Bonner Day: Different welcomes for valley visitors

Bonner Day


Miracle of miracles, the hummingbirds came to visit me.

When I put up my hummingbird feeder, I really did not know whether it would attract those fascinating little creatures.

But after several weeks of impatient waiting, I spotted the first hummer. He sampled the nectar for a moment, while hovering over the feeder. Then he sped off.

As he was just outside the window, and could see me, I was afraid he was scared off permanently. But no, two days later there were two.  A week passed and another visitor came.

I have since learned that the males travel ahead of the females when migrating.  So I am hoping that the first visitor was scouting the area before the lady hummers arrived.

Many people in the valley have feeders for the hummers.  They are prized, marvelous guests. I say marvelous because I have learned that they fly up to 2,000 miles when they migrate. They do not fly in a flock. Each has his own route and separate winter and summer homes.  Scientists say they would be more visible to predators if they flew in flocks.

And they don’t fly on the backs of geese. That is an old folk’s tale to try to explain their long-distance migrations.

Of course I haven’t forgotten my bluebirds.  The superstitious hope is that they bring happiness with them.  It may not be true but it’s a pleasant thought.

But to have the hummingbird is even more wonderful, particularly because I was not sure my plastic feeder would attract them.

The male hummer has iridescent feathers that pick up the sun and attract the dowdy female during the mating dance. And scientists say the mother bird chases away the male when the fledglings arrive for fear his iridescence will attract predators.

A friend told me he has seen as many as three gather at his feeder. Another offered me some seeds for a vine hummers seem to like, and I have already planted them. I have in fact joined the unofficial society of hummer lovers.

A much less welcome visitor also showed up this winter.

I speak of the marmorated stink bug. (I used the scientific name to watch it stump my computer’s spell check.)  Most of us in the valley are familiar with this pest. It has been in the valley for at least five years.  Some say for eight years or more. I have watched them with growing disgust for the past two years.

They are so widespread that few residents have not encountered them. As ubiquitous pests they have emerged from the shadows of uncouthness and impudence to become acceptable as a dreaded topic of polite society.

And unfortunately there is apparently no relief, at least for the homeowner. If only they would self-deport.  But home is Southeast Asia and that is too far. Unlike the hummer, the length of their flight seems to be from outside your door to the nearest light inside.

Could they be labeled illegal aliens and referred to the immigration authorities?  My cynical friends say they would be relabeled undocumented immigrants, which would allow them to qualify for tax-paid benefits. I only hope they are not designated an endangered and protected species.

“Two-legged creatures we are supposed to love as well as we love ourselves.  The four-legged, also, can come to seem pretty important. But six legs are too many from the human standpoint.” — Joseph Wood Krutch, naturalist.

My sentiments exactly.

Bonner Day has lived in the valley for the past 14 years.  He confesses to a healthy share of prejudices.