Nancy Newfield

Nancy L. Newfield has been watching hummingbirds at her Louisiana home and lots of other places since 1975. Nancy lost her amateur status years ago, and now writes and lectures on hummers. She is co-author of Hummingbird Gardens, reviewed elsewhere on this site. Nancy is also a licensed hummingbird bander and a recognized authority on hummingbird distribution, behavior, and taxonomy.

July 1998

Keeping Hummers Close to the Heart

Most of us who love hummingbirds have a plethora of hummingbird items - coffee mugs, figurines, T-shirts, etc. I have more than my share, everything from Christmas ornaments to a trash can. Each is a little memento of a special trip, a gift from a treasured friend, or an icon of hope.

I have rules for my collection, though. No generic Japanese hummers are allowed. Each image must be an identifiable species and as anatomically correct as possible. I especially prize an ever growing collection of hummer T-shirts. With wearable art, I can have them with me wherever I go. I can dream of a long ago experience or an up-coming trip.

Several years ago, I was sorting through my dresser drawers, trying to make space for a few more shirts, when my husband, Skip, suggested that maybe I ought to throw a few items away.

Skip held up a particularly ragged one, a shirt with an image of a Purple-throated Mountain-gem on it. The neckband was ravelled, the color faded and the cloth had pulled away from the still colorful picture. "You really can't wear this one anymore. Why not use it for a dust cloth?" he said.

I was horrified. Clearly Skip didn't understand that the shirt held fond memories of the remarkable hummingbird haven, Monteverde, in Costa Rica. It was more than just a shirt.

As soon as he left the house, I dug out all the shirts. A stunning black one with a nice Ruby-throat on it fit a little too snugly, but it was a gift from my daughter, Charlotte. A turquoise blue one from the Rockport/Fulton Hummer/Bird Celebration in Texas showed a fine Rufous. And a Buff-bellied Hummingbird graced a jade green shirt from the Sabal Palm Grove Sanctuary. It was autographed by the artist Tony Bennett. These were not candidates for the trash bag!

Counting as I refolded and stacked, I tallied 35 hummingbird T-shirts - one for each day of the month, plus a few to spare. But, did I need any more?

Just a few weeks later, I was banding hummers at a public demonstration in Texas. Across the table stood a rotund gentleman, wearing a really nice T-shirt I'd never seen before.

"Where did you get that T-shirt?" I queried.

"I bought it at a little shop in Seattle," he offered. "Do you like it? I have 45 hummingbird T-shirts!" the gent continued, puffing out his chest proudly.

That did it! No longer would I apologize for my excesses. No longer would I hesitate before adding another artwork to my personal gallery.

Proudly, now I display Keith Hansen's busy design showing all the breeding species of the United States. It's autographed, too!

Adding a Black-chinned from the San Pedro Riparian Area and a Violet-crowned and White-eared from the Ramsey Canyon Preserve in Arizona, the collection grew. The image of the Tufted Coquette from the Asa Wright Nature Centre in Trinidad is four times the size of the actual bird, but hey, who cares? The "Hummingbird Garden" design from the Jim Morris Environmental T-shirt Company of Boulder, Colorado, features a South American Ruby-Topaz, a Jamaican Streamertail, and a Southwestern U.S. Broad-billed. Wow!!!!

On the next trip to Costa Rica, I eagerly awaited the stop at the Hummingbird Gallery in Monteverde. Perhaps I would be able to replace the tattered shirt that indeed had to be relegated to oblivion. But, alas, it was not to be.

As I entered the shop, a woman was holding up the last bright pink T-shirt with the Purple-throated Mountain-gem. I could see that it was an extra-large - my size! I poised ready to snatch it just as soon as she put it down. But, she proceeded to the register and I had to depart empty-handed.

Oh, well . . . 52 should be enough . . . there's always a hummer close to my heart!

Happy Hummingbirding!

Copyright © 1998
Nancy L. Newfield
Casa Colibri
Metairie, LA