We all knew this day was coming, didn't we? Yet I was still unprepared to find Mama, and only Mama, sitting on the nest today around noon.
I scanned the branches of the nest tree and the the trees to either side. All I could see was seedpods. I listened for baby noises. All I could hear was cicadas. And Mama wasn't sharing any secrets.
There was no sign of trouble, no tiny feather fluffs on the ground below. But where were the babies? I hoped they were okay and finding some shade from the heat. It was hard not to worry.
Around 4 pm, heading home after a full afternoon of errands, I just had to stop to check on things once more. Again, Mama was on the nest by herself. But this time, I saw a very welcome sight...
A fledgling sitting about 2 feet away from the nest, just a little higher up, in a shadier spot in the tree. The breeze kicked up, and it flapped its tiny wings for balance and hung on tight to its twiggy perch. To me, this looks like the smaller of the two babies.
I looked around some more, searching the trees for the other baby, finding nothing. And then...
Suddenly, Mama flew away. I didn't see where she went, although I sensed the direction she flew to. I continued to take photos of the first fledgling, hoping the second would become apparent in time. Then, out of the corner of my eye, I saw where Mama came from when she returned to the nest.
There's a large creosote bush across the sidewalk from the nest tree. It may be where Mama collected all the fluffy seedpods for her nest. And there on a rear branch sat the second fledgling, just as pretty as could be. I kept my distance, so as not to frighten it. Obviously it was still in Mama's view, and vice versa. And finally, after all these days of babies' silence, there was a bit of hummingbird chatter going back and forth.
This is one of the happiest pictures I've ever taken, I think; it's such a relief to know that the little family is still okay, even though they will soon go their separate ways.
This is the best shot I could get of Mama and the fledgling in the nest tree.
And when I left them, the other fledgling sat waiting for the little one to come and explore this beautiful wide world.
I don't really expect to see this little family again tomorrow, but if I do, you'll be the first to know. More likely, every now and then I'll see an Anna's hummingbird when I walk, and I'll wonder if it might be one of these little friends.
May they all have long and happy lives in our beautiful desert foothills.
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Thanks to all who have shared this amazing nestwatch with me.
This morning, the babies were again sitting side by side when I arrived at the nest. As I walked around underneath, taking photos from various angles, I noticed that their beaks were opening now and then.
Were they gossiping in silent baby hummer code? Or maybe wondering what the heck was taking cameragirl so long today?
Next thing I knew, Mama was buzzing beside my right shoulder again, as if to say could you hurry it up? I looked at her, and off she flew to a shady low branch of a nearby tree to wait for me to leave.
And so I left, but not before I caught this photo of the sweet little creature who gave us this lovely story in the first place.
The babies continue to grow at an amazing pace. Early Saturday morning, my uphill pass of the nest found them sitting side by side, though I couldn't get both of them in a photo (except both tails) with the branch being in the way.
Coming back downhill a few minutes later, I approached the nest and Mama flew to the top of a palo verde about 30 feet away. She had probably been delivering some mid-morning snacks.
This perch provides and excellent lookout for her to keep an eye on visitors. (Click and see.)
Or maybe Mama was hoping I'd come to tidy up all those dirty diapers. The little nest can't take many more of those.
Plan to post Sunday's update later today, after I visit the nest.
After my last 3 days away, this morning I was anxious to see the growing baby hummers. I was so surprised to find one baby sitting on the nest, looking just like a miniature version of Mama. Such a change from last time, amazing! As I walked around to the other side, I could see that this baby was sitting crisscrossed over the other baby's back. The nest must be getting a bit crowded.
At walktime this morning, the sky was overcast and gloomy, so my pictures from then weren't all that great. And Mama was nowhere in sight. So I had a good excuse for another visit later when the sun briefly came out...
This time I found the babies sitting side by side, looking very cozy. They really do resemble mini-Mamas, only with shorter beaks and no neck patches. They look around alot, but they are absolutely silent. I've read this is because hummingbird babies in the nest are so exposed to potential predators before they fledge. In contrast, babies of the few hummingbird species that build covered nests do make noise.
As usual, you can click on these photos to see bigger versions. I wish Mama had been around today, but it's likely going to be more challenging for me to find her at the nest as time goes on. My best guess is that the babies have perhaps another week in the nest, maybe less. Then Mama will continue to help them find food for a little while longer before she finally shoos them off into the world to fend for themselves.
This morning I skipped my usual walk, so didn't get to the nest till just after noon. Most mornings lately Mama has been gone anyway; in fact, yesterday she was away from the nest every time I checked it. But the babies looked good, so I assumed it's her natural transition to no longer sitting on the nest.
Above is one of the babies today, who seemed to be watching for Mama to return when I arrived.
Soon I heard some hummingbird sounds nearby, and looked around to find Mama perched in a treetop about 20 feet away, watching.
Getting her message, I walked up the street for awhile, then stopped and turned around to watch. Mama flew toward and hovered over the nest tree, still watching me. But she wouldn't go down to the nest until I moved still farther away.
Once I'd moved far enough, she went to the nest and I slowly, quietly reapproached.
And there sat the happy little family. If you click on the pictures, you can see better how well the babies' feathers are coming in, and their beaks are beginning to lengthen.
And here, we finally get to see both babies with their eyes wide open!
I'll be out of town for a few days, so the next nest photo update will probably be on Friday. My husband and daughter will be checking on the nest while I'm gone, and hopefully getting some great photos too.
This morning at walk time, the nest was pretty quiet, as it's been most mornings lately. Mama was gone and the babies' beaks were barely visible. So I returned to check the nest again around 3 pm and found Mama calmly settled over the nest, soaking up the afternoon sunshine.
She's a sly one, our little Mama Anna. Behind the scenes...
or should I say, beneath her tail, her two growing babies were relaxing in the shade. (Click the photo for a bigger view.)
What a good little Mama she is!
And no, in person I didn't see this detail... my aging eyes only saw that her tail was oddly fluffed up over the nest. Until I downloaded the photos, I didn't know the babies were under there. Lucky catch! And notice too, the yellow dust on her left wing... obviously she's been feeding at some pollen-loaded flowers.
I love seeing Mother Nature even more with the help of my new camera.
Yesterday, my sister suggested that I try to portray the real-life scale of the hummingbird and her nest, because looking at the usual zoom photos really doesn't give a proper sense of scale. So above is the clump of trees where the nest is located. I can never see the nest clearly from this distance because of the tree foliage & seedpods.
Anna's nest is in the middle tree (the one with the tan trunk band asking the landscapers to leave it alone), on the branch to the upper left, about where I've added a red dot. That dot non-scientifically represents the relative size of the nest, and it's about 9 feet off the ground (my best guess). I'm 5'4" so the nest is way above my eye level.
When I get closer, maybe 3 or 4 feet away from where an imaginary vertical axis from the nest would be, this is pretty much what my eyes actually see -- tiny Mama on her mostly white/tan textured nest. From my vantage point, I can never see tiny details like the pollen she sometimes has on her beak.
But thanks to the magic of a great zoom lens, this is what my camera can capture from the same distance.
When I first discovered the nest back in May, I was using my old Olympus 765 digital camera with its 10x optical zoom, which has been my beloved companion for 5 years now. Such a great little camera! But sadly, it started malfunctioning sporadically, so I felt it was time to look for a successor. After trying a variety of cameras in stores, I bought a Canon Powershot SX10-IS, which has a 20x optical zoom, through Costco.com. The Canon is even better for zooming, but it's also much more challenging to auto-focus accurately. I'm still getting used to it, but I think it's a going to be a keeper. It's larger and heavier than my Olympus, but already my hands have adjusted to it. I hope I'll grow to love it as much as the old faithful Olympus.
Finally, here's another peek at one of the babies. Today I went to the nest several times. First, early this morning when I walked: Mama was gone & no babies were visible. Next, late morning: Mama was there but no babies were visible. Last, early afternoon: Mama was gone again but this (seemingly) larger baby was visible. The other baby's beak was just barely visible from the opposite side of the nest, so I couldn't get a photo of them together today. But as the days pass and the babies grow, I hope to get lots more family photos!
(p.s. I've updated my Nest Watch photo album with these photos, but a mysterious glitch has placed them at the end of the album. I'm hoping Typepad will sort it out; until it's fixed, I'll post all new hummingbird photos in this main blog section too.)
Mama Anna has two tiny hummingbird babies! I finally saw them this afternoon for the first time. Mama was away from the nest early this morning, so I checked on it again around 1 pm on my way home from errands. Again Mama was gone at first, but this time I could see first one and then two teeny pointy shapes protruding up from the nest.
As I stood taking photos, Mama came and hovered briefly near my right shoulder, then zoomed off to the nearby trees. I took the hint that she was probably bringing back food, and she never returns to the nest when I'm standing there. So I took a little walk for another few minutes before returning to find this (click on the photos to enlarge):
And then, this:
Such a beautiful little family. And I do mean little... Mama is about as big as my pinky finger, so you can imagine how tiny her babies are. Beyond their beak shapes, I had no idea of what they actually looked like until I got home and downloaded these zoom photos.
Isn't nature just amazing? I feel so lucky to have witnessed this little miracle unfold these past few weeks. The babies probably have about 2 more weeks before they're ready to be off on their own, so Mama still has lots of work ahead. And we'll be watching and cheering her on.