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 (

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Last Open Day Today; Remember 9/11

Today will definitely be our last open day in 2011. We will be open 9.30-12.30 and 3-6. Please see for info and directions if you have never visited before. Activity is a bit low this beautiful morning, but I hope it will be better in the afternoon. We will then be closed until august 2012, except by special appointment.
We will also inaugurate our new "Hummingbird Crossing Sign", kindly donated by Melissa Hahn. You will see it as you arrive: watch out for low-flying hummers! The idea for the sign came from a ten-year old visitor. Thanks Sarah! I will post a picture here shortly.
The photo is by Sharon Schwarz. The flower is Salvia involucrata

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Open this afernoon 3-6; Hummingbirds sing with their tails!

We will be open this afternoon from 3 to 6. Hummer numbers are dropping but we still have several, and the weather looks good. Please read the instructions and directions at if you have never visited. If you tell your friends about us, PLEASE ensure that they first read basic info at and then check with this blog that we are open. We currently have the untenable situation that more people are coming when we are closed than when we are open, because people explain where we are but neglect to mention that we are only open at specific limited times (and hardly ever outside of august). We cannot continue to operate if people show up at random! It's unfair both to them and to me.

Many of you were probably fascinated by the segment of the 
beautiful "Nature" PBS Special on Hummingbirds. It showed Chis Clark's
work showing that the Anna male courtship dive involves production of
short tones by air flow over tail feathers. There's an article in this week's "Science" (by Elias, Clark and Prum; the latter's wife was the producer of the film) that takes the matter further. Here is the abstract:

"During courtship flights, males of some hummingbird species produce
diverse sounds with tailfeathers of varying shapes. We show that these sounds are produced by air flowing past a feather,causing it to aeroelastically flutter and generate flutter-induced sound. Scanning laser doppler vibrometery and high-speed video of individual feathers of different sizes and shapes in wind tunnel revealed multiple vibratory modes that produce a range of acoustic frequencies and harmonic structures. Neighboring feathers can be aerodynamically coupled and flutter either at the same frequency, resulting in sympathetic vibrations that increase loudness, or at different frequencies, resulting in audible interaction frequencies. Aeroelastic flutter is intrinsic to stiff airfoils such as feathers and thus explains tonal sounds that are common in bird flight"

There's also a piece in the NY Times:
I will write more about this fascinating subject in the next blog. 
The picture shows a trumpet creeper in full bloom.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Sneak weekend opening? Beach Driving Letter

The weather and hummingbird activity look good (though the latter could change when the wind shifts to the northwest overnight) so I hope to open saturday afternoon and sunday (am and pm). But please check this blog for confirmation and information.
There's a short provocative letter in today's Riverhead News-Review (print version) about beach ATVs and other vehicles by yours truly - I'll put in a link if it appears online.
The image (Salvia guaranitica, the gold standard)  is by Adam Hurewitz - thanks Adam! Notice the tiny nonretractable undercarriage. The legs are hard to see, and early observers thought hummingbirds were legless! Well, they almost are, since they cannot walk at all.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

More rain, hotter climate; Stachytarpheta

The first picture, from Sandy, shows a hummingbird feeding at Pink Porterweed (Stachytarpheta mutabilis), one of the most popular plants at the sanctuary. I got it from the Peconic River Herb Farm (beautiful place). I had a purple porterweed (S. franzii) for several years, which was a hummer magnet, but lost it one winter (despite being indoors). On my recommendation, the Harb Farm got some porterweeds in this year, and they have been a great success, both here and there.

The continuing rain, and the hurricane we just went through, prompt me to say a little about global warming. I cannot do better than call your attention to an unusually clear and accurate article in today's New York Times: "Going Green But Getting Nowhere". The planet we know (and love) is changing rapidly, on a time scale of a very few generations. The changes will involve massive social and economic disruption (far greater than our present "recession"), comparable to a permanent world war. The science is clear-cut though the immediate effects are not. Hummingbirds know - they are already arriving slightly earlier, and lingering later (see - in particular, look at the slow change in the migration maps since 1996).
The only way to reduce the disruption is to immediately make drastic economic changes, outlined in the article. Individual actions, such as "going green" will have no impact; they are essentially merely a way of evading the problem. Unfortunately America is the worst offender and has progressed the least. Europeans only generate half the carbon load we do, and they adopted sane and decent (though still inadequate) policies long ago. The core issue is simply greed: we want it all, now, and don't care what happens later. In fact, many Americans simply refuse to think about the issue. Please do.

Enough said. This picture, by Chris Corradino, shows a spicebush swallowtail feeding on Texas sage (Salvia coccinea). While this is not as good a salvia for hummingbirds as some others, and is strictly annual, it self-seeds well. However, the leaves don't smell as good as many others.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Fattening Up!

The rubythroat typically doubles its weight (from 2 to 4 grams; 2 pennies weigh 3 grams) prior to migration.He converts the sugar he eats to brown adipose tissue primarily around the belly. Indeed, some get so heavy they have slight difficulty taking off, like an overloaded plane. However all this extra weight will be burned off during the epic flight across the Gulf of Mexico (of which more later).
The first photo, by Doug MacLean, shows a hummer feeding at the skyblue flowers of Salvia uliginosa (bog sage). The second shows a general view west with bogsage and mullein spires, and the large faded white flower of Datura.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Closed today, basically until 2012!

We are now more or less closed until august 2012. It's possible that if conditions are very favorable we might open for one more day in the next week or so, but don't count on it. It's also sometimes possible to arrange private visits - see Please no spontaneous visiting!
Hummingbirds were fairly active this morning despite the wind and rain as I refilled all the feeders to keep them going for a few days. The wind will eventually shift to the northwest, and many hummers will move south. But we could then get a new batch from further north (rubythroats breed in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick). But on average numbers will dwindle until none are left by mid-october. I have seen hummingbirds here  in november and december, but I suspect they may have been Rufous hummers.
I will write a summary of the 2012 season at some point, but I would like to thank all my charming and well-behaved visitors, ranging from a few weeks old to nearly 100 years! A special thanks for all the touching small gifts!
I'll continue the blog off and on as long as I have new photos and interested readers, providing hummingbird news, and perhaps other related information and sheer opinion. For example: damn the South Fork helicommuters!
The picture, by Charleen Turner, shows the view through the front cabin doorways.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Open Today to All Comers; closed 12.30-3; american painted lady; last day?

We will be open today (Labor Day) 9.30 -12-30 and 3-6 to everyone. Looks like this will be our last day in 2011. First time visitors should consult the information and directions at before setting off - do not rely on vague descriptions from friends. The photos are from yesterday: a hummer feeding at Stachytarpheta mutabilis, by Peg Koller, and an American Painted Lady, by Melissa Hahn.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Open today to all, activity picking up, zigzag dangers

We will open today 9.30-12.30 and 3-6; as has often been the case this year, activity is picking up in the afternoon. Please see for directions and info, especially if you have not visited before. The recent photo is by Robert Silvering. It shows a young (or female) hummer feeding at Salvia involucrata, one of my top 3 recommendations for Long Island hummingbird gardens.
Reminder: the bluff zigzag path is narrow, steep, difficult and even dangerous - only for the fit and foolish!

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Open Today to New Visitors Only

We are open today from 9.30-12.30 then 3 to 6 but ONLY to those who have not yet visited this year. If you have NEVER visited before, please read the directions, instructions and other information at before setting off. DO NOT rely on word of mouth from friends and neighbors. Please do your homework - you will enjoy your visit more, and so will I! We hope to open sunday, monday and tuesday (the last day to all-comers) - but please check this blog before setting off. We will then close until august 2012.
We make get some rain and/or thunder. Intermittent rain will not deter hummingbird activity, and you can take shelter if needed in the front cabin.
The photo is by Klaus Schleim. Hummers often spend long periods perching. They are conserving energy (the hovering flight burns up calories very rapidly) and also monitoring their favorite feeding spot for possible hummer intruders. They hate interlopers even more than they love nectar! The resulting high-speed chases can be quite thrilling to watch.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Open Today 9.30-12.30 and 3-6; bluffslope viewing; season ending

We are open today 9.30-12.30 and 3-6 - see for directions and details. We will probably open the next 3 days too, but only to first-time visitors (this year) - please check this blog for confirmation. We will then close until august 2012 (although you can try to make a private appointment: see However, the new lower bluffslope viewing area is now always open for those who can hike down the beach from east or west and ascend a bit of the tricky zigzag path; it is marked by a post painted in hummingbird colors: red and green. There are already hummers feeding and fighting there, quite close to the beach. Please do not go beyond the bluff top, into the sanctuary itself, except when we are officially open. Also, there may be deer ticks and the path is narrow and steep.
The evocative photo is by Jody Banaszak. Notice the foreground very fuzzy hummer attacking the hummer feeding on the flower!

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Oh Bliss - Relative Quiet! Open this afternoon; lotta hummers

My neighbors finally got their power problem fixed and relative calm has returned, so we can open this afternoon, from 3 to 6. I hope to open friday and the weekend too but please check this blog for confirmation and details (and for directions and general information). There are still quite a few hummers around. I heard from a hummer gardener in nearby Aquebogue that hummers were feeding right through the storm! (As of course they have to).
Please bear in mind that there is still some debris around, and many plantings got knocked around. Here is a link to a Picasaweb album that shows the garden (and a few hidden hummers) before the storm.

The photo was taken last week by Ed Culbreath, a visitor from the Bronx. Thanks Ed! It shows a youngster (note the white tail tip) feeding on Agastache.