Shaggy Bird Stories

black-chinned hummingbird

Telephoto close-up and a dandy crop in Photoshop

I defy anyone to gaze deeply at the feathers on this tiny jewel of Creation and come away unscathed. I think this is a young female black-chinned, but who cares what we call her? She could be running things a year from now if we’re not careful, which is why I just tied all my shoelaces together.

I remember the last time we were in Dubuque visiting. There was a ruby-throated hummer at a feeder hanging over a perfectly manicured green lawn. Fascinating for a moment but no drama. Wherever that hummingbird went next, it wasn’t going to be arrested or hustled for lunch money. Not in that neighborhood.

Hummingbirds are such a different thing here on our hillside, what with big-ass sagebrush plants that might come up to your nose but usually don’t, some chamisa, and a plentitude of cactus. The little buggers treat the sagebrush like a forest and chase each other all around the branches. It looks so strange to see one sitting underneath the sage just inches off the ground. That’s why God made cats, I guess. Either someone just forgot to tell the birds, or hummers never have to go to church and so they don’t.

What gets me is that I can be out there on the mesa in the wilderness, miles from anything resembling a feeder, and have a hummingbird shoot past my ear! “Hey man, you need any help?” I want to say, but they’re always gone by “man.” There are hardly any flowers,* either, but maybe a few birds know some special ones along the cliffs above the gorge.

Yes, that one. The one that people are always magically falling into while they’re hiking and we say they slipped, though maybe some just want to fly and sparkle in the sun.

* 5-27-2014: It rained a bunch last week. Went out today, tons of flowers!

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John Hamilton Farr lives at 7,000 feet in Ranchos de Taos, New Mexico, U.S.A. As New York Times best-selling author James C. Moore tells it, John is “a man attuned to the world who sees it differently than you and I and writes about it with a language and a vision of life that is impossible to ignore.” This JHFARR.COM site is the master writing archive. To email John, please see CONTACT INFO on About page. For a complete list of all John’s writing, photography, NFTs, and social media links, please visit JHFARR.ART  

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