Monday, September 20, 2010


We went to the hill country town of Blanco last weekend, spent three days and came back three pounds heavier (each) from the hard work of sampling creative food and drink.  I know, don't say it.

So I hadn't been out front until this morning when I went out to fill the bird feeders.  

I could hear a hummingbird war somewhere.  They squeak as they duel--diving, thrusting and parrying.  But I was caught in my thoughts.  Until the nonstop war lasted minutes.  That doesn't happen.  The birds take rest breaks and usually one flies away to a patch of flowers to refuel.  

So I looked up.  Between the porch posts the air throbbed from a tiny center of iridescent green thrashing.  

I dropped the bags and ran.  It was a Ruby-throated hummingbird in a Golden Silk Orb Weaver's web, a web with the strength and flex of outer-space.

I hoped to break the strands and see the bird fly away.  But he was too trapped. I caught him as he fell swinging by a strand, and cradled him in my palm, cupping one over the other to give a dark rest.

Denny came out to help.  We pulled webbing from his feathers and feet, taking turns holding and wiping, trying for the lightest touch.  

Denny told me more than once to get past the emotion, believe we could do it, or we wouldn't.  It was hard.  This first-year male was healthy and strong, I knew he'd had a good chance of surviving the journey to come.  Now he was stuck to my palm and couldn't pull his wings from his sides.  

We held him up to the feeder to drink.  We tried.  

We fed him again and again to keep up his strength but we couldn't get all the glue off and knew the time when we were no longer helping.   At Denny's urging I took him to a low, dense shrub, freeing him on a perch, hoping he'd be able to clean himself before he ran out of energy. 

If you've ever seen a Golden Silk Orb Weaver spider (Nephila clavipes), you know it's big enough to wrap an ensnared hummingbird after it stills. 

Golden Silk Orb Weaver wrapping a captured grasshopper. 

But not today.

The hummingbird was gone from the perch the next time I peeked.  I don't know how he could have freed himself but I'm hoping, hoping.  One more tiny life to fly and breed and enrich the world.

You're hoping too. 

Copyright 2009-2010 Kathleen Scott, for Hill Country Mysteries. Unauthorized reproduction is prohibited.


  1. Wow. Yes. We call them familiarly "banana" spiders and they are everywhere and huge. I have no doubt they could eat a hummingbird. I hope yours escaped and flew free.

  2. Wow - that little hummingbird is so lucky you saw him and rescued him. I have no doubt that, because of your assistance, he was able to clean himself up and be on his way. Bless you for caring. I had one of those spiders on the patio at my old house a couple of years ago. She fascinated me and I saw her capture and eat crickets. I didn't even think about hummingbirds being in danger of getting caught.

  3. incredible.
    I would have been worried I would do more harm, so good of you to give it , and the bird, your best shot.

    I am certain it ended up perfectly fine.

  4. You are such a good advocate for the nature in your yard, Kathleen. I am hoping for that little hummer, too. x0 N2

  5. I like that you have little issue with saving a lovely animal from a slow death. There is too much hoohaa about leaving nature to herself these days, which is laughable given that we have our paw on everything.

  6. Thank you, friends. I don't know if the hummingbird made it but I know we had to try to give him a chance. The worst was listening to him peep and quiver while we worked, being afraid of hurting him, knowing he'd still have only a modest chance. But something is better than nothing.

    I don't have anything against the spiders, in fact I think they're beautiful and have a place here, but there are millions of grasshoppers and relatively few hummingbirds. I'll choose the bird first any day.

  7. Wow! A veritable Wild Kingdom at your place!

  8. You and Denny are kind and caring people, I am hoping that the little hummingbird was able to fly away too.
    We have Golden Orb spiders here, their webs are very strong, I have rescued a few things myself from their webs and others when I have seen a poor cicada or cricket struggling, if they want to eat they can catch a mosquito or a fly instead. :) xoxoxo ♡

  9. It's just giving me the creeps looking at that photo.
    I think you made the right decision to pull it out.

  10. I think on balance the spider will do just fine without that particular hummingbird as dinner. We feed the birds to bring them to our spaces, it is legit (in my version of the universe) to protect them from webby death once they arrive.

    Good for you and Denny!

  11. EEEEEEEE! I can just see The Boy bringing one of these in our house.


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