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Home for the Summer: Hummingbirds aplenty on North Shore

We have had a lively summer with hummingbirds this year. There were hummers zooming around the cabin when we first arrived. This was before we had even unpacked the car, much less boiled up sugar and water to fill the feeders.

So I made up 6 cups of hummer food and we scrubbed, filled and put out the feeders. Unpacking could wait; we didn't want to discourage the birds. The feeder on the lake side of the cabin has perches so the birds don't have to burn energy hovering in place while they feed. It's also hung on a vertical stick that has three small branches coming off of it. That provides one spot to hang the feeder and three spots for the little birds to sit and survey the area. We have another feeder, but that lake-side feeder has always been the favorite.

For the first several days there always seemed to be a bird sitting on the top of the stick. Was it the same one every time, or did they take turns? Hard to tell. But there sat a tiny creature apparently surveying all within his (or her) view. After about a week this behavior changed. When a hummer was at the feeder it was there to eat, not just to look around.

There were hummingbirds pretty much non-stop at both feeders, and we had to refill them after a day and a half or two. Even on rainy days the levels in the feeders went down, down, down. Before we knew it we'd used up our supply of sugar water. This time I made 8 cups — filling up our largest cooking pot.

As I watched the hummers I became interested in their individual traits. A few scorned the perches on the feeder and kept their wings going as they fed. Some took many quick slurps and some dug in and took a long drink. Mostly a bird would dip in and out of the feeder half a dozen times or so, but I started counting the number of continuous dips by one bird one lazy afternoon, and came up with an amazing 45. That's got to be some kind of record — if anyone is counting.

All this information may start you wondering about what kind of a life I'm leading that I know how many times the champion sugar-water-slurper dips into the feeder. Well, here we are on the shore of Lake Superior surrounded by an amazing variety of plant and animal life. And we don't have TV or Wi-Fi, although we get static-laced radio. No daily newspaper is delivered to our door. We don't know, for the most part, what's going on in the world.

And we love it.

Neither Les nor I would want to always be as out of touch with the troubles of the world as we are up here. But for a couple of months it's great. And before you know it, we'll be migrating south with the hummingbirds.

Jan Kent spends her summers in a log cabin on Lake Superior and her winters in a suburb northwest of Chicago. Her column, Home for the Summer, first appeared in the News-Chronicle in 1993.

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