Life as I know It

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San Luis Obispo, California, and South Bristol, Maine, United States
Author ~ Illustrator ~ Lecturer

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Bird by Bird

The rescue of a young Black Phoebe who hit a window. I felt so lucky to have him rest on my hand for a few minutes before flying away. Photo by Susan Branch, photographer extraordinaire.

Dear Friends,

Time is flying past, and I am trying to work my way through my new bird book. Just when I think I am getting ahead, more things bubble to the surface and the work multiplies. I was feeling frustrated and a bit scared when my friend Patsy reminded me to do the book as Anne Lamotte says, "bird by bird." And, that is exactly what I have to remember whenever I feel overwhelmed. Bird by bird, and before I know it, the book will be finished. Oh, and if you haven't read Anne's book, well, you owe it to yourself if writing is in your life.

I turn to this book for reassurance and hope.

Mama hummer is well, and she is keeping me and both her babies happy. If I tell you that I check on the nest dozens of times a day, well, you can be sure that I am not exaggerating.

Whenever Mama left her nest for any length of time, I fretted, checked on the eggs, and wanted to knit a mini mohair coverlet to tuck over them for warmth and protection.

Mama would return, buzz me for being in her territory, and settle back onto her little jelly-bean eggs.

Last Friday, my worries got the best of me. I hauled my kitchen stool out under the tree, climbed atop it, and there they were, two wonderful, yet sublimely homely, little hummers.

Mama returned, buzzed me, and when I hid behind the gate, she zoomed over the top and hovered in my face. I turned and went into the house, and she flew up and down the gate and behind it to make sure I had really gone.

Satisfied that she had her privacy, she zipped over to my little fountain and took a bath. Sorry these photos aren't great, but my camera isn't great. 

She is smooshed onto the bubbler with her head tilted on its side.

She just spied me watching her. These little birds are SMART.

The two babies are fine. They love this sunny, warm weather. Here the first (and biggest) hummer rests with chin on nest. See how short the bill is, much more like a duck bill, but it has already grown quite a bit. When I stand underneath the nest, I can see the little bifurcated tongue darting in and out.

This is a short, short posting because I am feeling the crush of deadlines. I know, bird-by-bird is what I must do to keep going.

I'll end this with loving thoughts of baby hummers, black phoebes, and the scent of spring in the air.

Photo courtesy of Sue Branch.

Photo courtesy of Sue Branch.
Yippee! Healthy and back to hawking insects from the sky.



P.S. Our winner of the drawing for the wonderful book Chicken and Egg is Blondie's Journal. Congratulations dear and lucky one...please send your snail mail address. 

P.S.S. Finally, after weeks of travel, a sprained wrist, a sick computer that spent days in ICU, we have the rest of Grimy Hands envelopes ready to go out in tomorrow's mail. Hurrah! 


Catherine@AGardenerinProgress said...

Those baby hummers are just so cute! I've never seen a baby before, I'd be checking on them dozens of times a day too. When we have birds nesting in our birdhouses I go to the window to check on them all the time.
Hope your wrist is feeling better and I can't wait to see your book when it's finished.

Annelies said...

What personalities hummers have. We too have a bubbling fountain in our garden and do I get "HECK" when I turn it off. The hummers will dive bomb me to let me know it is time to get the fountain bubbling along. They seem to sit on the top of the fountain...which I call a tush bath. So cute and so funny!!! Hope you and your computer are feeling better soonest.

Thea said...

oh, what a blessed garden lady you are, that you can lift your hand to the sky and a wounded little bird will come rest on your finger. That is so beautiful! I'm so glad you are enjoying your new babies. It is so fascinating watching the little family grow. The other day I stopped at my sister's house, but I sat in the car listening to this fascinating story on NPR. Then I see my sister coming around from the back of the house wondering what I was doing. So I got out and she told me we couldn't use the front door...because a robin had built a nest in her light fixture and the mama bird fussed if anyone got close. And I chuckled because my sister and her hub were so thrilled that the bird picked their place to feel safe. Enjoy your winged babies, my friend. t

FlowerLady Lorraine said...

What neat pictures! I am trying to draw more hummers to our property. They love the hamelia patens bush and I was just sent firespike from a gardening friend which is another hummer magnet.

I would be out checking the nest lots of times too, it's just too irresistible.

Sorry to hear you sprained your wrist and hope it is on the mend. Your bird book will be lovely.

Hugs ~ FlowerLady

Darla said...

You certainly are not alone in checking on the hummers a dozen times a day or more, I would too. Hope things settle down for you, good luck on your book.

Alyssa said...

Oh my, what birds! We had a robin who would air out its wings by just lifting one wing up at a time, while almost falling over on the grass. He was so much fun to watch. I will have to pick up that book. Glad to hear that you're on the mend;). Have a wonderful day;) Alyssa

marcia said...

The hummer pictures are precious.I would be checking the nest as often as you!

I heard the first phoebes this week,they build a nest in the eaves of our porch each year.

Bird by Bird is the most inspiring book. I love Anne Lamont's sense of humor!

Good luck on finishing your book. I can't wait!

happy day!
love marcia

From the Kitchen said...

Thank you for a lovely visit this morning. Thank Sue (may I call her Sue?) for snapping the photo of you and the Black Phoebe. It's wonderful. I'm reminded of when that happened to us when we lived in Charleston, S.C.. Our boys were very young. A sweet little wren flew into our den/patio door. I was certain the bird was dead. Adam and Stefan found a small box and filled it with a cloth napkin, twigs, leaves and a small bottle cap of water. We carefully laid the little bird in and placed it on the floor inside the den. A few hours later, I was trying to compose the words to tell them the bird had not survived when, suddenly, it hopped up on the edge of the box and then flew a few feet!!!! We were able to capture the tiny creature and put it in a large bush outside the door. After awhile, the bird was gone! We imagined it enjoying life to the fullest. Thanks for the memories!


Pondside said...

The hummingbirds have just started to return to our place - some stay all year, but most make their way south and then back again.
You've been busy! I had a call from my SOL cousin who was delighted to hear you at the Botanical (or perhaps horticultural) centre about 2 weeks ago. We compared books!

Claudia said...

The photos of all the birds in this post are wonderful. I don't know if I've ever seen baby hummingbirds before. Great shots, Sharon.


jaz@octoberfarm said...

what a treat to see humming bird babies! i have a nest of red tangers right here in the middle of the city. my arborist said this is rare that they are usually not found in cities.

Susan said...

I can't believe you've photographed a hummingbird nest...with babies. What a wonderful "window" you create for us to view and imagine your garden.
Can't wait for your next book. XOXO

Deb said...

I just love your blog. The last two photos are just beautiful. Worth framing. Have a wonderful day. Hugs, Deb=^..^=x5

Patsylee said...

Delightful photos, all! But I especially love the one of the baby hummer asleep with the sun on his (her?) beak.

I'm glad you mentioned Anne Lamott, one of my writer-heroes.
Another quote from Anne: "Books, for me, are medicine." Likewise, your work, Sharon, is wonderfully therapeutic for your many fans.

So glad you and your computer are on the mend! But be careful and don't fall off the kitchen stool ...

eidolons said...

Ahhh! Those teeny little hummers are so adorable! How lucky you are to have them so close by! *is jealous* (:

Robin Larkspur said...

I love imagining the Mama Hummer buzzing you and stating her intentions of keeping you away from the nest. Amazing little creatures. And what wonderful photos of the Hummer in the Fountain!!! Love love love it!!

Pat said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Vee said...

Lovely to see your photos with the birds. I am grinning imagining your interest in the hummingbirds all the while having to dodge mama's dive bombing. What a treat to see these pictures!

Pat said...

Sorry - my iPod touch has a very strange spell check feature - it kept turning the word "hummer" into "gunner."! So back to the laptop..
As I was trying to comment...LOL...your pictures are so sweet. You have provided a welcoming garden for these tiny birds. Hummers are so fascinating to watch, aren't they? We get dozens of the ruby throated hummers arriving in the Spring and they stay with us until Fall. We go through a lot of sugar water, but the hummers are very good about hovering by the windows and looking in to let me know it is refill time. Along with our shelties, the birds are my daily garden companions too.
Looking forward to your book and do be careful on the step stool!

Marguerite said...

Sharon, how wonderful that you can see the hummers nest and were able to share it with us. I've never been lucky enough to actually find a nest before. Those birds are just so quick and their nests so tiny.

Claus said...

So, Black phoebes are "Mosquero negros" in Spanish. And a hummer is a "colibrí" to us. We have of the second ones around here (a few have visited my patio flowers!) but none of the first ones. I'm fascinated by birds; especially those I can identify only being around during summertime. I love this one I have heard a lot!, but have barely seen it! :o( It appears around March and April, when our summer is at its best, and then its gone. I hear it also on the Pacific Coast, somewhere among the lush tropical vegetation, which tells me also it is a tropical/summer bird. I have to find a book about Guatemalan birds. Our climate and weather conditions are different to those in other countries, and hence, the varieties differ as well. Must tackle that. I would love to learn about birds; especially about "my" summer bird :o)
Did you know there are special trip packages for bird watchers here in Guatemala? It's becoming a popular destination for bird lovers! I even heard there are local clubs and experts already. I think it's a fun activity.
Have a lovely day! - and so sorry for the long comment! got carried away :o)

Lori ann said...

So lovely! what a thrill to have that wee phoebe sit on your finger for a moment.

Bird by Bird will be considered a classic before too long, it's a wonderful book. It was recommended at the beginning level writing classes at my children's highschool classes, that's where i first heard of it.

You are so lucky to have spotted that tiny hummers nest! we are watching a white crowned sparrow's just outside the door. The other day we ran outside to stop the gardeners from chainsawing down the overgrown branches. When we pointed out the small nest inside they smiled and left. We promised our neighbors to trim the tree after the new little birds fledge.

I'm so looking forward to your next book!


p.s. Sharon, I don't know if you saw my reply back to you, but i would have given anything to attend your talk, I had a prior commitment. But next time!!

Larkrise garden girl said...

Hi Sharon, This must be the year of birds. My hummingbirds love Potato bushes and watch me when I am in my garden.For some reason my hummingbirds have alot of territorial issues. I love the picture of you and the bird.cheri

Rachel Lucas said...

Hello darling Sharon! How funny that I took delivery of 'Bird by Bird' just last week after hearing so many good things about it - & then this post! So the recommendations MUST be right! Beautiful beautiful birds...I've never heard of a Phoebe, such a lovely name & so glad he was ok. And hummingbirds are a little piece of magic I think - of course, we never see them here except in the heated aviary at the zoo...amazing to see the babies too. Love to you both xoxo

Unknown said...

Hello dear Sharon!
I think it is incredibly serendipitous ( sp )? of the hummer nesting in your yard while you work " bird by bird" on your new bird book!
I think she's keeping an eye on you too ( and your progress )!
Love the photos!!!
So looking forward to it!
Happy Writing!

Kay's flowers said...

Oh Sharon, what a blessing to have a hummer in your garden. What fun. And babies too.

I hope you are able to work on your book as much as you would like.

I was able to hold a chickadee once that had flown into one of our windows. It soon was better so I know that thrill. Have a great weekend.


Erin | Bygone Living said...

What beautiful little birdies :) Wishing them good health and a very happy life! ♥

Blondie's Journal said...

It is such a treat to see your hummingbird and her babies! The nest itself is a beautiful thing!

I am thrilled to have won your generous giveaway! I so look forward to receiving it and I'm also looking forward to your new book!

Happy Wednesday, Sharon!


Donna said...

It's been fun watching your account of the baby hummers.

rebecca sweet said...

You KNOW I'm a huge lover of birds and anything bird related so this post is especially lovely to read! Every summer we have a Phoebe who frequents our garden. We always know summer is here when he perches on top of my big fountain and swoops down to catch his bugs, making that familiar snapping noise while doing so. My daughter has grown up eagerly anticipating his arrival (along with the red dragonfly who loves our fountain, too) as she knows that's when schools almost over and summer has begun!

Lemon Verbena Lady said...

Love those little hummers, Sharon. Can finally see them! New computer! Yippee! I mentioned hummers in a talk I doing once and the audience thought I meant a Hummer automobile! I'm not kidding! Glad to be able to see your blog and others! xxoo Nancy

The Quintessential Magpie said...

I adore birds more than anything, and those baby hummers are precious.

I'm sorry to hear about your wrist, but I'm glad to hear you are getting a new computer, Sharon. That sounds like a fun thing!

Wishing you all the best for a lovely weekend ahead...


Sheila :-)

Sharon Lovejoy said...

Dear Friends,

Thanks for all your wonderful e-mails. Yes, I'm fine now, though the wrist is still painful. I am sorry that I can't answer each of your notes individually.

I want to thank Vicki B. for the gorgeous nest and eggs, and Cynthia for the FAT copy of Mark Twain's autobiography. I can't even lift it yet, but I'll love reading it.

Margie, so happy Eric is now 5 pounds and all is well.

Sending love,


natasharose said...

These are beautiful photos! I love what you are doing- I cant wait to see your bird book!

Beth said...

Oh, Sharon! What a fascinating spring you are having! love, Beth

kj said...

bird by bird? anne lamont aside, how could i not have heard of it?! it will be in my possession within the week!

i have come to notice and love birds in a special way since i began blogging. i love seeing the care you take here, sharon. this is the way we care best for the planet and ourselves, isn't it?

love love

suzanne said...

My dear friend Sharon

Thank you for leaving a coming back greeting on my blog this week. I have returned and have missed the interaction of our blogging world. Sharon, I am so excited about your new book. One bird at a time sounds like the best advice ever..I have a great fondess for birds. We have plenty here as I live near a bird sanctuary. I watched a documentary on the Hummingbird recently. I have never seen one before. If it takes me a trip halfway around the World, one day I just have to see one. Will you be adding Hummingbirds to your book?

Your life sounds busy. I wish your mission to finish your book all the best~ What a lovely experience to be following your work as you go along. Thank you.

Lots of love

Brenda@CoffeeTeaBooks said...

I love this post and I'm really excited about the new book you are writing.

You'd love this, my daughter said my eight year old grandson walked by her recently on his way outside (and it is still cool in New England!). He had his binoculars and a sketch book with him, saying he was going out to draw birds. :)

Sigh... how I would love to have a tea party with you and Susan... two of my favorite writers and lovely people. :)

Lili said...

Just back from our trip to visit our kids/grands and getting caught up with you. It struck me how wondrous it is for you to be having such wonderful encounters with birds while in the midst of writing your book on birds. How I really enjoyed this post! xoxo ~Lili

Wsprsweetly Of Cottages said...

Isn't Springtime enchanting?

Patsylee said...

Greetings, dear Sharon!

For all the birdlovers who post here, a rewarding read: SONGS TO BIRDS, essays by naturalist Jake Page (Godine, 1993). A plus: wonderful illustrations by Canadian wood engraver Wesley Bates.

Looking out the window at a "curtain of green"--spring bliss!

Terra said...

Sharon, your hummer story is charming, and it is odd how the mama smooshes down on the fountain to be refreshed.
Yeah, Bird by Bird is a way to tackle many a complicated task, and I have that book too.

Casa Mariposa said...

If I've ever seen a hummingbird nest then I didn't realize it and the only place I've ever seen hummer babies is on your blog! Amazing photos!! I also have Bird by Bird. :o) Wonderful post!

Bonnie K said...

The photos of the mother hummingbird bathing are priceless. Thank you for sharing such a precious event! I recieved your letter today. Thank you so much! Your notecards are beautiful and I have always wanted to try persian carpet zinnias! You are such a kind person. I hope ou are having a wonderful weekend.

Lydia said...

What a charmed life. To have a moment with a little wild creature- AND have Susan Branch to photograph it. Extraordinary.

Happy Deadlines!

Rock rose said...

Oh! wouldn't I just love to find a hummingbird nest. I know we have one close by because he is in the garden every morning and I witnessed his courting ritual one day. Did not see his sweet love though. I may just go out to that tree and take a peek. One I did find an empty one in the crook of a branch.

Donna@Conghaile Cottage said...

Hi Sharon,
I LOVE reading about your hummers, Aren't they just the MOST DARLING little birds!!! I got my seed packet and your beautiful cards Friday FOR my "Grubby Hand"... HOW FUN! Thank you so much. I will be planting them in a very special Guy Wolff pot...
Have a wonderful week,

Carol said...

Dear Sharon, I love the image of you on your stool looking at the tiny hummers and the mama chasing you and then flying her U in the air about you! What fun and how lucky to have her build her nest so close. Could she know you are working on a bird book!??