While walking my woods path in late summer, I was surprised to see a small hummingbird hovering over a wildflower patch. There are hummingbirds in the area but they don’t visit very often. It was so small that I thought it must be the smallest hummingbird in the world. I did a quick personal review of my last 24 hours to check if I fell down a rabbit hole or was being affected by hallucinogens. No, it was the smallest hummingbird I have ever seen.

When I mentioned this to my sister, who is not an ornithologist or entomologist or any kind of ologist really, she casually said that it must have been a hummingbird moth.

A “hummingbird moth”: right. I’ve been on Earth a long while and have heard of no such thing, but, to be fair, there are trillions of things on the planet and some simply slip through the cracks.

A guy can’t instantly believe anything his sister tells him. It doesn’t matter how old you are, you can’t believe everything that comes from a sibling with a straight face. There is the chance she or he is trying to get back at you for something said in the ninth grade. Also, you have to be open to the possibility that they are merely yanking your chain simply because it is so much fun. Healthy skepticism is the result of past tomfoolery and leg-pulling. These statements must be researched.

It’s odd, but I know people who, like me, will not believe what their sister or brother tells them until they complete a thorough fact-check. Yet when certain politicians make outlandish statements, they are instant believers. It’s a wonder they don’t trip over the hook, line and sinker. We would all do well to treat our elected officials like true brothers and scrupulously check everything they say.

With as much humility as it takes to give my sister credit, she is right. What I saw, corroborated by third parties and the web, was a hummingbird clearwing, yes, otherwise known as a hummingbird moth or Hemaris thysbe for you scientific types. Now that I have seen one, they are easy to identify: if it looks like a moth but acts like a hummingbird, it’s a hummingbird moth.

This was not unlike my encounter with a much larger animal when I first drove the Alcan Highway up to Alaska. Weary from seven days on the road, I saw a very peculiar horse standing in a patch of bushes. I wondered if it might be a mule but it was much too big and would make a remarkably ugly mule indeed. I finally said aloud to myself, “That is the weirdest looking horse I’ve ever seen in my life.” Only later did I realize I had seen a moose for the first time.

No, it was a cow moose; without antlers. Why, of course, big moose antlers would have been a dead giveaway but this one had no antlers, looked nothing like Bullwinkle and conceivably could have been a very big and very sorry horse. Sheesh, you can hardly tell a story anymore without people jumping on every aspect of what you say.

In my defense, I have to say that the first time I saw a tarantula walking across a road in Southern California I knew exactly what it was. Likewise with spotting a band of Hare Krishnas at an airport in the 1970s and Buckminster Fuller in an elevator.

Okay, I have gotten halfway into some stranger’s car in a parking lot before realizing it was not my car. You’ve done that … you haven’t? Well you must be pretty young then. My wife and I managed to board a plane for Portland before we were made aware by way of the boarding announcement that we were headed for Oregon and not Maine. I am only pointing this out because we’re not as bad as the pilots who, you may occasionally read in the news, landed at the wrong airport.

Anyway, I just wanted to say that the hummingbird moths are harmless and great pollinators.

Alright, I’m off for another walk along my woods path, where I am likely to mistakenly identify toxic jack-o’-lantern mushrooms for chanterelles or some hallucinogenic fungus for an edible one. And if I come back claiming to have seen a yeti in my back woods who looks a lot like Henry Kissinger, this time I’ll have an excuse.