May 31, 2009


This afternoon, as I was riding my bike north up The Silverado Trail in Napa Valley, I went flying by what at first glance appeared to be a dead humming bird sitting stone still in the glaring sun. Upon closer inspection, I found that it wasn't dead, but rather in a serious state of debilitation.
It sat there, eyes closed and teetering with every gust of wind that trailed off of each passing car. My conscience made it quite clear that something had to be done and fearing that it'd end up being run down by another cyclist, or worse yet a car, I concluded I'd best pick it up and go about figuring out just what to do with it.
The poor fellow was weak as can be and made but only a few feeble flaps of it's wings as I picked it up off of the pavement and placed it in the palm of my hand. I rode along for some time, trying to figure out just what in the world to do with it.
At first I thought I might call around and see if there was some sort of bird rescue center in Napa Valley that might be able to come pick it up, but if there was one, I'd have a hard time seeing them drive out to save a hummingbird. A red-tailed hawk perhaps, but a hummingbird? It seemed an unlikely scenario indeed.
The only other alternative would have been to wrap it in one of my arm warmers and take it back home with me, but with 70 miles remaining in my ride, that seemed no more realistic an option than the former.
Musing on what other prospects might pose as probable I rode on for a mile or so with it in the palm of my hand. Aside from the aforementioned considerations, the only other option that ocurred to me was to find a large stone and put it out of it's misery.

As I remained uncertain of it's true status however, I couldn't possibly have done so with the complete assurance that I was doing the right thing, so this option was swiftly dismissed. Perhaps it simply had a hangover from too much humming bird feed the night before and would soon make a full recovery. With no further options in sight, I rode on.

Eventually I came upon a stone bridge alongside the road with plenty of shade and a small creek running beneath it. I decided I'd simply leave it in the shade and hope for the best. Oddly enough I had a bit of a difficult time getting the sucker out of the palm of my hand as it's tiny nails had gotten caught in the mesh of my riding gloves. With considerable effort I eventually managed to unhook it's nails one by one. I didn't want to break one of its tiny toes and further incapacitate the poor thing.

I placed it a cornerstone, grabbed one of my water bottles, turned it upside down and dribbled a couple drops of my energy drink on it's beak, thinking it could use a shot or two of glucose to lift it's spirits. Lo and behold it's beak sprang wide open and it took in a good couple dozen gulps in rapid succession. I then poured some into a small indentation in the rock hoping perhaps it might be able to drink more as needed.

With that I bid my hummingbird friend adieu, praying that in some slight way I'd made it's life a little easier. I hopped on my bike and resumed my ride down the road ahead. I briefly wondered whether or not I'd done the right thing. Perhaps there was more that could have been done and my failure to have investigated any further meant the difference between the life and the death of a seemingly insignificant hummingbird.

Thankfully, I didn't puzzle over this for too long. The realization came that I could have done everything and then some to save it and it may well have died nonetheless. No doubt I'll never know what ever happened to it. Given it's condition I'd be surprised if it made it through to the end of the day. Perhaps having moved it from the hot tarmac at the shoulder of the road to the relative protection of the shade made all the difference. Perhaps it didn't.

Sometimes we just don't know what the results of our actions will be. Nonetheless when presented with a situation, however perplexing it may be, we have to do something. We can hesitate indefinitely, but that in and of itself is an action of sorts. Assuming we've done what we deem to be "the right thing", acting in the best interest of all concerned, all we can do from there is rest in the faith that Mother Nature in her infinite wisdom will act accordingly.


  1. This reminds me of when a june bug landed on my shoulder at the farmers market and I spent the next several hours feeding it figs and I named it watson. I put it in a plastic cup and took it to see some stupid tom cruise movie at the Arclight theater. at the end of the movie I realized it's leg had gotten stuck in the coagulated fig so I shook the cup to loosen the fig and he flew away. I'm sure he ran into the window of a bus immediately after our short time together. But atleast I have the memory.

    Hi! Happy Birthday!

  2. Thanks for the birthday blessings, Ms. A "junebug", eh? Sounds familiar. Must have been a pretty big junebug to have ingested all them figs! Nice to hear you've finally come around to the understanding that animals, insects and all manner of organic matter large and small are people too. All discussion of curious critters aside, how's things in your neck o'the woods? What'cha' been up to the past coupla' years?