What’s a hungabird? It’s a question I ask second and third graders when I visit their school for a reading. Responses: A bird. A hungry bird. A human bird. A hunter bird. And finally . . . a hummingbird. Ahhh, they get it. Howie Saves the Hungabirds is the title of my latest work in progress; Howie’s three-year
old sister Carole Ann calls them “hungabirds.” Never does she say hummers or hungas. Right now my talented illustrator Casie Pace has the manuscript in hand and is working diligently on expressing my text with her paintings (some samples here!).
This is my fifth children’s gardening book, and I often ask myself why the hummingbird book wasn’t my first since I’m crazy for hummers. I think it was because four years ago “Howie” wasn’t ready. In fact, it had a different title and Carole Ann didn’t exist. But books evolve–I’ve learned that.
Here in Sonoma County CA, some hummers hang around all year long. I see them daily, especially when we’re dining. I planted three Salvia greggii ‘Hot Lips’ right outside the big kitchen window, and there the tiny birds are, feeding on the nectar of those minuscule red and white blooms. It’s called Autumn Sage, and for good reason–S. greggii thrives in fall weather to become even more floriferous than in our hot, dry summer days. The salvia and the hummers are tuned into each other; that’s how it works!
Now in November, with its chillier nights and shorter days, most hummers have migrated south except for a couple of Anna’s, a hardy variety that invariably overwinters here. Others fly thousands of miles and then return in the spring–just about the time that Howie Saves the Hungabirds will be published. Hummingbirds are a miracle of nature. Like migrating butterflies, they know to return to the same garden (except for butterflies, it’s probably the fifth or sixth generation of those that flew south). Now, I don’t track them with electronic chips or leg bands, nor do I name them. The hummers simply return, knowing exactly where my feeders are and which of my flowers provide nectar. Sometimes they bring their friends. Or, just once, three winters ago at our former home, they never left. About 60-70 stayed and knew I’d keep filling up those six feeders on the coldest of days. I bought 10 lb. bags of sugar at a time and filled the feeders regularly. They had me trained very well!
What’s not to love about hummingbirds? Well, Mrs. Hatcher next door to Howie didn’t . . . but we’ll leave that for another time. Stay tuned! www.sandybakerwriter.com.