Beauty And The Beast
Some years ago I became interested in hummingbirds. I’d read that, although we up here in Canada were visited by only two, or three, species, down Mexico way there were many more, perhaps as many as 58 species. I’d read that in Arizona close to the Mexican border it was possible to see as many as seventeen species. So, one day in August we headed off on a long drive to a place called Madera Canyon Park located in the Santa Rita Mountains in Southeast Arizona near to the Mexican border.
We discovered Madera Canyon and the surrounding area to be a birders paradise, quite worth the long, very long, drive, and in addition to studying many different species of hummingbirds we were able to add many new bird species to our life lists.
This trip was the beginning of a love affair with the American Southwest. We simply fell in love with its history, culture and wild places, and over the years we would make several visits to this enchanted land.
On one of these trips, early in May, we stopped off at Taos, New Mexico, for a few days. We spent the first day visiting art galleries and being amazed at the quality of the art before heading out to do some birding. Taos is located at an elevation of close to 8,000 feet, so it should have been no surprise that spring sometimes arrives a bit late. It was quite cool with the temperature hovering at a high of only around sixty degrees Fahrenheit. There were few spring flowers in bloom with only the occasional cherry tree brave enough to open its flowers.
We’d completed an early morning hike down into the Rio Grande Gorge. Returning from our hike at around noon we decided to eat our lunch while sitting in our lawn chairs at the sheltered side of our van. Despite a cool breeze it was a wonderful day with barely a cloud in the sky. At the far end of the parking lot was a cherry tree partially in bloom. I observed a lone hummingbird investigating the blooms. “Poor hummingbird”, I thought to myself considering just how cold that it was with seemingly slim pickings food-wise. I observed that it was a Rufous Hummingbird, and then returned my attention to lunch.
Suddenly, there was a hum in front of my face and looking up I was surprised to see the same hummingbird hovering forward, then backward, in front of my face. I remained still. It hovered for a moment, and then it was gone. Amazing! But then I began to think, why would it investigate me?
It took awhile, but then I understood. I removed my hat and there was the reason. I’d stuck a Canadian Red Maple Leaf insignia pin on the side of my hat. The hummingbird had seen the flash of red and an ancient memory had come in to play telling it to investigate all things red as a possible source of food.
This incident stuck with me and upon returning home I wrote a little poem and over the next year worked on a large self-portrait entitled, “Beauty & The Beast”. I’ll let you decide just who is Beauty, and who is the Beast.
Beauty & The Beast
It hovered, and hummed in front of my face.
I stood very still and held firmly in place.
Forward, then backward, inspection complete
It flashed its red throat and finding nothing to eat,
It tilted its wing and was gone with a squeak.
Rufous Hummingbird Hand-coloured Etching