The last few weeks saw a population explosion of baby birds around our house, and that makes us happy.

Scruffy cardinals peer at their reflection in the kitchen window. A trio of young house finches chase each other from tree to tree. A whole flock of fledgling sparrows scratch in the backyard. A fuzzy wren sits atop the bird feeder and scolds anyone who comes near. One day, no less than five bluebirds perched on the street sign on the corner.

Our favorites, though, are the hummingbirds. Around here, that’s usually the ruby-throated variety.

We first heard the drone of a female buzzing past the deck in late June, joining the bumblebees in needling through the bee balm and trying out a bunch of four o’clocks well before four o’clock.

One day we saw it flitting around the camellia bushes and Susan realized it was collecting spider webs – then zooming up into our maple tree. We knew that meant it was building a thumb-sized nest.

We never saw the nest, but within a few weeks, two smaller hummingbirds appeared, a male and a female. They drank greedily from the feeders and explored their surroundings, one even hovering over the deck for a closer look at us.

We have a feeder in the back and another in the front, where I can see it from what used to be our dining room before it became my remote office and classroom.

Every now and then, the female will come and drink from the feeder, then fly up to a favorite spot in our crape myrtle tree, where she will sit and preen for a while before returning to the feeder.

The male will then appear, sometimes chasing her away, taking his turn at the feeder and then retreating to a different spot in the crape myrtle.

I’ve been trying to take a decent picture of them, but it’s quite difficult, because they’re constantly moving, and it’s hard to keep a moving target in focus. They dive in, they zoom out, they may hover for a second in a blur of wings, then they’re gone as if teleported away.

A hummingbird flapping its wings next to a feeder.

(Photo: Tony W. Cartledge)

It’s also most helpful to catch them in full sunshine in order to catch the iridescent green of their back feathers or the jeweled red neck of the male.

Getting a decent picture requires both patience and a lot of attempts. It took me more than a hundred shots just to get the mediocre ones that accompany this column.

Photographing a hummingbird is not unlike the task currently faced by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, along with other government officials.

Lots of people are frustrated with the CDC because more than once it has changed its guidance on things like mask wearing, social distancing, and indoor gatherings.

Sure, it’s frustrating, but we have to remember that they’re also dealing with a moving target.

The COVID-19 virus won’t stand still. As long as hosts are available that allow it to replicate, it will continue to mutate and evolve.

The virus itself is moving, and it is aided in its dodgy journey by those who don’t get vaccinated, don’t wear masks, and don’t take precautions when gathering. In doing so, they continue to provide the virus an abundance of available hosts.

I don’t say that to be unkind – but the obvious truth is that if a much higher percentage of Americans had gotten the vaccine as quickly as possible, then the virus could have been largely stopped in its tracks, at least in our country where the vaccines are widely available.

Given the opportunity to mutate freely – despite its lack of anything approaching a brain – the sneaky virus has even developed the ability to infect some vaccinated people, though with far less serious effects than for unvaccinated folk.

Yes, it’s aggravating to be told we need to mask up two months after being given the green light to show our faces again. Yes, it’s frustrating that top officials – and others down the line – have changed their guidance multiple times.

But that means they are doing their job, even when large factions of the public refuse to cooperate with them. When you’re dealing with a moving target, you have to move with it.

Patience, my friends. Let’s do what we can not only to cooperate with public health officials, but also to help others understand the difficulty of their job.

It’s hard to hit a moving target.

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