BASICS: Long Island gets hummingbirds throughout the summer, but not many. The Baiting Hollow Hummingbird Sanctuary and Garden may be the best place on the island to see them.
However we are ONLY open certain dates/times, typically in august only, and ONLY by appointment, at specific "slot" times posted at this blog.

You need a printed, dated SIGNED WAIVER, which will be sent to you to confirm your appointment, along with directions and instructions. We are always closed 12.30-3. You visit AT YOUR OWN RISK - there are steep narrow uneven paths and dilapidated chairs and structures, and parking is limited: carpool if possible. Be careful not to trespass on neighbors, as indicated by ropes and signs. Hand-held cameras only please, except by previous arrangement. There is no admission charge BUT YOU MUST BRING a signed dated liability waiver form. Dated waiver forms are provided only by request, in conjunction with your appointment approval, instructions and directions. Private groups (eg photographers, birders, gardeners) can request their own dedicated session.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

magnicent hummingbirds

All hummingbirds are magnificent but only one is Magnificent.  We are spending Thanksgiving in Arizona and I just filmed a Magnificent (the larger one) sharing a feeder with a couple of Anna's/Costa's.

Monday, November 23, 2015

LaLa is still here

LaLa, the rufous hummingbird visiting the Baiting Hollow sanctuary, was still around this weekend. Here's a recent photo by S.S. Mitra, an expert birder who confirms it's almost certainly a rufous.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

More La-La vids

Both these clips are 4X slo-mo versions of my earlier La-La vids

More Video of LaLa, the rufous in Bating Hollow; comparison with Neutrino, a late rubythroat

Here LaLa, the rufous hummingbird currently at the Baiting Hollow Hummingbird Sanctuary, is visiting the little white flowers of Salvia "Waverly". The next video shows Neutrino, a late (october 5) ruby-throat at the sanctuary, for comparison - no red on the sides.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Rufous in Baiting Hollow - another clip

I'm calling her LaLa - since she hails from LaLa Land. More vids to follow soon.

Rufous Hummingbird in Baiting Hollow! Video!

12.45. Sunny and cold. I'm in Baiting Hollow in the back cabin. I was just on the phone with Claire (both of us are doing well, though under doctors' orders), having finished lunching by the woodstove on delicious Morroccan lentil soup she made, when I glanced outside and saw, quite unmistakably, a hummingbird hovering persistently at a rosebud salvia flower. It was about 50 feet away so I could not see whether it was a ruby-throat or a rufous. I quickly whipped up some nectar and put up a couple of feeders near where she was. I had taken all my feeders down back in october.
I'll try to get some video, after my nap! It's only 44 degrees outside.


I spent an hour outside in the cold and saw the hummer 3 more times. I also managed to get some video which I will post soon. It's clearly a rufous hummingbird! (Selasphorus rufus).

PS - I posted one clip. I will post more tomorrow.

From Wikipedia:
"This is the western hummingbird most likely to stray into eastern North America. In the United States, a trend is increasing for them to migrate southeast to winter in warmer climates such asFlorida or on the Gulf Coast, rather than in Mexico. They are known to land in the Turks and Caicos Islands. This trend is the result of increased survival with the provision of artificial feeders in gardens. In the past, individuals that migrated eastward toward Canada and the northern USA in error would usually die, but now they often survive as they seem to spend more time in the warm Gulf Coast and Florida. Provided sufficient food and shelter is available, they are surprisingly hardy, able to tolerate temperatures down to −20 °C (−4 °F), so they can be seen in late fall in places such as the Upper Midwest, Great Lakes, and upper New England. As winter comes, birds in these areas normally head to the warmer Gulf Coast and Florida."

Monday, October 26, 2015

The Golden Gate foghorns

I first came to the US in 1978, visiting Ithaca, San Fran and Galveston for job seminars (I'm an academic). The best thing I remember about the whole trip was the Golden Gate foghorns. I sat for an hour under the bridge enveloped physically and spiritually by these majestic noises. To me it was like a great symphony - Bruckner (rather appropriately) comes to mind, or perhaps Gabrieli (an antiphony). Listening to this video literally brings tears to my eyes. Is it still just the same? I have the impression the other vids on Youtube that's it's less rich and complex now. All 3 universities offered me jobs. I ended up in Galveston for 4 years and then Long Island. I suppose our lives would have been totally different. Perhaps I would have tired of this antiphony but I think not. Of course this video does not capture the physicality and bodily penetration of the real thing, one of the wonders of the world.
I've been in Stony Brook hospital for 3 days; no sign of real organic disease other than low blood sodium; no official diagnosis but unofficially seems like psychogenic polydipsia perhaps brought on by worry about the ongoing hummingbird lawsuit.
UPDATE: no real resolution of the underlying problems but nothing life-threatening. But now my wife is in hospital with multiple pulmonary embolisms.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Breaking News: The Surprising Evolution of Hummingbirds

It's long been known that hummingbirds evolved only in the New World, and share an immediate ancestor with swifts and nightjars. But where, when and how did this ancestor appear? A comprehensive genetic study of avian evolution last year in  the premier science journal "Nature" (by Jarvis et al) concluded that hummingbirds share an immediate ancestor with cuckoos. Note that I do not say "branched from cuckoos" because this ancestor was neither cuckoo not hummingbird.

However,  in today's "Nature" an even more detailed study appears (by Prum et al), which changes things dramatically. Here is a comparison of the 2 evolutionary trees, Prum on the left and Jarvis on the right.

Amazingly, according to the new study, the hummingbird group branched off from all other extant bird groups right from the start! Thus they appear on their own at the top of the Prum tree. The other group of birds gave rise to all other living bird species!

However, the Prum and Jarvis trees differ greatly. Which is right? Prum et al argue that the earliest roots of the tree are tangled (see the way some of the red and blue lines cross each other) and under these conditions one needs a lot of data (genomes of a lot of current species) to correctly untangle the longest twistiest roots without breakage (a problem every gardener knows well).

The reason for this appears to be that almost all primitive bird groups died out at the K-T transition, the massive meteor event,  65 million years ago,  that wiped out the dinosaurs, and also triggered massive diversification of primitive mammals (an event without which you would not be reading this).
The world recovered quite rapidly (on a geological time scale) from this catastrophe, and the few remaining bird groups then underwent a rapid explosion of diversification. Was the fact that a few protomammals and protobirds survived while dinosaurs did not, mere chance, part of God's plan, or because these groups could more quickly adapt to the new conditions? More to follow.......

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Neutrino has left; salvias bloom on

I got back to the sanctuary on saturday morning, and was disappointed, though not surprised, to find that Neutrino, my last hummingbird of 2015 has left. No hummer activity at all over the last 3 days. Lots of salvias in bloom, but no customers. Here is a video I shot to show the rosebud salvias, viewed from my favorite corner of the front deck. You can also glimpse red maples turning scarlet on the opposite hillside. I was fllming into the glare of the low sun, which accounts for the splotches of light 9and probbly my lens needs cleaning)  Sorry about the 'background" noise (leaf-blowers and a very noisy hedge trimmer) coming up from the valley below. "Landscapers" were hard at work all day, from 10 am to 6.15 pm (after sunset) making sure no leaves from the surrounding forest were left on my neighbor's small lot. Tomorrow will bring new leaves, and perhaps more "landscaping", but I will not be here. A sisyphean, pointless and cacophonous routine, almost all year round. It's at times like this when I dream of England, where no-one would be rude enough to use a leaf-blower. But there are no hummingbirds either there.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Report from the Sanctuary: Neutrino in residence and up close!

After over a week of bad weather and slightly better work, I returned to the sanctuary expecting not to see any more hummingbirds. Almost all the feeders were empty and many had blown down, but quickly I saw this fine fellow (I'll call him Neutrino in honor of today's Physics Laureates) visiting the only full feeder that had not become blocked by pollen. Be sure to view the video at 1040P resolution!

Judging from the body shape think it's a young male, though there's no hint of red on the throat. Many of the flowers are in great shape, but there was clearly a lot of wind, with debris everywhere, and many of the feeders down. After a rather difficult week it's a delight to be here, I instantly feel happier, healthier and more relaxed, though half an hour of my neighbors' "landscaping" with very noisy leaf-blowers did dent the relaxation. But back to work tomorrow!