A wee cup of hummers, scarcely visible from more than a few feet away.
The other day, a friend casually mentioned that there was an active Ruby-throated Hummingbird nest in his yard, and said yard was right along the route that I would be driving later that day. Not one to miss such an opportunity, I made the scene.
The hummer nest was high in the boughs of a grand old Black Maple, Acer nigrum, and as nearly always is the case, it was saddled to a stout horizontal branch. Hummingbirds virtually always shingle the exterior of their nests with lichens, the better to blend the structure with its surroundings. And blend it does. The dominant shingling lichen on this nest is Green Shield Lichen, Flavoparmelia caparata, and it does an admirable job of masking the nest when seen from below or from the side.
Because Ruby-throated Hummingbirds use lots of cobwebs to lace the lichens and plant down into their neat little cups, there is a heavy dose of elasticity to the structure. This flexibility allows the cup to expand to accommodate the rapidly growing youngsters, once they pip themselves free of the eggs. Indeed, the adult female had to be rescued - twice! - after she managed to tangle herself in some large spiderwebs in the garage. Should you see hummers busily hovering about eaves, windows and the like, that's probably what they are doing - gathering silken strands of web for their nest, which will be somewhere close at hand.
Come fall, they'll strike out to the south, and then head over 500 miles of open Gulf of Mexico waters and on into Central America. If all goes well for them, they'll likely be back to breed within a relative stone's toss of this Black Maple tree.