Don Torino’s Life in the Meadowlands: A Conversation With a Hummingbird

By now anyone that has read my column over the years or for that matter wanders the woods and meadows with me knows I like to talk to wildlife.

I have had in-depth and detailed conversations with everything from bears to bumble bees and beavers to butterflies. These days It seems that it has just become an automatic response that I immediately greet the creatures I meet along the way on my daily adventures from my backyard garden to the Meadowlands.


Maybe it’s just that I am getting older that I don’t really care who hears me or worry about the strange looks I get from folks that don’t know the pleasure of conversing with nature’s creatures. Some of the best conversations I have had have been with a Ground Hog in my backyard named Chucky that was well versed on any topic I chose to speak about. He was also an excellent listener and agreed with me just about all the time, especially if I happened to have a nice big carrot in my hand at the time.


I also love to stop and talk with a very large Draft horse named “Smalls” on my way to our Butterfly Garden at the Bergen Equestrian Center. No matter what is going on that day Smalls always has the time to come over to the fence and reach over for a morning hello, a scratch on the nose and a nod of his head as he listens to my plans for the day ahead. A perfect way to start the day in my book.

I believe if more people took the time to talk with the wildlife and all animals for that matter it may limit our visits to the psychologist’s couch .. although there are people that think talking to animals should make our search for medical care more frequent. But obviously they never have spoken to a Red-tailed Hawk or a Monarch Butterfly .

Last Thursday I had a very important and in-depth talk with a Ruby-throated Hummingbird. I didn’t plan the chat but as life has it I had a tough morning. On my way to our Butterfly Garden I was involved in a four-car accident. No one was seriously hurt but I did have to help someone get out of a badly smashed car. Not the way I wanted to start my day.

Fortunately, myself and my truck were pretty lucky and not much worse for wear. Sitting along the roadside after all was said and done I didn’t know whether to just go home or continue on to my original destination and get some work done at the garden. Of course I chose the most therapeutic place to visit I could think of, a social call with  Mother Nature.

Walking into the garden I was immediately greeted by a beautiful, male Ruby-throated Hummingbird prancing around on the honeysuckle. He didn’t seem frightened at all but rather more curious.

Without thinking I just blurted out, “Good Morning sir, how are you today?”  The hummer still didn’t flinch and just hovered at eye level just a few feet away, obviously to see if I had anything more important to say. I didn’t think he would care much about human stuff like cars, insurance  or tough days. After all this tiny little guy was headed south, a journey much more arduous and dangerous than even a New Jersey highway.

I continued our conversation and asked him how he was and mentioned that I much appreciated him visiting our butterfly garden this morning and hoped very much that he had enough to eat to continue his travels. I wished him Godspeed and a safe journey ahead. The Hummer darted quickly around my head, hovered up, down and sideways, looked at me again, and went right back to sipping nectar from our flowers as quickly as it could.

As I slowly sat back in the garden chair and observed this surreal magical bird drift from flower to flower it made the events of the day seem much less important. I knew I would soon have to face the trials and tribulations of daily life as soon as I left the garden, but for this special moment in time none of that mattered much.

Being in nature helps us realize that there is something bigger than ourselves, that things that have existed since time began continue on with not much regard for our very human made frailties. Coming to that realization  helps all of us to better understand who we truly are and how we fit into the natural world, just like the little hummer that took a few minutes of his busy day to at least pretend to give a listen to what I had to say.

Stopping once in a while to take in nature and say a simple hello or good morning to the creatures we share our Earth with can help better connect us to nature and reminds us we are not alone in our struggle to survive. And besides, it  just might be the perfect way to start a new day, just by recognizing the life that thrives and fights to survive day to day just as we do.

5 thoughts on “Don Torino’s Life in the Meadowlands: A Conversation With a Hummingbird

  1. Regina Geoghan

    Beautifully written as usual with a lovely message to share. So glad that you and none of the others involved were seriously injured. I thought that I was the only one who talked to the critters that I see – especially the butterflies.

  2. Joe Koscielny

    Another great article and reminder to stop and appreciate nature. Glad there were no serious injuries in the accident and that you and the truck are OK.


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