Alexis Allen

Birdfeeders are a gardener's winter solace.

There are a great many things about Seattle that I consider miraculous, and one of them is the Anna's Hummingbird. If you don't know, the Anna's Hummingbird is a tiny vibration that flies around the Pacific Northwest all year long, even though we drop below freezing during the winter, and they're not really built for that sort of energy drain. All hummingbirds are incredibly territorial and aggressive, and thus I have come to learn that I have two of them in my neighborhood.

I am freakishly giant by hummingbird standards, and my vision is so poor that I can't even see their wings in flight beyond a blur. I can't tell the difference between the local pair to save my life, yet I have a favorite. They move as quickly as a grifter's cups anyway. When they fly, their wings generate short waves of air. They feel in the ear like a washboard. My favorite is so territorial that, while he keeps his distance, he keeps a damn close eye on me whenever I come close to his tree. I mutter under my breath sometimes about this is supposed to be two-sided, but otherwise I leave him be and refill his feeder twice a year.

This weekend, we got ten inches of snow, and more to come. I was an idiot and left the hummingbird feeder outside and sure enough at dawn this morning, it was frozen. Cursing myself for having only one feeder, and strapping on my rubber boots, I retrieved the offending feeder and fumbled to find a way to melt the feeder without spilling nectar all over the place. New kind of problem. (Thank you, pot bellied stove.)

I heard him as I was putting the half melted feeder back, and saw him out of the corner of my eye, a hovering terror framed in pine needles. You can imagine how annoyed I was when he stayed away even after I was back inside the house, peeking out the window. Snowflakes accumulating over the sip trays. So frustrating. He's there an hour later, darting his beak into the snow, taking long drinks, no problem. I'll do it all again in a few hours, and remember to bring in the feeder tonight.

Hummingbird nectar freezes in temperatures below 29 degrees Fahrenheit. Warmer than that, and it'll be fine.

My other favorites are Spotted Towhee and Fox Sparrow. This is the life of Alexis Allen. Hello. © 2021, please get your god damned hands off me.