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 in august and ONLY by appointment, at specific "slot" times which are 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. Private groups (eg photographers, birders, gardeners) can request their own dedicated session.

Saturday, October 11, 2014


I guess all of us on Long Island are now in the same boat: hummerless! (at least until april). I returned to the sanctuary yesterday afternoon and spent several hours outside, but did not see any hummingbirds. Today has of course been wet but despite frequent glances at the flowers on the deck I've seen no action.
So I will have to make do with the videos I stockpiled over the summer. Here's one, in 4X slo-mo, with the bird feeding at rosebud salvia "Bethelli", which has now reached the peak of its height and bloom in the garden.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Salvia "Waverley"

Over the next weeks I'll be showing various sanctuary recent videos of hummingbirds feeding at various flowers. First, here are some showing the excellent hummer plants Salvia "Waverley". This has small white blossoms but nevertheless it provides much nectar. It grows as a perennial bush in California, but here on Long Island it's strictly annual - but nevertheless well worth it for the prolific late-season flowers. Another very similar salvia is the delightfully named "Phyllis's Fancy", which grows even taller.

Monday, October 6, 2014

All Gone!

When I awoke on sunday there was a very strong west wind, it was very cold but bright and sunny, and I had a foreboding that this would be the first hummerless day of the 2014 season. I was busy most of the day, so my failure to see a hummingbird could have just been chance, but when it was warm enough in the midafternoon to just sit outside and watch, I also failed to see a hummingbird. So I fear that indeed yesterday might have indeed been the last day. I will not know for sure because I'll be away much of the week, but I suspect that now the best I can hope for is perhaps the occasional brief sojourn of a straggler. But I'm leaving a few feeders up just in case, and of course there are more good hummer flowers in bloom now than any time so far this year. Here are a couple of videos I took on friday afternoon. Top: 2X slo-mo, bottom 4X slo-mo, both show feeding at pink porterweed.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Update from the sanctuary: still around!

After a busy week I got back to the sanctuary friday afternoon. The weather was beautiful but I was disappointed to see that most of my feeders were still rather full, after 5 nights away. However, I settled down in a sunny spot (it was chilly; has been since I got back in may!) in front of a nice patch of flowers (porterweed, cape honeysuckle, autumn sage and pineapple sage (only now coming to into bloom) and others. I needed to relax and was not really expecting to see hummers - but one came after about a half hour, and I saw him several times in the course of the afternoon, mostly viting various clumps of flower. And twice I saw a fight with a second hummer! So they are still around and I checked all the feeders (many less than I had up in the peak weeks) and cleaned and refilled some.

Then this morning, despite intermittent rain and almost steady fine drizzle, I saw one of them again, and filmed the above video. He starts by feeding on Cape Honeysuckle (orange-red flowers - technically Tecomaria capensis,  a tropical from South Africa, which also attracts hummingbirds at our winter place in the Bahamas). Then he switches to pink porterweed (Stachytarpheta mutabilis), another tropical hummer magnet. At the start of the video you can see the pink flowers of rosebud sage (Salvia involucrata "Bethelli) and towards the end you can see on the left Golden Shrimp Plant (Pachystachys lutea), pineapple sage (S. elegans) and morning glory "Heavenly Blue", which is not a hummer plant.

Tomorrow the wind will be from the west, but if it should edge towards the north, I might lose my last hummers of the season.

Finally here is some video from yesterday (oct 3). Not in focus, I will upload better soon.

Monday, September 29, 2014

still around! how much longer though? ; video

Here's a slo-mo video from earlier in the season. The hummer is feeding at rosebud salvia, but gets interrupted a couple of times by bees.

We still have at least a couple of hummingbirds around at the sanctuary, though activity is definitely tapering off, and I've greatly reduced the number of feeders. It will be interesting to see how much longer they stick around. However, it will be impossible to pin it down to an exact date, first because I'm spending less and less time at the sanctuary, and second because one can never be sure there are no longer infrequent visits. Often one can have a few days of no action, then they reappear for a couple of days (perhaps as laggards arrive from further north, and then scurry further south after a quick rest). Other reports indicate that there are still many sightings in the north of the country, though numbers are diminishing, and numbers on the Gulf Coast are climbing.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

drop of blood; still bickering in the rain and wind

Juvenile males often show one or 2 tiny scarlet throat feathers starting to break through the normal silver gray. This often looks like a drop of blood, viewed from the right angle in good light.  Here's an example in a recent photo taken by Dominick Gerace at a feeder at his yard in Manorville. However he thinks that this guy is not "Junior", who recently left the nest he had been monitoring, but another youngster.

Here at the sanctuary I ventured out today in the rain and wind, and saw 2 hummers fighting despite the late season and difficult conditions. I expect to see hummingbirds well into early october, though in decreasing numbers. Others are also continuing to see activity - check out the recent photos at Friends of the Sanctuary.
To end up with here's a neat older sanctuary photo by Tom Killip that shows a juvie with 4 "drops of blood".

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Still quite active at the sanctuary; Shep Jones

Although we are getting near the end of the hummingbird season on Long Island, over the last few days there continues to be good activity at the sanctuary. Mike Chachkes swung by this morning and nabbed these nice images. The top one shows a hummer feeding at Agastache cana, and the next one at  Rosebud Salvia. There are probably more hummingbird flowers in bloom at the sanctuary than so far this year, and it will be sad when the hummers have all gone south despite the banquet laid before them.  But we are having chilly nights, and once frost arrives Long Island will no longer be a hospitable place for these tropical jewels.

I hear that hummers are still active at many other locations on Long Island. Get out and enjoy the spectacle (and the beautiful weather) while they are still around.Yesterday between my morning and afternoon lectures at the University, I went for a walk at one of my favorite locations on Long Island, Avalon Preserve in Head of the Harbor. The wind was tossing the tops of the huge and ancient trees, and for once there was almost no noise from "landscaping" teams working on the surrounding fancy houses (for me they destroy the sonic landscape).  I particularly love Shep Jones Road, a dirt road which runs right through the Preserve. There are no powerlines or houses, there are many magnificent oaks, and almost no traffic - fortunately the road is quite bad where it joins Harbour Road, discouraging its use as a short cut. I hope it stays bad! If you have never walked Shep Jones I urge you to do so - just beautiful! In the north west wildflower field there is an amazing old red cedar tree - the most magnificent I've ever seen, except for one at Prestwould, at Virginia's southern border.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Visit to Long Island Hummingbird Plants, in Medford

I just got back from a visit to Bill Koller's place in Medford, where he runs Long Island Hummingbird Plants. His front yard garden is now in full splendor, full of hummingbird favorites - and hummingbirds. It's quite amazing to come off the LIE and less than 5 minutes later to be surrounded by zooming hummers and their favorite plants, some of which are ENORMOUS! His Mina lobata is a waterfull of blossom twelve feet high, there are porterweeds, salvias and other goodies galore, and his "Phyllis's Fancy" salvia (a close kin of "Waverley") has grown in 3 months from a 2 inch pot to a gigantic woody bush, like in California. And hummers busy everywhere at these flowers, chasing each other, and taking time outs (often together) on various perches. There's still time to pick up some special plants, have a couple of weeks of action in your yard, then overwinter them inside (or in many cases in the ground) ready for early may when they will be back. If you want to buy plants please make an appointment with Bill, but you can stop by any time and admire the plants and action from the kerb (please, do not venture beyond the public road unless you have an appointment to buy plants). He's located at the very end of a quiet cul de sac (Classic Court) with plenty of space to park and admire at his front yard from the road. Take the LIE to the 112 interaction, go south on 112 past the railroad bridge, turn left (east) on Jamaica and after several stop signs turn right on Paple then immeidiately left into Classic Court. It's a good example of what almost anyone on Long Island can achieve with a bit of effort.

I forgot to take my camera so here's a couple of recent shots from the sanctuary, by Bob Immoor. The first (see top) shows a hummer at Salvia involucrata (Rosebud Salvia) "Bethellii", and the second shows my Gloriosa rothchildseana in bloom (but this year no hummer visits). Lot of activity at the sanctuary yesterday and today, I shot a lot of video but it will be a while before I can sort through it and upload to Youtube. I'll probably wait until all the hummers are gone, which will happen soon

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

hummingbirds active from east to west; hummingbird article draft

Here at the sanctuary there's a lot of hummer activity - I'm sitting in the front cabin grading students' exam papers, and I can hear an almost continuous buzzing from the open window. And I just got a report of good activity in the far west of the Island, in Valley Stream, not far from JFK. Here are a couple of recent videos in Alice Paloma's back yard there (courtesy of Dave Paloma). Alice get visits from males and females throughout the summer, which means they are breeding nearby, possibly in Valley Stream State Park.


video  the flower on the left of the feeder is Agastache

I've been asked to write a short (800 word) article for the Pine Barrens Society Newsletter. Here is a draft - I would appreciate any feedback (paul.adams&

Hummingbirds On Long Island

Hummingbirds are a remarkable and very large family of exclusively New World birds, with about 330 different species. They vary in size from the minuscule bee hummingbird of Cuba, the world's smallest bird,  to the Andean giant hummingbird, the size of a cardinal. They "hum" because their wings move very rapidly (typically around 50 beats per second) in a figure 8 pattern, generating lift on both upstroke and down stroke, like hovering insects. This motion is enabled by pivoting the wing at the shoulder joint, as well as other adaptations to the heart, metabolism, chest muscles and feet.  Hovering allows competition with insects for the sugar provided by flower nectar. The unique flight machinery also confers amazing agility and acceleration (up to 10G!).  They often have spectacular colors, generated by tiny prisms in the feathers. 

Only one species breeds in the Northeast US , the ruby-throated hummingbird. It succeeds here because it has evolved a suite of adaptations allowing nonstop crossing of the Gulf of Mexico, avoiding competition with the many western species. The name comes from the iridescent red throat patch (or "gorget") of the adult male, made of about 100 tiny jewel-like feathers. Adult males also have a forked tail, while in females and juveniles the tail-tip is straight and white.  Hatch-year males can already have a few of these rubies. Although the gorget usually appears almost black from the side, in full frontal view and bright light it flashes brilliantly, and entices the females to mate. The suitor performs a "pendulum" dance, repeatedly diving rapidly from a great height down to the perched female, displaying his gorget, then swinging rapidly back up again. He may then switch to a "shuttle display", moving rapidly back and forth in a short horizontal trajectory in front of her. Simplified dances are also sometimes used as aggressive tactics.

Hummingbirds are territorial and pugnacious. Breeding males establish territories of an acre or more, which they defend against all other. They spend their day patrolling this territory and chasing out all but receptive females (which after seduction get chased out too). Breeding females establish smaller nesting territories. But hummingbirds establish small territories even during short stopovers on their migrations, spending hours chasing each other, while adding fat -  a  paper clip weight on a 1 cent body. Flower nectar supplies the necessary energy, but hummers quickly learn to use feeders supplying plain sugar water (20/80 ratio).

While rubythroats remain abundant in the northeast, and throughout most of their summer range east of the Mississipi all the way from Texas to southern Canada, they are no longer common on densely-built Long Island. Some excellent naturalists, such as the late great Paul Stoutenberg, have written that they are now only seen migrating, but they do breed successfully in wooded pockets almost everywhere on the Island, and even in Manhattan. Their small lichen-camouflaged nests can sometimes be spotted by following females. If you see a hummingbird in june, you can be sure it is a breeding resident. But you are more likely to see hummers in early may, or especially in august and september. Adult males arrive first, in late april, and females a week later. Females do all the nest building, incubation and chick care, and sometimes all 3 at once, in separate nests. Nestlings eat mostly insects, for protein, and during nesting  (late may to early august) female visits to flowers and feeders are infrequent. The last task of the season is to lay down fat for the southward migration, and this, combined with doubling of numbers, and the arrival of birds from further north, leads to more visibility.

Good native Long Island plants for hummers include columbine, jewelweed and cardinal flower.  However, nectar-rich exotic flowers in your backyard will increase chances of seeing these amazing birds, though many are not reliably hardy. Salvias such as "black and blue" (S. guaranitica) are easy to grow and deer resistant; see for other recommendations.  Add a few feeders with sugar-water, but keep  clean, fresh and insect-free. 

Although attracting hummingbirds  is more work on Long Island than it would be upstate or in New England, seeing them zoom around  your yard is all the more rewarding, and possible in many more locations than one might suppose. Locations near preserved woodland are best, but people get regular visits well into Nassau County, and you can reliably see hummers in the Brooklyn Botanical Garden and Alley Pond Park (Queens), at wild stands of cardinal flower. Further east, Bayard Cutting Arboretum, Wertheim Wildlife Refuge, Mashomack (Shelter Island), Avalon (Stony Brook) and almost any wooded area (eg. Manorville) are good. But perhaps the most reliable place to see hummingbirds is the small private sanctuary I maintain in Baiting Hollow, where I allow visitation at specific announced times (see in the month of august. 

Friday, September 12, 2014

Update on Lady Di and Junior

Though "Junior" fledged several days ago, he and Lady Di are still spending a lot of time together. Dominick writes: "Lady Di is on the right. She is not feeding Junior as far as I can tell. They will sit with each other on the same branch from time to time. The only proof I have [that they are indeed Lady Di and Junior] is that they spend a lot of time in the nest tree. She chases him off the feeders a lot. He seems to sit at the feeders for more time than is necessary." [added by me]. I think the observation that they are still hanging out together in the nest tree is conclusive.

You can see that Junior's bill is now as long as Mom's. 

Here at the sanctuary we still have plenty of hummers -  more than earlier this month. I'll post some video soon.