In general, the early evening is best: hummingbirds eat a lot before going to bed, so they don't have to get up and raid the refrigerator in the middle of the night. We can usually watch Ethel Merman at the feeders while we have our evening meal, assuming we get to it while it's still light enough to see.
Our ugliest feeder, the flat plastic one whose red top is studded with yellow flowers, is a favorite of hers. It is one of two we possess upon which she can perch, instead of hovering, when she feeds. You try flapping your arms 200 times per second, and you'll want to sit down for a meal once in a while, too.
She sat and drank for a long time, night before last, enabling us to get a good look at her lovely dark green back, her fine tail. Then she left. She came right back, though, and this was a bit unusual: Ethel usually sits on a twig composing herself for a few minutes after a feed.
But wait -- that wasn't Ethel. That was somebody else. There are two hummingbirds in our garden now. We knew this because Ethel came barreling back to chase her visitor away, and both birds flew off to discuss the matter in private.
That's not very nice, Ethel. Q had gone inside, and we were alone in the gathering twilight.
Yeah, well, it's every bird for herself out here.
Ethel, there are four feeders. And all those flowers.
Thank you, Mother Theresa.
You're operating from a scarcity paradigm.
Yeah? Maybe I should switch to a stupidity paradigm and starve to death.
Are we a little cranky this evening? Ethel made no reply. She flew to her branch, where she sat on a twig, her little body silhouetted against the greying sky. The other hummingbird ventured back and Ethel dove toward the feeder. Both birds zoomed under the trumpet vine arbor and disappeared into the hedge.
I'm not cranky. I was fine until that crow showed up.
Ethel, she looks just like you. I thought she was you. You could be twins.
Thank you. I so needed to hear that. I only come here for the sermons.
I cannot manage their wars, of course. They must settle things on their own. It was getting dark. I went inside and to bed. This was my first night as the hostess of two hummingbirds, and I wanted to get up early and boil more nectar. Word is definitely out: our back yard is hummingbird heaven.
Except for the sermons.