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Hurricane Hummingbirds

IMG_2791Albert Einstein once said “There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.” On the morning of Sunday, September 5th, 2004, when 75 mph winds from hurricane Frances were ravaging Brevard County, Florida we all had the opportunity to decide which way we wanted to live our lives.

I, for one, was again reminded about the constant miracles of life. My husband and I stood on the porch on the sheltered side of our home and watched the winds bend and break huge, ancient, mighty oaks. Suddenly, out of the midst of these destructive winds, a tiny miracle appeared. No more than 10 feet from where we stood, a ruby throated hummingbird emerged and hovered in front of our native firebush plant, jockeying back and forth with the gusts of wind to get nectar from the swaying plant. Unbelievably, this bird came back time and again to drink from this plant.

Because of their scarcity, the sight of a hummingbird in Brevard County, Florida is almost a miracle in itself. But to see the determination of this tiny 3 inch bird, which weighs about 1/10th of an ounce, in the face of a storm that put fear into the hearts of millions of Florida residents was truly remarkable.

The next morning, most of the firebush plant was gone, victim of the winds that continued to batter our state for hours. But much to our pleasure and surprise, our new hummingbird visitor was still there, dining on the plants that remained.

So although we didn’t have power and the boarded windows blocked out the light, my first action of the day was to dig out an old, previously un-visited hummingbird feeder and boil up some hummingbird nectar on our propane stove. The next day, when the stores opened again and most practical people were standing in line buying batteries and bottled water, I was at a local department store with an armload of new hummingbird feeders, which I quickly filled and hung outside. That was enough to get the hummingbirds to move right in!

I had lived in Florida for 37 years and had never seen a hummingbird, one of my favorite forms of wildlife, in our state. And although I had been trying to plant all the right plants to attract them, it took a hurricane for me to be able to finally lure them to my yard and to really observe them up close.

Almost every day since the hurricanes, I have had the joy of being able to observe visiting hummingbirds. With a feeder right outside my office window, I get a daily birds-eye view. I have been able to watch as they chase each other through the yard and I have had them fly right in between my arms as I re-filled their feeders. And I have become very familiar with their buzzing and chittering sounds that let me know they are always around even when I can’t see them. They remained through the next, more powerful hurricane (hurricane Jeanne), and have stayed every since.

The hurricane season of 2004 affected everyone in Florida, some more than others. They affected me in a very positive way.

Every time I see the hummingbirds, I am reminded of the many blessings that nature holds for us: messages of beauty, strength and determination. But perhaps the greatest message is that wonders are out there waiting to pay us a visit. We just need to keep planting seeds of beauty and faith, and we need to keep an eye out for the miracles!

Author’s Note: This article was first written in September 2004 in the midst of hurricane season. It is a true story in every detail. The first hummingbird I ever saw was during the high winds of a hurricane and they have been coming to my yard ever since. The story has been re-written several times to fit different publication. It has been published in Florida Gardening Magazine, National Wildlife Federation Habitats, Birdwatcher’s Digest and a 2009 Chicken Soup for the Soul book entitled Count Your Blessings.

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