Hummingbirds and Missy Kitty

Friday, September 23, 2011

There are two hummingbird feeders at the Sullivan house: one in the center of the wall of windows in the family room, and another in front of the kitchen window.

Even though there are a total of eight feeding stations on the two feeders, the hummingbirds in our neighborhood are fiercely territorial. It is a rare sight to see more than one bird feeding at a time.

For several years we have had one bully hummingbird, and I swear he returns year after year. I'm sure he and the missus have raised quite a number of small hummers who rightly assume they have feeding privileges at one of our feeders. But for most of the summer it is Mr. Bully against all the other hummingbirds.

Now that cooler weather has arrived, more hummers are loading up for their trip south. I've read that some of these tiny birds go all the way to South America. I'm sure they don't give a second thought to drug cartels and the murderous thugs who run them.

If you watch a hummingbird long enough, you have to wonder what God had in mind. My own theory is that these tiny fluffs of feathers were the Almighty's prototypes for angels. "Let's see if it can fly," said God, on the eighth day. Or maybe it was the ninth.

Missy Kitty, who spends much of her days roaming the yard looking for mice and even blue jays foolish enough to come near the ground, has decided that the tall ceramic planters outside the family-room window are great perches. The planters are empty of all growing things, thanks to the summer's torrid heat, lack of rain and neglect on our part because of our recent Season of Sickness.

So now Missy Kitty curls up on the potting soil in one of the planters and watches the world go by. Or naps. Usually the latter.

These planters are positioned under one of the hummingbird feeders, and both the birds and the cat have taken a great deal of interest in each other.

These days there may be six or seven hummers doing their aerial dances as they decide who will get to eat. They spend so much time defending the feeder that we often wonder if they ever really drink any of the sugar water. But the feeders are empty every few days, and a fresh supply of fake nectar fills them up again.

One morning this week, Missy Kitty was on one of the planters. There were three hummers vying for a feeding spot. All of the birds were, for a while, more interested in the ball of fur in the planter than the feeder itself. They hovered inches away from the snoozing cat, trying to decide how much of a threat she really posed. They decided not to alert Homeland Security and, instead, started up their on-the-wing acrobatics to see who would get a taste of the feeder's contents.

Soon the hummers will be gone. Missy Kitty will decide the planters are too cold for naps. Winter will drape its icy fabric over the patio.

Not to worry. That's why God made laps.

Joe Sullivan is the retired editor of the Southeast Missourian.

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