Hummingbird Zen

Words & Photos By Erin Wallis

A local family’s amazing interaction with their feathered friends.

A mind at peace, a mind centred and not focused on harming others, is stronger than any physical force in the universe. ~Wayne Dyer 
 
Four years ago, my husband and I moved with our two small children from a busy Campbell River neighbourhood into a more remote quiet area located slightly north, along the ocean, and surrounded by trees. It provided the softer, slower pace that we craved for our family.

Upon moving in, our sweet neighbour, Sue, informed us that she had been feeding the migrating Rufous hummingbirds in the area for years and invited us over so our kids could try feeding them by hand. Our youngest was only three at the time and lasted all of two seconds, the oldest, Maisie, was six and determined to make it happen. She’d always been a bit of an animal whisperer. After about 40 minutes of calm stillness, with her outstretched hands resting on the feeder, one finally landed inches from her. After this interaction, we were hooked and immediately got some feeders. The next year our neighbour moved away and passed her feeders and insight on to us. We happily took over for her, feeding these amazing Rufous Hummingbirds. 
 
The Rufous Hummingbird makes one of the longest migratory journeys of any bird in the world, travelling nearly four -thousand miles from breeding grounds in Alaska and Northwest Canada to wintering sites in Mexico.

 Sue had passed on a lot of her accumulated knowledge about these tiny, feisty creatures. The more I learned, the more fascinated I was, especially when there were hundreds drinking from our feeders. Studies have shown that hummingbirds can remember every flower they’ve ever visited, including while on migration routes. They can anticipate how long to wait between visits, so the flowers have time to generate more nectar. They can even recognize humans and know which ones can be trusted and depended on to refill empty hummingbird feeders.  

When Maisie sat down the following year, to see if her feathered friends would visit her, the results were thrilling.  

The hummingbirds were all over her in a matter of minutes. It was truly mesmerizing. Some of the birds sat on her finger while they fed on the sugar water and they slowly began frequenting the feeders without fear of her. As a photographer, having my daughter with hummingbirds all around her makes pretty magical subject matter.

It’s been four years since this all started for us, I now have eight feeders, and hundreds of Rufous Hummingbirds visit us each spring. My neighbours even joke that I’m hoarding them. We feed the hummingbirds a simple mix of one cup of sugar to four cups of water (no dye necessary). When the hummingbirds are the most active, I refill eight feeders twice a day. I can often be found ignoring my own family dinner to ensure the feeders are full for my little friends outside. They are so curious, and I can honestly tell that they recognize us. When I am outside, they zip by and, at times, hover by my head as if to let me know the feeders need refilling.  

Last year on Maisie’s 9th birthday, the little gems paid us the most intense visit yet. I could see a few buzzing around, but I hadn’t put the feeders out yet. I got some together and, when Maisie sat down at the fresh feeders, there were roughly 30 to 40 swarming and landing all over her.

The buzz of their wings remains my most cherished sound and I feel so grateful when they arrive annually. The progression of the hummingbird whispering is one of my favourite memories and always reminds me to slow down, soften up, and enjoy the magic that nature so freely gives.   




Category: Volume 3