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.

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. 

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

still some hummingbirds around; Cannas; Zephyr Teachout

Photo, by Mark Schaller, shows a hummer feeding at Canna indica. Cannas are mostly sold as showy selections which have the nectar, and much of the grace, bred out of them. The best, in every way, are the old fashioned plants handed on, as tubers, from family or friends (as mine were). Hummers love these beautiful flowers with their tropical-looking leaves. But the tubers must be dug up after the first freeze and stored over the winter.

Hummer numbers dropped here at the end of last week, but started to pick up again on sunday and we still have some around. Yellowjackets are becoming a real problem, not so much for the hummers, which can go to the flowers instead, but me! I had some initial success with homemade yellowjacket traps, made from a plastic water bottle. I cut off the top third, invert it inside the rest of the bottle, with some red plastic and sugar water in the bottom. The inverted top forms a funnel, so the wasps, attracted by the sugar water, enter the narrow part but cannot figure out how to escape. However, after a few days raccoons (or some other nocturnal critter) found the traps on the ground or on the decks, and ran off with them. So now I'm hanging the traps from strings, next to the feeders. Seems to be working for the moment.

I urge you to vote for Zephyr Teachout in the primary: she will literally be a breath of fresh air. Cuomo, like most politicians, is a pawn of big business, and Teachout will go after corruption (for a few years at least).

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Lady Di's chick has fledged!

Lady Di's chick (whom Dominick Gerace, our patient Manorville observer and photographer, dubs Junior) has left the nest! As I expected, he's ended up in the same oak tree that holds the nest, but higher up. Dominick managed to get this photo of the young fellow, locating him by following Lady Di to where he perched. Notice that his beak is still short and stubby, though it will rapidly grow in the next few days, as Lady Di plies him with a nectar-insect slurry. He'll start moving around more and more on his own, and his Mom will encourage him to do so: she's already getting him to go higher in the tree. She's probably impatient to leave on her own southward migration, but first must be sure that Junior is completely independent. 

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Jackpot! Fighting hummers caught in action.

Here's a great new photo by Bob Immoor that captures the characteristic aggressive tail-flaring of 2 fighting hummingbirds. They were squabbling over the yellow flowers of trumpet vine Campsis radicans "Flava" **. It's difficult to photograph one hummer at a flower really well, and 2 in the same frame like this is quite an accomplishment: skill, patience and a bit of luck! I believe the purple blob in the center is an out of focus rosebud salvia blossom.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Today was our last available day this year

The above exquisite photo was taken recently at the sanctuary by Bob Immoor. The hummingbird is feeding at Salvia greggi "Cherry Queen" (**). Notice the golden pollen at the base of the beak.

Our last "open by appointment" session of 2014 was this morning. This afternoon we had a small group of photographers from NYC. We are now closed for the season, though of course old and new friends are welcome to contact me to arrange mutually convenient times to visit, before or after the hummers all leave. Clearly many have already set out on their southward journey to the Gulf Coast and then on to Central America, and numbers have been down for several days now, although we still have at least 3 still around. Everyone has been very cooperative with our new visiting policies, with a few forgivable exceptions.  I thank all my wonderful guests whose visits I have greatly enjoyed: hummingbird enthusiasts are amongst the nicest people around, and I look forward to many more happy seasons in the years to come. I hope now to get back to filming the antics and posing of the remaining birds! Please check out this blog from time to time to see what is going on at the Baiting Hollow Hummingbird Sanctuary!

Saturday, August 30, 2014

NOW CLOSED! Latest Lady DI photo and videos; sanctuary closing for the season: no more slots left

Here's the latest image from Dominick Gerace of the current hummingbird nest in his back yard Manorville. Lady's Di's chick, without competition from a sibling (the second egg in the nest failed to hatch) has grown phenomenally fast, completely fills the lichen-decorated nest, and will soon be fledging. After fledging I expect the chick will remain near the nest for a few days and Lady Di will continue feeding him/her insects and nectar. These will be perilous days for the chick - let's hope there are no cats around.

Dominick has posted a new vid of Lady Di feeding her chick at his Youtube channel. You can see it here.

 Sorry, our aug 31 slot is now full. will re-open in august next year. I expect hummingbirds will still be here for another month, and old and new friends can of course sometimes visit me by private appointment at mutually convenient times.

Friday, August 29, 2014

The End is Nigh

This spectacular image is by Brad Oliphant. It shows an adult male hummingbird perching on the stem of a bog sage flower. Note the full red throat and the forked tail. Bog sage is a 1 star hummingbird plant that also gets a lot of visits from goldfinches, which love the seeds. The hummer could be Fred, the bellicose male who dominated the sanctuary throughout the summer, but it could equally be a migrating adult who arrived after Fred's departure.
Our last day for visiting will be sunday aug 31 (morning only) but we also still have good availability for the am and pm slots on saturday (see to the right of this post for details about how to request an appointment). Of course I will continue to welcome visits from friends old and new, by appointment only, and hummingbirds will be active until late september. However the sanctuary will be officially closed starting sept 1.  

Thursday, August 28, 2014

East Hampton Noise Meeting

Hummer feeding at pink porterweed (Stachytarpheta mutabilis) ***, for sale at LI Hummingbird Plants. Recent photo by Walter Bednarczyk.

Got to the EH Airport noise meeting a bit late (2 hour drive from Stony Brook, room already full to capacity), submitted my name to speak, waited in the overflow annex (with good TV of the proceedings inside), then was admitted inside, and listened to the river of passionate complaints. I was impressed that the entire EH Town Board was carefully and apparently mostly sympathetically listening. At about 8.30 Supervisor Cantwell announced that they were only halfway through the speaker list, and I decided that given the long drive home (after a long working day) I could not stay until 10.30, so I left without speaking. But I will submit written remarks to the board, as I was advised is possible. Thanks to all those involved in this meeting!

Here is roughly what I planned to say:

"Good evening. My name is Paul Adams, I'm from Riverhead, and I'm a biology professor at Stony Brook University. A quarter century ago I was living in Manhattan but decided, for various reasons, to look for the quietest place I could find on Long Island. I was looking for peace, not comfort, practicality or convenience. After a 2 year search I found what I was seeking, at a a price I could (just barely) afford: a small cottage perched on a high bluff overlooking Long Island Sound, surrounded by hundreds of acres of woods and fields and only 2 other summer cottages, 1 mile from the nearest road, 10 miles from the nearest port or harbor, and 20 miles from the nearest airport. But a little over ten years ago the idyll started to fall apart: there were ever increasing numbers of large noisy helicopters and seaplanes flying low overhead or close to shore. In the last couple of years, with the adoption of the "North Shore Route" the helicopters (though not the seaplanes) have mostly moved a bit further out, but are starting to turn inland for their final descent over Mattituck, and because traffic has further increased, the volume of noise is perhaps greater than ever. I implore the Town of East Hampton to get the monster that the airport has become back under control."

Several of the speakers suggested that the existing airport should be closed down and its operation moved to the now privately owned Montauk Airport (which was recently for sale) with suitable controls. A glance at the map shows that if all flights came into Montauk over water, NOBODY would be affected by the noise. This seems to me the obvious solution.

On my evening drive through Southampton, Bridgehampton etc even at 7 pm there was still very heavy traffic creeping west (and this was wednesday!). It's clear that the Hamptons failed to respond to their own success by creating proper road and rail access, which is of course largely why there is so much air traffic (with all its pollution and misery below). On the North Fork there's never anything like this traffic. Surely the Hamptons billionaires could chip in to create rapid European-style rail access to their palaces. If it's not possible on Long Island (so much money and so many people), then it's not possible anywhere in the US.