A recent cold snap that has been uncomfortable for most of us has been devastating to some of our feathered friends.
But people like Shelley Streich are doing what they can to help.
For the past four years, the Hope resident has put hummingbird nectar feeders out in her backyard, and in December she grew close to one frequent visitor, a hummingbird that she named Percy.
“I had purchased pine to make Christmas arrangements and put the extra boughs over one of the rail planters,” Streich explained. “A little bird took residence there, sitting pretty much all day, close to the hanging feeder to chase other hummers away from what he considered his personal buffet.
“I left the boughs there for him and enjoyed seeing him every day. Greeting him in the morning. Going out to talk to him. A few times I glanced up and saw him, under cover of my deck, hovering and staring in at me through the window as I went about my business inside. I think he liked the lights on the Christmas tree.”
Researching the species ‘Anna’s Hummingbirds,’ Streich learned that if you start feeding them as fall turns to winter, you have to carry on, even though it can be a lot of work.
“There are differing opinions on whether feeding them through the winter helps or hurts them,” she said. “Some feel that these little ones need to fly south to warmer weather and not depend on the kindness of their human friends. Some feel it is okay to lend a helping hand.”
The most important thing Streich learned was that the nectar in the feeders can’t be allowed to freeze, and when fierce winds and cold temperatures hit Hope on Christmas Day, she did her best.
“Percy got more attention that day than my 81-year-old mother, who was staying with us for two nights,” she said. “I thought she would be somewhat jealous of the time Percy took from me, going out every half hour on the hour, switching bottles of nectar, talking to him and encouraging him. But the next morning, Boxing Day, the first thing she said to me was ‘How is your bird?’
“Percy got to her too. How could he not? He is such a cute little thing.”
But by Monday, Dec. 27, Percy was in trouble.
“Around 11 a.m. I found Percy on the deck floor, trying to move, struggling,” Streich said. “It broke my heart. He faded and went into torpor, a kind of hibernation state, right in front of me. It was not a safe place for him, so I gently picked him up to put him somewhere sheltered and safe, but they are so delicate and I did not have a firm grip. He awoke and flew away. That was the last I saw of him.”
Streich went online to order two heated feeder bottles, so she’ll be better prepared for the next cold snap.
She’s still waking up at 6:45 a.m. each day to put nectar outside, and she’s still doing all she can to keep it from freezing each day.
”I am still sitting vigil, looking for my little man Percy,” she said. “I sit and read and look up to his favourite perch, expecting to see this tiny bird sitting there, pondering life. And when he’s not there, I am surprised at how sad I am. How devastated. What a happy ending it would be for him to show up and sit on his pine bough, chittering and chattering to me about his life. How happy I would be.”