Sep 01 2008
I love to watch ruby-throated hummingbirds at the Harbourside Inn in Northeast Harbor, Maine.
Innkeeper John Sweet is an organic gardener, so when he grows tomatoes he plants them with other species that provide pest protection. That’s why he’s created a mixed border along the driveway of cherry tomatoes and nasturtiums.
At this time of year female and immature ruby-throated hummingbirds are passing through Maine on their way to Central America. When the migrants reach Northeast Harbor they’re at the ocean. They can’t go south; they must go west. John Sweet’s nasturtiums are a welcome refueling stop.
Even though they’re on migration and have no territory to defend, the hummingbirds fight over the nasturtiums. I often watch a single hummingbird move from flower to flower when a second appears and chases the first away. The loser perches on a branch and waits.
The second bird is dominant so she feeds undisturbed. Eventually the first one sneaks back to the flowers and feeds in a hidden corner of the border but the dominant bird finally sees her and gives chase again.
This goes on long after I’m tired of watching it.
Some mornings there aren’t any hummingbirds at the nasturtiums. They must have left the night before during optimal weather for migration. New ones haven’t arrived yet but they’ll be here soon.
In Maine in early September there seems to be an endless supply of pugnacious hummingbirds.
(photo by Chuck Tague)