Tuesday, April 12, 2011


To the East of the main island of Puerto Rico lies the island of Culebra. It's small and charming with a bit of an attitude. I am not sure if it's an official policy, but there are no high rise hotels or shopping malls on Culebra, and the life style seems decidedly slower. This was the third I time I was there, last time was eight years ago, but little had changed. There were more tourists from the states than I remembered, but I absolutely felt the island was big enough for all of us. I even encountered a couple from my own birth town Stockholm.

Culebra is famous for its beaches, and they really seem to be setting the standard to which every other beach is measured. White soft even sand, that strong turquoise color of the crystal clear water, palm trees gracefully leaning in to give shade. At night, the waves come crushing strong but gentle, never ending. it's consoling to be in their presence and a bit humbling.

 We were lucky to be borrowing a house from an old friend of my husband who owns a property in "downtown" Culebra.

It was a lovely house, playfully decorated and with a nice view of the bay. 

But to me the biggest asset of the house was this:
A hummingbird nest, attached to a hook for a hammock in the ceiling!

I soon saw the little hummer fly back and forth, and eventually I could spot the inhabitants: two tiny beaks and a few feathers occasionally stretched outside. The nest appeared to be made by pieces of leaves, and I read that hummingbirds, at least the Puerto Rican ones, use spider web to thread it together - the silk expands when the chicks grow larger and heavier.

Here's mama hummingbird busy feeding the babies:

 Here you can see the nest on the ceiling hook on the beam.

I was so close to her but the best I could do was this!

She was very aware of me, sometimes buzzing up within a foot of my face to see who I was and what kind of threat I was posing. I was standing very still, and I made sure to leave them plenty of time undisturbed. But I was truly mesmerized and could easily have spent the whole vacation just staring at that nest.

Here she is resting in the tree nearby.

Another picture of her baby.

Further research suggested that she could be a Green Mango, a Greenbreasted Mango or a Green Emerald hummer. The mango species are indigenous to Puerto Rico and very common. I saw a few more back on the main island.

I read that hummingbird nests and chicks are relatively safe from predators, perhaps since the little birds are known to be fierce and fearlessly attacks each other or anyone else coming too close. But I did notice another bird that was flying up to the nest when the mother was out foraging. The other bird did not try to harm the chicks, but was trying to steal some of the nesting material. I got quite upset and worried that the nest would fall apart, and I scared the yellow guy away. I saw this happen two times, and felt as helpless as I possibly could.
But the nest remained in good shape during our four days on the island, and I do have a good feeling about them. Hummingbird chicks spend no more than three weeks in the nest, and judging from the size of them they are hopefully out and about by now, their beaks have grown to full length, and they are no longer depending on their mother.
In fact, their mother will have no recollection of them being her offspring and from now on she will see them only as competitors for food and territory, and she will fight them as she will fight anyone else who tries to feed from "her" flowers.

The yellow bird that was stealing from the nest I tentatively identified as an Adelaide's warbler, bright yellow with white and black, and common on the Puerto Rican islands.

The hummingbirds were not the only animals around our house.
 The mourning doves look like they do in Boston and sounded the same too.

Lizards we certainly do not have in Boston. Here they are everywhere, mostly no more than four inches from head to tail tip, in many combinations of colors and stripes.

These caterpillars were crawling all over this plant. Admittedly it was a bit yucky with so many of them, but I was really curious as to what they would eventually turn into. No answer on that yet!

1 comment:

  1. Beautiful photos. I really like the little house you stayed in. Such a pretty color, and very simple. It goes with the landscape and the climate. I also love the photo of the hummingbird mother fluttering about. She must have been trying to intimidate you by getting so close to your face, worried that you would endanger her babies!