A tiny ball of energy launches from a nearby tree and comes speeding up to my window. Its blurred form resolves as a hovering little bird with a shimmering green body distinctly outlined against the sky and jet black eyes looking nervously around. Its wings beats so incredibly fast there is only grey in the space where they should be. This wee bird – hardly bigger than a large bee – does a quick vertical jump, jabs left and right, and darts away as quickly as it has come. Seconds later I watch it pull up to the top tuft of a tree and rustle its slender body into a waiting position.
I have the best seat in the cabin for watching the hummingbird wars play out. From my oh-so-seventies swivel chair (in mouse brown) I have a fabulous view of sunlight playing on distant rock slopes strewn with wildflower, berry bushes, and shimmering alder and – closer in – a hundred trees that flood the valley. From the cool recesses among the tops of these alpine firs the hummingbirds emerge, engaging in their serious lightning-fast war to get at the nectar in our two feeders. To catch these miniature birds in an up-close battle, you have to be steely eyed and absolutely still; even the smallest movement will scare them all away.
The bird we are this year calling Napoleon Hummingbird stands sentry some 20 feet from the deck. Under the eaves of the roof another hummingbird zips in and he’s on it instantly, chasing it away from the feeder with barely a chatter. At almost the same time, another hummingbird comes up between the rails, flashes his tail feathers above the deck, and nearly makes it to the feeder. A flash and flicker, and that one’s gone too. Now a third and very brazen hummingbird gets all the way to the bar and sticks its long beak into the feeder. With a spectacular divebomb, Napoleon Hummingbird is on the scene, crowding out that feisty bird. Snick snack! The air resonates with the clash of dueling beaks, both birds flashing angrily in a display of tailfeathers. As the other bird beats a hasty retreat, Napoleon Hummingbird regains his post, tiny chest heaving.
My rumbling stomach eventually forces me from my perch. As the shadows grow long, I put together one of our favorite cabin meals: vegetarian spaghetti with chanterelle mushrooms and whatever vegetables Stockings Gardens in Gold Bar has to offer. This week it’s zucchini, fresh from the vine. I slip back into my fug of happiness as Napoleon Hummingbird comes in for his evening feed. Tonight, he rules the roost.
But tomorrow? We’ll see. In the lightning fast world of hummingbirds, in the blink of an eye just about everything can change!
Cabin Spaghetti with Chanterelles and Hummingbirds
8 ounces of dry spaghetti noodles
4 ounces of fresh chanterelle mushrooms
2 Tablespoon of butter
1 medium onion, about 8 ounces, coarsely chopped
2 Tablespoons of good olive oil
1 medium zucchini, about 12 ounces, coarsely chopped
1 teaspoon each of dried oregano and thyme
¾ cups of hot vegetable broth
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Freshly grated parmesan cheese for topping
- Bring a large pot of water to the boil. Add the noodles and cook until ‘al dente’, which here at 3600’ elevation means a couple of minute longer than the package directions. Drain and hold the noodles to one side, sprinkling them with a bit of olive oil to keep from sticking together if the veggies aren’t yet finished cooking.
- Meanwhile, break the chanterelles into bite-sized pieces and sauté them in butter in a 12” frying pan over medium heat. (Alternately use chanterelles frozen from last year’s harvest.) Once the mushrooms are wilted, after about 4 minutes of cooking, remove them and their juices to a bowl or plate.
- Bring the pan back to temperature over medium high heat and sauté onion in the oil for 4 or 5 minutes until the edges of the onion begin to brown. Add the zucchini and herbs. Cook for 5 more minutes, tossing every minute to evenly heat the zucchini. Now add back the mushrooms and their juices. Add the hot broth and simmer for 3 or 4 more minutes until all the veggies are heated through. Add salt and pepper as desired at the end.
- Divide the pasta into two bowls or plate and spoon the hot veggies and broth over top. Sprinkle with parmesan as desired.
Serve with crusty bread (preferably home or cabin made!) slathered with good butter. And pull up a seat at the window. There are hummingbirds out there, putting on one of nature’s finest shows. Enjoy!