BASICS: "Hummingbirds.....where is the person, I ask, who, on observing this glittering fragment of the rainbow, would not pause, admire, and turn his mind with reverence..." (J. J. Audubon).
This is a blog about my summer life at the Baiting Hollow Hummingbird Sanctuary, at my winter garden, Calypso, in the Bahamas, and aspects of life in general.
This private sanctuary is now permanently closed to the general public, as a result of a lawsuit brought by a neighbor. Only my friends and personal guests may visit (

Thursday, July 19, 2018

young hummers starting to show

I'm starting to see what I think are recently fledged hummingbirds visiting the sanctuary, sneaking in when Fred isn't around.
In the first one, the newbie stays well hidden, in the second he visits some salvias that are starting to bloom (Black and Blue and Waverly)

Monday, July 16, 2018


We live in an increasingly cacophonous world. Even here in Baiting Hollow, where the background noise level (in the absence of aircraft) is around 20 dB, quiet is rare, mainly because of aircraft (for example, the above recent livestream). We are on the direct routes from Manhattan to East Hampton (mostly smaller low flying aircraft, around 2500 feet or lower) and Europe to JFK (jumbo jets at 10,000 feet), and there's an enormous amount of General Aviation, including a nearby farmer who jumps in his plane and circles over me whenever the skies are quieter. But I remember as a child of 10 looking up with interest when once every few days a plane appeared in the sky (as I still do in Eleuthera). The following graph ( tells the story:
Exponential growth since 1950 - doubling time approximately 11 years! What this means is that in my lifetime we have completely lost one of the most important attributes of the world: outdoor quiet! It's irrevocably gone, like the dodo, the Carolina parakeet and the ivory-billed woodpecker. I find this incredibly sad, and also appalling. Peace and quiet would, after food, shelter and friendship, top almost everyone's list of desires, but to all intents and purposes it's completely gone (except perhaps deep in the heart of the Hoh Rainforest of Washington State's Olympic Peninsula). All in the name of "convenience", and not even a whisper of protest.

Saturday, July 14, 2018

Why is the Livestream Blurry? Compressing 8 hours to 30 minutes

I hope that some of you have been looking at the daily livestreams from the sanctuary at

However, I'm sure you also have found these livestreams (and the archived versions thereof) are rather blurry. I felt that the main reason was probably my limited upload bandwidth (~ 0.7 mbs with Verizon DSL). So I've been comparing the livestreamed version with simultaneously recorded straight-to-disk on the camera itself. Above are a couple of examples of the latter, which can be compared to the archived livestream itself:

Of course the clips are very short, and the livestream is very long (11 hours!) but it turns out there's not that much difference in the quality.  Please note that I'm annotating the archived livestreams with the timings of the perching episodes so you can immediately jump to the interesting bits. So in fact much of the blurriness is simply due to the pixellation introduced by the digital zoom I'm forced to use because of the long distance from camera to perch. Please Fred, start using a closer perch!
If you use Chrome as your browser, you could also consider adding the "Youtube Playback Speed Control" extension. This is a marvelous gadget that enables speeded-up,  up to 16X compared to the standard 2 X) playback of Youtube videos. If you use this on one of my 8-hour livestreams it rolls by in 30 minutes! Of course Fred's head jerks back and forth like a jackhammer, but don't worry it's not going to fall off! With this device I've discovered some very brief perching episodes that I cannot spot by simply scrubbing through the video, which might show only 1 frame every minute. Of course if you have not already done so you should also add the wonderful Adblock extension. Youtube without Adblock is hell.

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Fred after sunset

Most evenings, well after sunset, Fred  joins me on the front deck overlooking the Sound, where the light hasn't yet completely faded, and feeds at the coral honeysuckle.

Sunday, July 8, 2018

Cardinal Snaps Fred's Perch

I restarted livestreaming a few days ago with a new camera and vantage point. The above video shows yesterday's 8+ hour livestream, and if you jump to the time mark 1:12:35 (click on this timing in the caption) you'll see a huge cardinal arrives on Fred's perch and snaps it off! At first he has to cling to the remaining stump with one leg, but then regains his footing. Fortunately the remaining truncated twig is just long enough that both Fred and Bob can still perch. In fact Fred arrives at 1:22:32 and without missing a beat does a precision landing on the tiny stump.

Monday, July 2, 2018

Sanctuary News

I've had to temporarily suspend the livestreaming of Fred and Friends because my videocamera developed a fault: it wouldn't maintain its zoom. I've sent it in to Canon for repair and hopefully it will be back soon. You may remember that my other videocamera (SONY) is also under repair - it's been a lengthy process and still not done. In addition my phone has gone into "bootloop" spasms, so it's difficult to upload those videos either, and of course the phone has no zoom. I've been using this phone with an Osmo stabilizer, but these videos don't upload automatically. But here are a couple of fairly recent handheld phone videos showing some of our climbing roses.
It's very quiet hummerwise here, but this is typical for late june/early july, since the females are nesting and bringing almost exclusively insects, not nectar, to their chicks, and the males have all established territories. Fred is still spending quite a bit of time on his favorite perch and I'm looking forward to restarting the livestreams when I have a functioning camera.
Not much news on the ongoing attempt to transfer part of the sanctuary to the Seatuck Environmental Association. Seatuck is working with 4H to ensure reliable and convenient direct access, via their eastern driveway, but this has been delayed by the need to establish who actually owns the 4H property. So for the time being the general public cannot visit - only my numerous and faithful friends! (who should contact me privately if they haven't done so already.
By the way, for those of you that use blogger, you might be interested to learn how I managed to embed these videos, which automatically back up from my phone to my Google Photos account.  I did the top one the obvious, hard, way - I downloaded to my computer from Photos and then uploaded to Blogger. Time-consuming because it involves 2 upload steps. Since they are already uploaded to Photos, I reasoned there must be a way to embed them in a Blogger post (like one can embed simple stills) though its not obvious how. Here's the somewhat complicated but effective recipe. Voila the results (they look slightly different from the double-download route):

Thursday, June 28, 2018

Hummingbird Cottage

There are 2 small cottages or "cabins" at the sanctuary. The one nearest the Long Island Sound already had a name when I arrived in 1991 - "Seagull Lodge" - and the other one I dubbed  "Hummingbird Cottage". But it lacked  a name plaque until now.  I hope you like the one I  chose - it's  hand-painted by  Roberta Roverelli  (DipintoAdArte) in Livorno, Italy. It's ceramic, and I will probably store it inside for the winter.

Saturday, June 23, 2018

Interesting Livestreams

I'm continuing to livestream Fred and friends. When the stream is live you can see it here, when it's not this link will take you to my channel "Fred Smith", where you can see archived versions of previous livestreams, many of them annotated to show the times of various incidents. For example yesterday I streamed for nine hours 15 minutes, and the entire livestream is available at

Underneath the video is a caption, with the time 33:00 - clicking this will take you to the 33 minute mark, and you will then see an interesting sequence of events, starting with Fred on his usual perch, then attacking Bob the Wren who has been trying to commandeer it, and ending with Fred on a much closer perch. Please note that it takes Youtube time to process these long videos and for the first day or 2  you will see low resolution version. These eventually convert to 1080p HD versions, though because of my limited upload bandwidth this will often not be achieved.