidered tapestry, stitched on my heart by a charm of hummingbirds. You, too?
Until you spread your wings,
You’ll have no idea how far you can fly.
Aryana, a non-migrating Allen’s hummingbird, built her nest in the fuchsia that grows along my front walkway, way back in December. And here we are, celebrating her fourth brood of the 2015-16 mating season.
Such a good mama: she camouflaged her nest among the foliage, and protected it from predators by sheltering it under a tiled roof overhang.
We named this pair of hatchlings Rain and Beau, in honor of the Orlando nightclub shooting victims, “because love is love is love is love…” And you already know how much I adore these tiny harbingers of hope.
Rain hatched 23 days ago, and Beau broke free of his shell the day after.
At the time, they looked like tiny raisins with stubby orange beaks.
But they quickly grew pinfeathers, and their beaks grew long and dark.
Mama Aryana fed them slurry mixtures of nectar and insects, and before long, they were fighting for space inside their cushy-soft nest.
While Aryana was off foraging, I climbed a very tall ladder to observe these wee little miracles and the architectural wonder that they inhabit. I never interfered with Aryana’s nesting habits, never touched her cottony treasurebox or the tiny jewels it protected.
I used a zoom lens and my camera settings to get close-ups, which make the hummingbird babies seem much larger than they really are. They also make this tape measure appear closer to the nest than it actually is. Mama hummingbird trusted me with her babies–a privilege and an honor that I’d never violate.
I snapped this photo just shy of three weeks post-hatch. Notice their their needle-sharp beaks and shimmery wings? They’re looking more like adult hummingbirds every day.
And at 23 days post-hatch, Rain and Beau are perched on the nest rim, flapping their wings and pointing their beaks toward parts unknown.
I’m snapping photos from my front porch now–stretching my camera to its limits, but I don’t startle them into fledging early.
As my friend Priscilla Sharp said, “It looks like they are sitting in a classroom, paying close attention, absorbing all the lessons from unseen teachers to prepare to go out into the world.”
An occasional ocean breeze wafts into the sheltered alcove, ruffling their iridescent wings. Teased forward by Mother Nature’s nudging, they seem ready for lift-off. But for now at least, they’re holding tight to the nest with tiny talons. Won’t be long, though, until whoosh! Off they’ll go.
Be still, and the world is bound to turn herself inside out to entertain you. Everywhere you look, joyful noise is clanging to drown out quiet desperation. –Barbara Kingsolver
This handsome hummingbird made his presence known while I was sitting in my backyard this morning, savoring a steaming mug of coffee. With a flash of his red gorget, he somehow managed to pull me away from the hyperbolic headlines and to notice, instead, the beauty that surrounds me.
When he preened, his gorget flipped. Voilà: Bozo the Clown. Tend to the things that matter, he seemed to say, but never lose your sense of humor.
Fight or flight? Given the stakes in this election, I see only one choice. But first, I had to get quiet. We do our best work, I think, when we’re attuned to nature’s beauty, and to the joyful noises all around us.