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Senior Correspondent

Apparently, we are easily entertained around here. For the mere cost of 50 pounds of sugar, a few hummingbird feeders and the time it takes to keep the feeders cleaned and filled, we get to watch the daily hummingbird show from our screened in back porch. The show goes on, rain or shine. These little guys never miss a free meal.

We become completely entranced as our glittering tiny friends glide from one feeding station to another. The early birds show up for breakfast at first light. It's impossible to count how many guests we have at any point in time, but we easily observe two to three dozen hummers floating in and out, fussing with one another and buzzing any human who happens to be in their way.

When a couple of hummingbirds showed up a few years ago, we ran right out, bought the fanciest hummingbird feeder we could find and filled it with hummingbird food from the store. Two hummers fought over the feeder all summer long, and I worried that they were burning off more energy fighting than fueling. Year after year, the hummers returned. We watched them and worried about their travels when they left. Who would feed them? How would they survive?

After learning that Sierra Vista, Arizona is one of the places where hummingbirds winter, we took a little trip last January to see if we could connect with a few tiny friends. Unfortunately, the monument fire had left their winter home charred and they had to seek a more fertile environment for sustenance.

We imagined how cool it would be to have hoards of hummers like our good friends, Eldon and Maggie, at Meyers' Bed and Breakfast in McKittrick, Missouri. Determined to crack Eldon's secret code for attracting large numbers of hummers, Hank has learned a new trick with every visit. He applied his chemical engineering expertise to continuously improving the Hummer's Food Formula. This year, Hank finally got it right. Our few loyal hummers told their friends, who told their friends, and soon we found ourselves hosting hoards of hummers for the summer. Not only are they good little eaters, they are also good little networkers.

So we sit and watch, enchanted, mesmerized and inspired by the endless acrobatics and antics of the tiny jewel-like creatures. And we wonder what really makes them tick. Speculating, of course, but here's what we've observed so far:

Hummer Philosophy 101

  • Show Up. Somebody will feed you. Maybe, there really is such a thing as a free lunch;
  • If fast forward doesn't work, put it into reverse and have another go at it;
  • Don't be afraid of things bigger than you;
  • Only hang out in pleasant places, or move on;
  • Just wing it and create a buzz;
  • Hum your way through the day and everything will be okay.

Well, it's now the time of year when the smallest of birds set off on the longest of flights. Driven by their internal clocks, their natural migration patterns coincide with the flowering of native plants that produce the nectar they need. Their wintering ground is primarily from southern Mexico down to Central Costa Rica. The widespread drought and fires are likely to impact their migration path as well as that of waterfowl and other migratory birds. We trust that Mother Nature will provide for them, as she always has and we look forward to doing our part again next year.

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