One hummingbird is incredible. Two are phenomenal. A ranch full of whirring, darting, Peter Pan-like wonders is beyond compare.
At Swede Hanson's place out on Highway 115, the first notice is a soft intermittent whistle through an open truck window as it travels the long driveway. Then I see them among the pine and juniper trees, hovering and moving about as only hummingbirds do.
This place had been called the hummingbird capital of the world, but I've heard boasts before.
The sights and sounds erase my doubt.
We take seats in Hanson's living room. There are three hummingbird feeders outside the large window, and they are crowded with activity.
Hanson, a spry 85, says viewing the birds is best done during the morning hours, or at dusk, when the temperatures are lower. He tells me respectfully to stop moving or I'll scare his skittish friends away.
The view is mesmerizing.
The birds have been coming here, "ever since I've been here," says Hanson. He thinks the flowers attracted them, and the wilderness. The feeders came later. He puts them out on April 20, and he'll see his first bird on the next day, every year. He has seven feeders altogether, and can go through 68 quarts of his sugar water "bird juice" in a week.
Originally from Minneapolis, Swede's been in Colorado Springs for 65 years, the last 14 as owner of this ranch. It was part of a larger 22,000 acres he took care of for a billionaire. Swede bought it, a shrewd business deal.
A multicolored hummingbird takes a sip from the feeder. Swede tells me he's from a California variety, and they're not very nice. They try to chase away the other birds.
One time, when an owl considered residence here, it scared away most of Swede's birds, but the owl left and the hummingbirds returned.
I hang on his words. There are more hummingbirds outside Hanson's window than I've seen in my entire life. Owls are cool, too, but I'm glad the little guys came back.
-- by Malcolm Allyn
photo by Bruce Elliott