Friday, June 13, 2014

Where are the hummingbirds?

Nothing’s humming on the back patio this spring.
Where have all the hummingbirds gone?
I admit that I was a little late putting up my feeders this year, but I’ve come to rely on some unsubtle alerts from the little guys themselves. In past years, they’ve buzzed my front windows to remind me. Or even resorted to a kind of pulled-punch dive bomb maneuver on my amigos and me, if we have the audacity to sit on the patio near an empty feeder hook, or have failed to refill feeders in a timely manner.
Sometimes they’ve just hovered wistfully, like flying puppies looking for cookie bones. One way or another, they managed to vibe me until I took action and filled the little red-blossomed feeders and kept those nector cocktails coming.
And the minute the feeder went up, I had steady customers until fall migration time. Lots of customers. In fact, there was a little waiting area in the nearby pine tree that was generally filled with perchers waiting for their turn at my fly-in café.
But this year, nothing. Nada. Not a single customer. I’m using the same mixture of cane sugar and water with no artificial colors or additives. The feeders are in the same place. No menacing feral freelance cats in the ‘hood.
I started asking around and found that the hummingbirds don’t seem to be showing up at other favorite haunts this year. At the Wild Birds Unlimited  shop in Las Cruces, others said they’d been hearing reports that the little birds are absent or fewer are turning up at formerly crowded favorite places.
I’ve been looking around to see if anything in the immediate ecosystem has changed. A neighbor who has been gone for some time has returned, but since she’s a super gardener and always generous with birdseed and hummingbird feeders herself, that shouldn’t do anything but increase our reputation as a fast food mecca for some of our favorite birds.
And there are winged creatures hanging out in our yards: the usual suspects, like quail families, a stray pigeon or two, and at least one roadrunner who regularly makes the rounds in the still undeveloped patch of desert over our back fences. A bumper crop of finches.
The bats seem early this year, like spring and summer in general, and all related blooms and vegetation.
There are a few other indications that things have changed. I haven’t seen many rabbits this year, in the ’hood’s last little wilderness area, but I have seen a lot more joggers, hikers and people walking with their dogs. I’ve been pondering how the dogs and humans might be daunting the bunnies, and I wonder how much even a small population increase impacts the fragile high desert ecology.
The goings on in my own little neighborhood make me grateful for National Monument designation for the Organs, the majestic peaks that seemed to have been a beacon to so many of us, a signal and symbol of the region’s unique beauty.
Having spent much of my adult life in Oregon, one of the world’s most eco-conscious territories, I remain concerned that too many of us still do not recognize how much protection we need for the Land of Enchantment.
 But I hear from those who are: opponents of fracking on BLM lands near Chaco Culture Historical National Park.
And those who point to nuclear storage facility leaks near Carlsbad and protest that our state has already had more than its fair share of nuclear age hazards, at Trinity site, and with the Los Alamos nuclear waste sites related to development of the atomic bomb.
I think about my late friend Hector Telles, who urged us to remember that “we all live downstream.”
And I wonder if the consequences of our global acts are impacting our own backyards in more ways that we’ve noticed. And I’m wondering where the hummingbirds are, and if they’re OK.

S. Derrickson Moore may be reached at dmoore@ @DerricksonMoore on Twitter or Tout or call 575-541-5450.

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