Okay, here's the thing.
I'm not a bad housekeeper, when working for someone else. In fact, I'm pretty thorough. But for myself ... well, there isn't a cob spider in Cecil County that doesn't know its way to the Elk River Ranch and Raccoon Refuge. Of course, it's not entirely my fault. This house does not lend itself to easy cleaning. With a 'cathedral' ceiling in the so-called 'great room', and with the framing around the 'full exposure' glass front, plus an unfinished, unclosed ridge rafter, the cob spiders consider this place prime property for web building.
(view of the great room's glass front, from the loft)
(An aside: there is really nothing 'great' about the room, what with its dimensions [14+/-' x 22+/-'], its oddly placed stone fireplace [on the short wall, in the corner, but not 'cornered', which would have provided a better view to the room], and its loss of floor space to the cheap industrial metal spiral staircase; all these contribute to the room sorely failing the 'great room' definition. But I digress ....). Today, however, not being easily accessible to the vacuum made the accumulated cobwebs in the corners of the window timbers the means by which a life was saved - a very tiny life - but a worthy life, just the same.
(close up of the center timber top cross bars)
It's a lovely very late summer day, this September 19th, 2010 - the air is clear and dry; the sun bright but not unduly hot; and I'm in a very rare 'cleaning' mode. I took the electric leaf vac, and cleared all the maple and sweet gum leaves off the front deck, beginning the work yesterday, and finishing this morning. I then decided to start cleaning the 'great' room - which has been accumulating 'stuff' at an alarming rate. (The love seat is covered with piles of folded material [all intended for a colonial 'polonaise' dress project]; the full couch has a 30" 'Patti PlayPal' type doll that I'm using for the 'prototype' dress, and more material; the dining room table that sits in the middle of the 'great' room is covered with pattern packages and mail, and folded laundry; and the floor is scattered with leaves that escaped the deck vacuuming by taking refuge inside the house. I'm expecting a knock at the glass sliding doors any day now, from an intervention team from the TV show, 'Hoarders'. But I digress, again ...) Because the air is so lovely, I opened both of the sliding glass doors, not bothering to close the openings with the sliding screens, as they don't slide easily, anyway. I took the small vac, and began by vacuuming the spiral staircase, including beneath the open treads, as they do accumulate their share of cob spider silk web homes. Then, I stopped to hang out some laundry that I'd put in the washer before I had started working in the 'great' room.
Returning to the house, I thought I'd take a break for lunch. I grabbed a glass of iced tea, and a muffin, and proceeded to the loft, to check on my Farmville crops. Whilst sitting at the pc, I heard a sound I could not at first place - it sounded like a very big bee - only to realise that it was not an insect, at all, but rather, a hummingbird - IN THE HOUSE! I have two hummingbird feeders - one hanging from a "decorative" exposed beam on the front of the house, the other on the kitchen side of the house, hanging from the deck railing.
(view of the hummingbird feeder on the front deck )
Hummingbirds are not particularly good at sharing, and generally one aggressive dominant hummingbird will 'take command' of feeders, if the feeders are sited within sight of each other. What I suspect happened is, this young hummingbird began to drink from the feeder on the front of the house, only to be chased away from the feeder by a more aggressive individual - but instead of heading up and away from the house, this tiny bird flew into the house through the open door - and then upward. Trapped inside by the glass front of the 'great' room, now the problem was, how to enable this bird to find his way out, again! The problem for me is, the upper front of the house is not accessible in any practical way - and the problem for the bird was, it's not the nature of the bird to travel 'downward' to escape, when it can see 'outside and freedom' from an upper elevation. Sigh. The little thing was not 'banging' at the glass, as other, less-able-to-hover birds would. But, it was clearly confused by its inability to get outside! The bird rested for a moment on the unfinished ridge rafter. I thought I might be lucky, if I opened the loft windows; perhaps the little thing would find its way out from the 'elevated' position of the loft. I pulled back the loft window curtains, and opened both sashes of the casement window. But, when it left its perch on the ridge rafter, the bird did not move toward the loft. Instead, it returned to the glass front, again trying to figure out how to escape out to the tree beyond the deck. I could see the bird was getting tired - and it took a moment to rest in the corner of the window timber framing.
What I saw next gave me some hope I'd be able to intervene on behalf of the hummingbird. The tiny thing was actually CAUGHT in the cob webs that had accumulated in the corner of the upper left side window! I saw that it was trying to leave the window corner, but unable to escape the hold of the cobwebs! I went out to the side of the garage, and got the aluminum extension ladder. This ladder is only 14' long - not nearly long enough to get to the upper glass of this house - and really, not long enough to rest against the timbers framing the glass - but it was all l had available to work with, so I gave it a go. I pulled the dining room table and chairs back, put down a piece of carpeting to protect the floor from the base of the ladder, and rested the ladder as gently as I could against the glass, centered over the center timber of the glass frame.
(ladder resting against the glass windows)
I hate doing this stuff alone - I was just so certain the ladder would either slip, and I'd come crashing down, or that my weight would cause the glass windows to break. But, I decided to try, anyway. I gingerly climbed up the ladder's treads - and when I was high enough to rest my right hand on the upper horizontal timber to steady myself, I reached with my left hand, and cupped it gently over the tiny bird. I could not actually see the bird, but I could feel him, and used my fingers to delicately pull him into my palm. Now, the trick was descending the ladder using only my right hand for keeping balanced.
I made it! Bird in hand; and both of us uninjured. I went out on the deck, and gently opened my fingers. The bird's wings were covered with silky, sticky webbing! The bird was not struggling in any way, and did not seem unduly alarmed by its situation - so I decided to get the camera, and take a few photos, whilst gently removing the cobwebs from the tiny bird's wings and claws.
(cobweb removed from the hummingbird's left wing)
I was astonished at just how well the cobwebs had bound this tiny bird - and equally astonished that as I removed the web, the bird just rested quietly.
(cobweb, with insect debris, removed from hummingbird's right wing)
Once the wings were cleared of webbing, I noticed that the claws still had some sticky clumps of web, so I proceeded to clear that off, too. I was very careful, as the web held quite tightly, and I was concerned that pulling too much might do injury to the bird. The bird was amazingly patient, so much so that it was not difficult to 'switch' hands, to clear both of the bird's feet.
(bit of cobweb still clinging to the hummingbird's left foot)
During the process of clearing the cobwebs off the hummingbird, I could see just a glimmer of iridescent red feathering at its throat - and a bit of very fluffy down on the bird's ventral sides. I believe this to be a young male ruby throat - unless the female also has red feathering at the throat, less obvious than the red throat of the males.
Now cleaned of all the spider silk, the tiny bird rested a few moments more, giving me the opportunity to take a few more photos.
(getting ready to return to the trees)
Then, quick as a wink, it flew to one of the sweet gum trees that shade the driveway. I managed to get a photo of the bird resting on the sweet gum branch, but before I could adjust the focus for a better second shot, off he went!
I returned to the house - and pulled closed both sliding screens! As I did, a hummingbird darted from the side woods to the front feeder, and took a drink. I wonder if he'd been watching the whole event. And I wonder what will next 'save me' from "hum"drum housework, here at the Elk River Ranch and Raccoon Refuge ...