Friday, August 22, 2014

Hummingbirds and a Poem

Over the past week I've seen several Ruby-throated Hummingbirds moving through the area. The ruby-throated is the only regularly occurring species of hummingbird seen in New York and, by their pugnacious attitude, you'd think they were the top of the food chain. Right now showy stands of jewelweed (Impatiens capensis) are flowering all over our parks attracting these tiny titans. At only around 3.2 grams, I've seen them buzz, poke and generally harass birds over tens times their size. More amazing is the thought that twice a year these trans-gulf migrants make the 600 mile trip across open water ... non-stop. Below is a poem I just came across by D.H. Lawrence about these avian gems:

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Humming-Bird
D.H. Lawrence (from Birds, Beasts and Flowers, 1923)

I can imagine, in some otherworld
Primeval-dumb, far back
In that most awful stillness, that only gasped and hummed,
Humming-birds raced down the avenues.

Before anything had a soul,
While life was a heave of Matter, half inanimate,
This little bit chipped off in brilliance
And went whizzing through the slow, vast, succulent stems.

I believe there were no flowers, then
In the world where the humming-bird flashed ahead of creation.
I believe he pierced the slow vegetable veins with his long beak.

Probably he was big
As mosses, and little lizards, they say were once big.
Probably he was a jabbing, terrifying monster.

We look at him through the wrong end of the long telescope of Time,
Luckily for us.

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