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.

Friday, August 28, 2015

blood drops; still some availability sat, sun , mon

click this photo by Bert Spitz

Young male hummers (the adult males have all left) sometimes have a small cluster of tiny ruby feathers on their throat - the future gorget. In the right light it flashes like a bright red stoplight - a fragment of the future gorget. Here's a recent photo of this drop of blood by Mark Schaller:

And here's an older video of Fred's full gorget -note how it looks black from the side, but flashes brilliantly when he turns towards the camera.

There's still some availability saturday, sunday and monday (our LAST DAY THIS YEAR)

Other Types of Hummingbird, in the Eastern US; Closing is Nigh, but still availability sat-mon.

Recent photo by Mark Schaller. Rosebud sage (Salvia involucrata)

There are around 340 species of hummingbird in the Americas (a species is a variety that does not normally interbreed with other varieties). They are found from Alaska to Tierra del Fuego, but only the ruby throat breeds in the eastern US (basically because this is the only species that has evolved the trick of crossing the Gulf of Access). However several of the US's western species can be seen rarely but regularly in the eastern US (but do not breed there). These are "vagrants", and the commonest vagrant species is the Rufous. In the winter of 2012/13 James Conforti hosted a rufous right here on Long Island, in Mount Sinai; here is one of my blog posts about this hardy soul, who we called Nemo, because he arrived during that winter storm. Rufous hummingbirds breed in the north-western US, up into Alaska, and migrate to Central America for the winter (mostly the Mexican state of Guerrero), but storms can bring them as far as the east coast (mostly in the South). Here is a map showing recent sightings of vagrant Rufous. Notice there's even a report in Nova Scotia! The reports include some cases where the observer could not decide between a Rufous and the very similar Allen's.
We will be closing for the season after monday aug 31, though of course personal friends are always welcome to visit (with notice and arrangement). There are still some openings available aug 29-31.
Here's a nice butterfly (american painted lady; Vanessa virginiensis, on Zinnia, shot by Bob Immoor:

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Porpoises visit the hummingbird sanctuary - without a waiver! More slots posted thur pm and fri am

A group of visitors on sunday afternoon switched their attention from hummers to porpoises: we had a great view of a large pod of them frolicking in the Sound in front of us, about 1000 feet offshore. There must have been at least 50, slowly moving west. I shot video:

The first vid is in regular time (and thus has a sound track) and the other in 2X slo-mo

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Ruby-throat Migration; Wall Street Mafia and Hummer Lifespan

Take-off. Yesterday's photo by Marvin Shepherd

Ruby-throat migration is in full swing and yesterday morning's north wind undoubtedly triggered a drop in numbers at the sanctuary, partly recouped later in the day by new arrivals from further north. The adult males (including Fred) have already left (though there's always the possibility of a new arrival from much further north, because once the females are no longer receptive to his considerable charms there's no point in sticking around. The male plays no part in rearing chicks. The earlier he arrives on his wintering grounds (see blue on the map), the better the new territory he can establish there. The wintering grounds extend from southern Mexico, down to Costa Rica (where I've personally seen ruby-throats wintering). Once the chicks are independent (a few days after leaving the nest), the adult females will follow, and then the juveniles in order of fledging. However, each must first spend a few days fattening up to prepare for the arduous journey ahead. This makes the birds come frequently to the flowers and feeders, which is why august and september sees the most activity at the sanctuary, and of course in your own back-yard.
I too must fatten up (financially) prior to my own southward migration (in late december) and indeed my first "fall semester" lecture at the University is tomorrow. Visitors to the sanctuary (confirmed reservation required) will be greeted by members of our wonderful band of volunteers. I'll write more aboutthe fascinating migration process in my next post, but now I must review my lecture notes in preparation for tomorrow's class!
Ww are now nearing the end of our august visiting period: we will be closed after aug 31, but I hope, all being well, that we will open most days until then: keep an eye on the blog for available slots!

When the judge asked Willie Sutton why he robbed banks, he famously answered, "because that's where the money is". But now it's the banks and hedge funds that rob us: median household wealth declined by $5K from 2001 to 2011 (see here) but the banks etc got bailed out and are now doing better than ever. Most financial profits are reaped by a variety of legal scams, and some not so legal. The dividing line is fuzzy, and I suspect that the closer you are to the borderline, the more money can be made (like sailing close to the wind). What's puzzling is why in a democracy the financial/legal system is rigged. The best explanation seems to be that we are not really a democracy, but a plutocracy, as we always were, except for a brief period after the great depression. This is why I refer to the Wall Street Mafia, which shades imperceptibly into the top echelons of big business. In the end it boils down to the fact that in a stable economy the only way to make money is to take it from other, weaker, people. This is not true in a growing economy, but as we are beginning to realize unlimited growth isn't possible, or desireable.
The ruby-throat population is rather stable (with minor year-to-year fluctuations). Since each bird produces around 1 additional bird on average per year, it must be the case that half the population dies each year, giving an average lifespan of 1 year (I'm using a simplified statistical model). However some skilled birds (all females) make it to at least 11 years. I suspect that the main cause of death is the perilous migration - especially crossing the Gulf of Mexico. We come, via the Wall Street Mafia, full circle.

                                                                       Angelo Mozillo

                                                      Lloyd Blankfein, doing God's work

Friday, August 21, 2015

Rainy morning but hummers active

Will post further updates soon, but those with reservations will find it dry under the front porch and hummers quite active. You will probably not get another opportunity this year.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Rain or Shine; Cherry Alert; Lawsuit

This fellow is probably a young male, even though there's not yet even a hint of red on the throat. There are black dots there, and his general appearance is masculine: short and squat not long and elegant. Very recent photo by Michelle Neacy.

Our policy for confirmed visits is strictly "rain or shine", though if you cancel more than 4 hours ahead we will allow you to try for another slot. If you simply fail to show, you get banned from the sanctuary for this year. By the same token, if you want to visit, keep an eye on the blog for last-minute cancellations. If the forecast is for less than 100% rain probability, it will likely only rain a bit during your visit. Furthermore, rain often provides the best viewing conditions: hummers deal with rain very well, continue to feed, and often come to the front porch (where there are sheltered feeders). You will be dry there, and can shelter in the front cabin if the rain becomes driving, and admire the numerous hummingbird photographs that adorn the walls. These photos have been brought by visitors over the years.

The sanctuary hosts a large number of wild cherry trees (Black Cherry, Prunus serotina; the closely related choke cherry Prunus virginiana, is more shrubby). These are picturesque small trees with fairly sparse foliage which are ideal for the Trumpet Creeper ( Campsis radicans; I'll write more about these beautiful and hummer-friendly plants very soon). These black cherries have pretty white flowers in late spring. However they can be very messy, and this year the fruit are abundant and often fall on the seats underneath. If you sit on them they can leave dark stains, so beware! I try to remove the night's crop from the chairs in the morning , but more may fall. If you do see some on the seat, sample them - they are tart but quite small. Claire and I once collected enough to make jam - probably the best I've ever tasted, but a lot of work. Birds, such as chickadees and cedr waxwing, love these cherries, and of course seedlings pop up everywhere. Do not sit on the ground - you will stain your clothes. And while on this general topic, please do not put your bag etc on the chairs - they are reserved for bottoms! Put them on the deck or, after scrutiny, on the ground. Someone very kindly brought 2 old but fairly sturdy park benches to the sanctuary - please think of us if you are throwing out sturdy old NON-PLASTIC garden furniture.

The ongoing lawsuit by several neighbors seeks to close the sanctuary. The Complaint is a public record, and its primary thrust is that hummingbird sanctuaries are illegal under the Code of the Town of Riverhead. However, the Complaint does not list the applicable section of the Code, and in fact the Code does not (of course) mention hummingbird sanctuaries. Thus the Complaint seems to be founded on a speculative interpretation of the Code, perhaps based on the hypothesis that everything that is not specifically permitted, is prohibited (like brushing one's teeth in one's backyard?).

More specifically the Plaintiffs' lawyer's line of argument might be that a hummingbird sanctuary (if allowed at all) would only be allowed secondary to a primary use, that my property (composed of 2 lots, only one of which is, minimally, developed is zoned for residential use only, and that in order to have a secondary use, there must already be a primary use - specifically, an existing residence. By this argument, someone who owns 2 contiguous lots, one with a residence, the other undeveloped, would not be allowed to have a vegetable garden on the undeveloped lot (and perhaps would not even be allowed to walk onto it) - clearly an absurd theory.
In my next post I will explore this and other aspects of the lawsuit.

Photo by Bob Immoor

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

walking to the sanctuary

I impose a 6-car limit in the parking lot, which limits the number of people who can visit (and is a good reason to try to share your ride with friends and neighbors). Of course at any one time there are usually fewer than 6 cars, but I cannot allow more than 6. However you can walk to the sanctuary from the south end of Terry Farm, parking either in the Sound Ave Preserve lot (immediately east of the southern end of Terry Farm Rd) or simply on the side of Sound Ave. It's a 0.7 mile, quite pretty hike, and often quite hot, at least until you reach the forest. But maybe you can catch a ride back with another visitor. Even walkers must ask for an appointment, either am (from 9.30 to 12.30) or pm (3-5.30) and must receive confirmation, waiver and directions. However you can apply to come on any day in august, regardless of whether that date is posted as available at the blog. BUT PLEASE DO NOT LIE: if you plan to walk, you CANNOT ARRIVE AT THE SANCTUARY BY CAR. Also, you cannot be dropped off at the sanctuary by an unconfirmed car: NO UNCONFIRMED CAR SHOULD ENTER TERRY FARM RD.

This photo was taken yesterday by Jason Ganz. More of his photos tomorrow!

Monday, August 17, 2015

If you cannot come, PLEASE CANCEL! Why is the US so litigious? Legal Blackmail


Before writing more about the ongoing lawsuit that seeks to close down the hummingbird sanctuary, I should address the following question: Why is the US so litigious, even compared to other countries? For example, the country that is in many ways closest and most similar to the US is Canada, but according to the above table the US litigates at 4 times the Canadian rate (on a per capita basis; the number hardly changes on a GDP/capita basis).

Very simple: if you file a suit that does not have a high probability of succeeding, in Canada your will likely have to pay the defendant's legal costs. Thus only very strong suits get filed. In the US filing a suit is often - even usually - a legal form of blackmail: if you don't do what I want, I'll sue you, so even though you are right and I'm wrong, you will incur tremendous costs, and possibly make a mistake and let me grab your assets. 

Of course another factor is that there are 15 times more lawyers per capita in the US than in Canada! However, this partly reflects US litigiousness rather than the other way round: in the US the best and safest way to make money is legal blackmail, fraud and robbery.

Are Americans healthier, wealthier or happier as a result? No. 
Life expectancies Canada 82 US 79
median per capita wealth: 48K v 40K
Happiness Ranking: 5 v. 17

Indeed, I suspect one of the reasons we are poorer, less healthy and less happy is our litigiousness, which hardly fosters social harmony.

On a happier note, here's a recent photo by Mike Chachkes

If you cannot come please let me know so I can open a place for another. Thanks!

Saturday, August 15, 2015

New Newsday Article

One of my guests today mentioned a recent article in Newsday about the hummingbird sanctuary. Here's a link:
It's behind a pay wall but by answering a few questions you can get access. What's nice is it's in their section for children, "KidsDay".  I'm always very happy when children visit (closely supervised by a responsible adult) - the future of our planet is in their hands, and even if I can get one child to get interested in nature, and put aside the electronics for an hour or 2, I feel the whole idea of a hummingbird sanctuary on Long Island is a good one. And what better way to enjoy nature than to watch hummingbirds performing their incredibe acrobatic antics. Of course it brings quiet, innocent, natural pleasure to people of all ages: yesterday we had a 93 year old lady, who has been coming for many years, and still as alert, lively and happy as ever, though now she uses a cane. She spent several hours on the front deck and was very quick at spotting the birds.

The new Newsday piece makes it clear we are open only in august, by appointment, and fortunately came out in april. It provides a link to our website, which spells out that visiting is BY PRIVATE APPOINTMENT only, and provides a link to this blog, where the appointment procedures are detailed (see right-hand column). Hopefully Newsday realizes that their last rather misleading and ill-timed article nearly closed the sanctuary down (and because of the ongoing lawsuit and the outstanding, though inactive, ticket issued by the Town of Riverhead, it might still be obliged to do so; of course Riverhead is serious about hummingbirds but not criminal activity)

Here are some great recent butterfly pictures from the sanctuary by Greg Olonoff.

In all 3, the flower is Butterfly Bush. The first 2 show Spicebush Swallowtail, and the last one Tiger Swallowtail.

Friday, August 14, 2015

helicopter meeting report and lawsuit; difficulties asking for an appointment

Recent photo by Steve Silberstein; the flower is bog sage

Last night I went to yet another helicopter noise meeting, in Southhold. The large room was almost full, as always. The supervisors of East Hampton (Larry Cantwell), Riverhead (Sean Walters), Southampton and Southold were there, Ken Lavalle (State Senator), Al Krupski (State Legislator), and a representative from Congressman Zeldin's office were all there, plus officers of various anti-noise group (eg the wonderful Kathy Cunningham).
Cantwell updated us on the status of their recently passed legislation, which imposes curfews and a once a week roundtrip limit. The latter provision has not taken effect, as a result of a preliminary injunction ("PI") issued by Judge Siebert in response to a lawsuit by an industry group, and as a result the noise is actually worse than ever. A PI requires there be immediate liklihood of irreparable harm to the plaintiffs (and probably  the one trip a week limit would undermine their business model). However, a PI also requires the judge to weigh the probable harm to the plaintiffs to the certain harm of the defendants (the citizens of E Hampton), and presumably the certain harm to the other East End Towns as well. Presumably her reasoning was that those suffering from aircraft are not suffering from financial harm. 
And that of course is the bottom line in most of these lawsuits: nonfinancial (though very real) harm doesn't count, but money does, as we all know. 

If you want to visit the sanctuary, you need an appointment. You can see how to do this at the top of the right-hand column of this blog. It's very straightforward, but nevertheless some people seem to have difficulties. I think part of the problem is that people are viewing the blog or their email on a hand-held device, not a proper computer. They cannot easily see the info, they make typing errors etc. If you have any difficulty I suggest using a proper computer before asking me to help.