It snowed and rained by turns yesterday. All the mountains on our horizon were shrouded in clouds but from reports they are deep in snow. Whiteface 25 minutes away had eighteen inches by afternoon, and DH is driving over this morning to hike up and ski down.
The cold, wet, and wind combined to be perfect hypothermia conditions. I was walking into the school barn in my foul weather gear to borrow a couple of bales of hay when I spied a small morsel apparently dead in the ice-crusted grass. I took off my wet winter gloves to pick it up.
It was a female ruby-throated hummingbird.
Sliding my glasses down my nose to squint, I caught the tiniest flash of green iridescence as the wet feathers shifted minutely. She was breathing!
With the bird cupped in my warm palm, I drove home one-handed, showed her to DH, and grabbed my hummingbird feeder and some sugar. At the farm I put her in a box in my tiny work room and cranked up the heat to 70°.
The little bird seemed entirely comatose. Her eyes were closed. When I put her down she toppled over on her side. When I picked her up to set her on her feet, her wings opened, but there was no other sign of life. I turned out the lights and left.
When I peeked in an hour later the room was toasty and there was a tiny green bird buzzing and zeep!-ing near the ceiling. I opened the window and the hummingbird flew back out into the storm.
I hung the feeder outside, just in case, but there is a half-inch of fresh snow on the ground this morning and I wonder and worry.
Reading online today I learn that hummingbirds, like frogs and flies, survive cold snaps by slowing down their metabolisms to a state of torpor. Perhaps I did more harm than good by warming this little bird. On the other hand, lying on the ground it was unlikely to survive the school barn cat, even if it survived the icy rain and snow.
I try to do the right thing but it’s often hard to know.