Hope's tiny nest is lashed to a Pidocarpus tree in my backyard, way above eye-level. My little neighbor-friend Sara has a better view, because her house was built on higher ground. So with her mommy's permission, I climbed a step stool and angled my camera over our shared fence.
I stayed for a good long while on the 22nd day, in part because I knew we'd entered the final countdown. But it's also true that I wanted to take full advantage of the opportunity (the privilege!) of absorbing the hatchling's miraculous transformation from egg to full grown hummingbird. It wasn't long for the nest, and I knew it.
By this point, it's quite possible that Hope is preparing another nest, in anticipation of a second brood. Even so, she brought food to her nearly grown hatchling, several times a day. Between meals, her baby used its long, thin tongue to grab a quick bite for itself.
It was a warm, sunny day, and the nest was soft. No surprise, the baby bird got sleepy.
Oh hey, are you still here?
In this light, you can see for yourself that the hummingbird hatchling is nearly grown. It's got iridescent green feathers, just like Hope, and is about 1-1/2 inches long. Much tinier than it appears in these pictures! Oh, and have you heard? Its name is Samara Faith!
Sunshine warmed the nest, but bathed as it was, in a pool of light, the hatchling was vulnerable to predators. Thank goodness, Hope instinctively knew where and how to camouflage her brood. For most of the day, the nest was cloaked in shade. That, plus variegated foliage, did the trick.
Heavy winds and rains have battered the nest. It's ragged now, and tilted downward. Even so, it's proven itself a reliable shelter for the just-right amount of time.
While I was watching, short wind gusts made the branches sway and bounce. When that happened, the hatchling tucked itself deep into the tufted nest and wind-surfed.
Oh hey…do you see what those tiny wings are doing?
The baby hummingbird seemed just as surprised by that wing display as I was.
Truth is, for several days now, the hatchling has been clutching the bottom of the nest with its feet and test-piloting those tiny wings. I think all those strength exercises are paying off!
A few hours after posting this picture to Facebook, I visited the nest again, in hopes of taking one last measurement before our naming contest. Maybe the hatchling was nudged forward by a breeze, or maybe it caught wind of this paparazzo. But in any case, its wings whirred, and off it went, helicoptering over my head as confident as could be!
I don't know who was more surprised–Samara Faith or me. But I stood quiet for the longest time, blinking back the wetness that threatened to spill down my cheeks. I was sad, of course, but also very happy.
Samara Faith beat the odds. Hope, realized. Faith, made manifest. How fortunate I was, to bear witness to such a miracle!
Hope will stick close by for at least a few days, teaching Samara Faith how and where to forage for food. I'm keeping fresh nectar at the ready…
I visited the nest once more that afternoon, to take the measure of it.
Soft yet strong, this nest supported Hope. It withstood heavy winds, rain and hail, and provided safe harbor for her tiny brood until one of the hatchlings eventually fledged. Tiny as it may be, and humble, the importance of a nest can't be overstated. Isn't that a rule, written down somewhere? If not, it should be.
Missed the previous posts about Hope and her hatchlings? Here you go: Hope's Hatchlings, Part One; Hope's Hatchlings: Part Two: Hope's Hatchlings: Part Three (and a naming contest); and Hope's hatchling gets a name.