How The Hen House Turns: A Book Review

How the Hen House Turns
A Book Review

This is a review of “He Saw A Hummingbird” by Norma Lee Browning and Russell Ogg, Midland, Mich. Northwood Institute Press, 1978.

A patient and insightful wife guides her husband through the loss of his ability to see—all but the flash of color from the hummingbirds that come to their feeders.

The wife’s personal story, told in this book, is a guide and an inspiration for us all, as is his recovery from despair and his persistence and attention to detail that enable him to produce artistic photographs of the tiny birds he loves.

The couple’s two feeders were in very different environments, thus generating different behaviors in the birds. One feeder hung suspended mid-lawn near Russell Ogg’s photographic equipment, designed by trial and error, complete with a motion detector that triggered the camera. His wife’s window feeder was closer to the house with plenty of perching opportunities in the twigs of a pyracantha bush and redwood planter.

There, instead of simply hovering and feeding, the birds were seen “…playing, jousting, frolicking, courting, dancing, perching, and romancing…”. Other behaviors noted were unusual singing and perching, refusal to bathe, and a fascinating upside down, beak to beak courtship behavior.

The story gives us more than one example to follow. Ogg’s pictures were shown over his long objections and doubts, a lesson in seeing and valuing what we do realistically. This, with the engaging description of hummingbird behavior and the evolution of Ogg’s self-image, moved me to recommend this book.