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, August 9, 2018

Daniel Hauben painting at the sanctuary again

Once again Daniel Hauben is painting at the sanctuary - here are a couple of the pastel canvases he's working on. We are also livestreaming Danny at work!

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Internet was Down - catching up

Rain caused a problem somewhere far away on my phone line, and internet was down for 3 days. Here are a few recent vids.

Saturday, July 21, 2018

Fred direct

The livestreams from the sanctuary are rather blurry, but this is mainly due to the digital zooming I'm forced to do because Fred's perch is 100 feet away from the camera, rather than due to my very limited upload bandwidth. Here's a part of today's livestream but the recording was done direct to the disc on the camera rather than via the Youtube livestream process. This recording was then slowly uploaded to Youtube, but here the bandwidth isn't a limiting factor, yet the video is almost as blurry as the livestreams.
One possible way to avoid this problem would be to use a more powerful telephoto lens, in conjunction with a interchangeable lens camera, but this could be very expensive, and clearly would not work as long as my upload bandwidth is poor. I had hoped to install satellite internet (Viasat) but unfortunately this cannot be done on the roof of the back cabin because of trees, It can be done on the roof of the front cabin, but unfortunately I'm having this re-roofed because a racoon made a large hole up there, and this process keeps getting delayed because of the possibility of rain.

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

Noise Doubles Heart Attack Rates

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.

From the Wikipedia article on aircraft noise:

"A large-scale statistical analysis of the health effects of aircraft noise was undertaken in the late 2000s by Bernhard Greiser for the Umweltbundesamt, Germany's central environmental office. The health data of over one million residents around the Cologne airport were analysed for health effects correlating with aircraft noise. The results were then corrected for other noise influences in the residential areas, and for socioeconomic factors, to reduce possible skewing of the data.[10]
The German study concluded that aircraft noise clearly and significantly impairs health.[10] For example, a day-time average sound pressure level of 60 decibels increasing coronary heart disease by 61% in men and 80% in women. As another indicator, a night-time average sound pressure level of 55 decibels increased the risk of heart attacks by 66% in men and 139% in women. Statistically significant health effects did however start as early as from an average sound pressure level of 40 decibels.[10]"

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.

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Climbing Roses

June is always slow for hummingbirds, who are on nest duty. But the wild cherry trees are cascading with rambling roses.

Saturday, June 16, 2018

More about Fredcam

Every time the Fredcam livestreams, it creates a new URL, and when I stop livestreaming, that entire video (up to 12 hours duration!) is archived, and can be viewed at any time. For example in yesterday's post "Fredcam!" you saw the URL (and corresponding embedded thumbnail) "bhhs 2" which during the livestreaming itself showed the actual livestream. If you had viewed the entire livestream (2 hours and 42 minutes) you would only have seen Fred 3 times: for the first minute, then from 4.15-7.09 and again 23.17-23.40. You would also have seen a robin perching twice. At 36.57 I zoomed out to show a more general view (with Old Field Point in the distance) and by the end of the livestream it was totally dark, with only 2 steady lights at Shoreham, and a brief flash every 10 seconds from the Old Field Point Lighthouse (alternating green and red) plus some flashing aircraft. This livestream is now archived as 'bhhs 2" at that same URL.
The URL at the top of this post:

is the permanent URL for the livestream from my channel (I use the pseudonym "Fred Smith"). Thus clicking this link allows you toview the current livestream fromthe sanctuary in real time (or after a delay of about 1 second). This livestream link can always be seen in the right-hand blog column (which isn't visible on your phone unless you switch to the "web version" of the blog). As I write the current livestream is "bbhs4" but I'm now going to stop this and restart the feed as "bhhs5". You will find that the above link does indeed take you to the current livestream,  and not to the now archived "bhhs4". If instead you go to my Youtube channel

you will shortly be able to view the now archived livestream video (which begins with Fred perching but then has a long dry spell), as well as previous archived livestreams (such as bhhs 1,2and 3) and all my other public videos.

But what we all want isn't these various URLs but the embedded version of the livestream, so you can just click on the thumbnail to view the current livestream. For example you can click on this thumbnail:

and see an old video of Fred and his gorgeous ruby gorget at the sanctuary in 2014. But I cannot yet supply you with a thumbnail which will take you directly to the current livestream -but I'm working on it! For the time being you have to click on

Unfortunately if I'm NOT livestreaming, this URL will simply take you to my YouTube channel.

Lastly, an even more technical detail. To connect my Vixia G30 to my computer (actually a MacAir I no longer use much) I'm using the Elgato Camlink. I set the Vixia so it provides a "clean" hdmi output, without all the annotations I see on the viewfinder or lcd screen of the camera itself. I'm using a 15 foot hdmi cable to the outdoor camera which means I can only just reach the Camlink device which is plugged into an USB socket on the (indoor) MacAir. I'm going to try and find a longer hdmi cable, so I can livestream from different outdoor locations. Of course the ideal would be to use wifi or bluetooth to send the camera output wirelessly to the Camlink or to the computer itself, but though I can control and view the Vixia via bluetooth, I don't think I can use it as a webcam this way.

Friday, June 15, 2018


We were in Maine for a week and on my return saw that Fred has very slightly shifted his perch - to another twig very close to the one he was previously using. Perhaps he was annoyed by my droning (which I've now stopped) but the new perch is also at the top of the dead pine tree, and within a few feet of the old perch. I've decided to try live streaming this perch - you should be able to  see the stream at Of course he's often not on his perch so watching the livestream can be tedious. But if you look at

 you will see an earlier archived livestream where Fred arrives at 18.12. Towards the end of this video I add the 1.5 teleconverter to the Canon camcorder, for a total zoom of 30. Note the camera is 100 feet way from the perch!
Please let me know if this live-streaming "Fredcam" is working for you!

Update: at 7.31 Fred briefly visited his old perch.

Friday, June 8, 2018

Getting Closer to Fred

Yesterday I piloted the drone quite close to Fred, and you can see his ruby-throat as he takes off from his favorite perch. My repeated drone visits don't seem to bother him too much because he keeps coming back. The 2-second movie is in 8x slo-mo, and since the camera films at 30 fps,  fast movement (and Fred is accelerating fast at take-off) tends to break up when replayed very slowly. Unfortunately on the Spark the camera settings are hard-wired.

Saturday, June 2, 2018

Hummer meets Drone

Some of my readers know, from previous posts, that I operate a small drone (a DJI Spark) - essentially a flying camera. It's great fun, very small, maneuverable (with practice) and remarkably resilient. The reason I got it was because Fred, my resident male hummingbird, is easily seen when he's on his favorite perch, at the tippy top of a dead pine tree. I think he likes this spot because he gets a splendid view of the western valley, and can easily spot intruders approaching his territory. But although he's often there, in full view, he's very tiny, because the closest I can get is about 100 feet away - and my best view,  from the back deck, is even further. In fact he's just a speck, though clearly a hummingbird. Even with my strongest zoom (30X), one cannot film him well - here's an example, using my Canon Vixia with a supplemental 1.5 teleconverter lens (which vignettes the image at low zoom):

My plan was to fly a camera much closer to Fred on his tree-top throne. This didn't quite work out last year, because I got the drone rather late in the season, when Fred was spending less time on this perch, and it also took me a long time to learn to maneuver the drone well (I'm still rather clumsy). But this year Fred is back on his perch, and I'm making progress. My main worry was that Fred would attack the drone and get hurt, but he doesn't - it does bother him when it gets too close, and he just flies off, but he often flies off for other reasons too. Here's an example.

The drone is initially looking at the top of the dead pine tree and behind the pine you see the back cabin "Hummingbird Cottage" on whose deck I sit and operate the drone.  In the first half of the video I swing the drone around the tree top until it's almost looking from my vantage point on the deck, then back again. One can clearly see the 2 topmost tips of the pine, and on one tip there's a short horizontal twig which provides this perfect perch. However in the first half of the video Fred is away. I then start to move the drone closer, and suddenly Fred arrives and settles down, clearly unfazed by the drone at this distance. But then I start to move the drone even closer and Fred takes off again. Even when the drone is quite close the wide-field camera on the drone doesn't really allow as a good a view as the telephoto Vixia at a much greater distance. I will have to get closer!

I'll end up with a drone video of the beach below the sanctuary (shot last year shortly after Hurricane Jose,which effaced the horrible vehicle ruts).

Thursday, May 31, 2018

Fred guards the honeysuckle

Once again yesterday evening just after sunset Fred turned his attention to the massively blooming coral honeysuckle climbing up the northeast corner of "Seagull Lodge" (the cabin that is perched at the edge of the bluff above Long island sound) - where I also tend to end the day. In the first video he is perching on a twig just under a bunch of flowers, watching for intruders.

In the second video he gets to work.

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Coral Honeysuckle

Coral honeysuckle (Lonicera sempervirens) is in full bloom at the sanctuary and getting evening visits from our resident male hummer Fred. The next video shows the full extent of this vine, from top to bottom (no hummer though).

Monday, May 28, 2018

Back at the Sanctuary

We returned to the US - Fort Lauderdale - on may 10 and then drove up the east coast, spending a few days with our son Jamie (number one birder in NC, check out his blog), and visiting gardens and historic houses en route. We got back on Long Island may 17,  after inching our way through NYC and western LI in the only heavy traffic the entire trip, and I came out to the sanctuary may 18. Within a few hours I had feeders up and a male hummingbird checking them out, and I've been seeing hummers every day since - probably Fred the resident male, plus brief visits from a another male and at least one female. Frustratingly however my main video camera (a SONY FDR-AX53) developed a fault just before leaving the Bahamas and is still in for repair. I fished out my previous camera ( a Canon Vixia, actually quite a good camera) but it took me several days to find the charger. Then the weather was bad, so it's only today I could try some filming. Here are a couple of attempts - both show males, probably Fred. The second clip initially shows him perched just above a feeder, which he then briefly visits. I've seen him chasing another hummer out of his territory, and also a brief "mating dance". He's spending quite a bit of time on the same perch as last year - the tippy-top of a dead pine, but the closest I can get the camera to this spot is 100 feet away!

Saturday, April 28, 2018

plovers and whistling ducks nesting

As we get ready to leave Calypso, I've still not found another hummingbird nest, but a rare pair of West Indian Whistling Ducks have hatched ducklings on the pond, and a pair of Wilson's plover are incubating three speckled eggs in a scrape at the top of our beach.

Here are the ducks:

The plover eggs:

one of the plover parents sitting on the eggs

and a parent near the nest pretending that there's no eggs.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

hummer firecracker

Though hummingbirds have started to arrive on Long Island (can any of my readers confirm this?), we are still at Calypso on the Bahamian island of Eleuthera, waiting for warmer weather and green leaves back home. I filmed this yesterday.

Saturday, April 14, 2018

Male Bahama Woodstar

My son Rafael, an avid bird photographer (see, is here at Calypso. Here are a couple of his nice shots of a Woodstar adult male, and also one of a Cape May warbler.
Ruby-Throat Hummers have now reached Long Island -

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

they are almost here!

Here's today's migration map  from Lanny Chambers (from - hummers are very close to Long Island!

and here's what he will look like

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Sunday, March 25, 2018

summer hummers

I've been sorting through old clips from last summer in Baiting Hollow - here are a few keepers. The first shows one interrupting a snack on shrimp plant to attack an intruder.

The next is a slo-mo feeder clip.

next, feeding at various salvias

and at zinnia (slo-mo)

finally, 2 more fighting sequences

Monday, March 12, 2018

Adult Male Bahama Woodstar Hummingbird

This fellow is guarding the 2 feeders under the porch of our house at Calypso, on the island of Eleuthera. He perches on a clothes line we sometimes use when it rains. Notice his purple gorget (black except when viewed from the front). The third video is a view of coconut palms here.

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Donna DeSousa visits Calypso

Some of you may know Donna DeSousa, an avid hummingbirder in Greenlawn who has been a long-time supporter of the sanctuary, and who started the FaceBook page "Friends of the Baiting Hollow Hummingbird Sanctuary". Tragically her teenage daughter Maggie succumbed to a brutal cancer last year and I took over the administration of FotBHSS, while she has set up an organization to fight childhood cancer: Maggie's MIssion. She recently took a much needed break here at Calypso and took this picture of a young male hummingbird just outside her oceanfront cottage:

She showed me where he was perching and I got this video:

Saturday, March 10, 2018

A Couple of Beach Videos

Here are today's views to the right (i.e east) and left (i.e. west) from the beach at Calypso. The recent storms in the Northeast generated big waves that have shifted sand onto our beach.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Recycling an old nest

6 weeks ago I filmed a hummingbird nest in our yard on the Bahamian island of Eleuthera which was briefly occupied by a soon-to-fledge youngster ( Today, sitting under the shade of the tropical almond that sheltered that nest, I noticed a hummer briefly fussing at the nest. She was making darting movements with her bill and I thought she was rebuilding the nest, perhaps for a new brood. But it was too quick to be sure what was happening. So I fetched my camcorder and waited for her to return. After a half an hour she did return and started fussing again. It only lasted a few seconds but I got a brief video, and reviewing the footage one can see clearly she's rapidly snatching fragments of her old nest - presumably to use them elsewhere. In a way I'm rather relieved she's not going to re-occupy this old nest, because, as they do several times a year, the almond is in the process of losing all its leaves, and the nest would be exposed to the fierce sun. I'll try to find the new nest she's building. 4X slo-mo.

Friday, January 5, 2018

Male Close-up

An adult male Bahama Woodstar hummingbird (Calliphlox evelynae) filmed at Calypso, Eleuthera, The Bahamas, jan 5 2018. He's perched on an oleander twig, close to a feeder he's defending.  It's fairly cool and he's rather fluffed up.