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 (

Monday, July 30, 2012

Open this afternoon, tomorrow and wednesday. Scheduling.

We will be open today (monday) from 3 to 5.30, and tuesday and wednesday (both 9.30-12.30 and 3-5.30). We are always closed 12.30-3.

Above is another nice recent photo by Linda Sullivan, with the bird feeding at "Cherry Queen" autumn sage (a cultivar of Salvia greggii). While this is sold as an annual on Long Island, it will often survive if given excellent drainage. Indeed, I have one that is now 10 years old and a small bush! Note that while it is a vivid red, and often draws a bird's initial attention, they will always prefer the flower with more nectar, red or not. So plant a mix of red and "big guns" such as S guarantica. 

Overhead it is a war-zone - but I'm talking helicopters and seaplanes, not hummers. 

As the header of the blog states, open days are announced on a rolling  basis, for example yesterday's and today's afternoon openings were announced in yesterday's blog posting. Today's post lists further openings. As we get more into the higher activity season, open dates will be posted further in advance. Please keep an eye on the current post on the blog. 
I've learned over the years that setting a fixed calendar early on can be a mistake: hummer activity and weather vary greatly, and this is a 1-man show and emergencies crop up. Furthermore, we also host private groups at nonpublic times and this way I can schedule these quite late. Rest assured we will be open many dates/times throughout august!

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Open Today (sunday) 3-5.30 Rain or Shine

Yesterday was just too wet, even though the rain didn't deter the hummingbirds. But this morning I've seen several multibird chases and we will open, rain or shine, from 3 to 5.30 this afternoon. If it rains you can take shelter under the front porch or in the front cabin. We will also open tomorrow (monday) again only from 3 to 5.30. We also plan to be open most of the remainder of the week (mornings and/or afternoons) unless birds disappear or prolonged storms arrive. Details will be posted on this blog.

The picture, by Linda Sullivan, was taken on friday. It shows a hummer (probably a juvenile, possibly an adult female - note white tip to the tail) at Salvia guaranitica (often sold as the cultivar "Black and Blue"). If you visit and take a nice picture please send it to me (file no bigger than 250K; see for info, directions, rules etc) and I might post it on this blog. But remember, no tripods allowed on public open days!

Saturday, July 28, 2012


We will decide whether to open this afternoon later when the weather/hummer situation is clearer. We opened yesterday morning but it was rather disappointing. Nevertheless Linda Sullivan got some nice pictures, one of which is shown here:

It shows a hummer feeding at Rosebay Salvia (S. involucrata "Bethelli) - you can see very well the wing just before it sweeps back.
In the afternoon, when we closed, of course activity picked up quite well. Please be patient - we will be open lots of days throughout august.

We also admit private groups at previously agreed times - please contact me at padamsyouknowwhatnotesdotsunysbdotedu. During such private times (9.30 to 12.30 or 3 to 5.30) we are closed to the public. At weekends the group should be at least 15 (carpooling); during the week the group should be at least 8.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Open Today 9.30-12.30 only

The photo was taken yesterday at the sanctuary by Melissa Hahn and shows a hummer approaching flowers of yellow trumpet creeper (Campsis radicans "Flava").

Activity has decreased compared to a week ago, but everyone yesterday saw a hummingbird (a busload of kids in the morning and 4 cars of "public" visitors in the evening - despite iffy weather. We will be open today in the morning only (9.30 to 12.30). If activity does not increase we will not open at the weekend.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Reminder: Open Today from 3 to 5.30! Porterweed

We open, for the first time this year, today July 26 from 3 to 5.30. We will also be open tomorrow july 27 from 9.30 to 12.30 only. We might be open saturday afternoon and/or sunday: please check this blog for confirmation. See for directions.

The photo was taken by Tom Pfeifer at the Sanctuary. The bird is feeding at purple porterweed (Stachytarpheta franzii), a great magnet (but tropical).

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Open Dates/Times posted! Honeysuckles

Photo by Tom Pfeifer, taken in his garden

We will be open tomorrow afternoon thur july 26 from 3 to 5.30, and also friday morning (July 27) from 9.30 to 12.30. Activity has somewhat decreased compared to a few days ago (I was in Maine for 4 days), probably as a result of the cold front moving through yesterday evening. However, there are some hummers still around, and more should arrive soon. For information, directions and warnings please see Remember to wear sensible footware (NOT flipflops). Many more open dates will be posted, right up to the end of august - please see this blog for details. We post open dates on a rolling basis, taking account of weather, hummer action and our schedule. We are NOT open every day, and we always close 12.30 -3. We are sometimes open mornings (9.30 to 12.30) and sometimes afternoons (3-5.30) and sometimes both. We occasionally open for sunset.

The photo, by Tom Pfeifer taken in his garden, shows a hummer feeding at Coral Honeysuckle, Lonicera sempervirens. This is by far the best of the honeysuckles for hummingbirds, it's native to the North East, it's not aggressive but quite easy to grow, and it blooms throughout the time hummers are here (may to late september) I strongly recommend it. Japanese honeysuckle (L. japonica) is an invasive but pretty and sweet smelling weed which hummers use. Coral honeysuckle is not fragrant, and the flower stalks have the unusual feature of emerging from the middle of the leaf (see photo).

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Salvias: Big Guns and others.

This beautiful photo was taken by Melissa Hahn in her Wading River garden this year.

Many of your know from visits to the sanctuary, or from my website or this blog that I'm a big fan of "tender" salvias (salvias that are usually sold on Long Island as "annuals"). Many are excellent nectar sources for hummingbirds, they are mostly very deer-resistant, and many are very pretty and easy to grow.
The 2 "big guns", sure-fire hummer magnets both loaded with nectar, are rosebay salvia S. involucrata, and anise Salvia S. There are also medium guns, such as S van Houttei, and some good hybrids (e.g. "Waverly", "Wendy's Wish", "Silke's Dream", "Purple Majesty). I will write more about these soon, but today I want to talk a bit about some of the smaller guns, such as S. chiapensis, S. greggii, ,S. miniata, S. elegans, S. leucantha, S buchananii, S. darcyi, S. blepharophylla, S. discolor, S. uliginosa, and S. coccinea. Well, I've tried them all, and they all get used,  but for now let's just focus on the first 2 and last 2 in this formidable list (which is yet a tiny fraction of the 900 species of Salvia).
S. chiapensis has small purple flowers and tends to flop but is quite hummer-attractive. It is not hardy at all and so I get new plants every year. These are usually blooming already but then it goes quiet. It then reblooms in august for the main hummer activity.
There are various cultivars of autumn sage, S. greggii. The one I like best is "Cherry Queen" (apparently a hybrid with S. blepharophylla), because it's bright red, and can be hardy on Long Island. I have one plant that has survived many years and is now almost a bush; it flowers already in may and keeps going till frost. But this year I had half a dozen plants survive from last year - good drainage is more essential than shelter from cold wind. I've already posted videos of hummers at "Cherry Queen".
S. coccinea (Texas sage) comes in 3 colors, red, pink and white. It is tender but self seeds often. Hummers do not like it as much as the others on my list, but it's very pretty - see the photo above, by Melissa Hahn.
S. uliginosa (Bog Sage) has tall delicate-looking (but tough) spires of beautiful sky-blue flowers. It will survive a mild winter. While it's also much less visited than the big guns, or even Cherry Queen, some hummers seem to like it, as shown in the following recent video. Only at the very end does this hummer switch to Cherry Queen.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Possible early opening?

Hummer activity has definitely picked up, and yesterday I saw a 3-hummer chase. If this continues I will be able to open somewhat earlier than planned, before the end of the month. Details will be posted on this blog - please do not visit except at posted opening times.
In the meantime, here is a new video. The bird darts rapidly from flower to flower and there are moments when the he/she (it's an adult female or more likely a juvenile) is out of field. I can either zoom back and hope to have the bird in view again, or take my eye off the camera - neither technique is ideal. I am practising keeping one eye on the viewfinder and using the other to watch reality!

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Mating Dance Video!

I managed to get short video of the "U mating dance" or "pendulum dance". However, it is not quite a full dance, because at no point did he reach the full height of the U on both sides. You can only see the female, at the low point of the dance, and the low point of the bushes, at the beginning of the video (which starts about 10 seconds after the dance began). If you look carefully you can actually see the female shift position slightly, with the male adjusting the exact low point of the dance to match. As the dance progresses, he swings the line of the dance somewhat, and gets higher on the part that is closest to the camera, so the top of the dance goes out of the field. The maximum height was only about 20 feet, and in a full dance he goes higher. Note that although I could hear the rythmic buzzing of the dance quite clearly (and I am almost deaf), the camera mike could not pick it up. The yellow flowers are "Hyperion" daylilies which are in full bloom at the moment (though of course hummers never visit them). Near the end the male zooms off, but one cannot tell whether the female follows him or he gave up.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Hummer vs Helicopter

Below I post 2 videos I took today. Both have soundtracks too. Both show hovering contraptions - the first a hummingbird silently flitting from flower to flower (mostly red Salvia greggii), the other a helicopter pounding laboriously from Manhattan to East Hampton (these are only 1 percenters but nevertheless there seem to an awful lot of them). 
Which brings me to the following interesting and amusing document I just received from the Quiet Skies Coalition, a wonderful organization dedicated to returning control of the East Hampton Airport to East Hampton, with the aim of reducing aircraft noise pollution over Long Island. This Declaration was submitted to the East Hampton Town Board.



When in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for the people of a Town to dissolve the bands which have connected them to a government institution, a decent respect for the opinions of others requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to separation.

The history of the FAA is a history of repeated injuries and usurpation, all having in direct object the establishment of a Tyranny over our Town, our skies, and our good people.

In every stage of these Oppressions, we the People have petitioned this Board for redress in the most humble terms: our repeated petitions have been answered only by repeated injury.  We have appealed to your sense of justice and magnanimity and we have approached you by the ties of our common bond to disavow the FAA, which institution will inevitably bring ruin to the value and peaceful enjoyment of all East End homes, property and recreational areas. The FAA and this Town Board have been deaf to the voice of justice and of conscience.

We therefore, as representatives of the noise-affected community do publish and declare that the Town of East Hampton ought to be Free and Independent, absolved of all allegiance to the FAA, and that all financial connection between the Town and the FAA is and ought to be totally dissolved. As a free and independent Township, we have the power to limit access to our airport, levy taxes on those who use it, preserve and protect our precious natural environments from this outrageous form of noise pollution, and to do all that an independent municipality may, of right, do.

We hold that a body of government:
Is, or ought to be, instituted for the common benefit, protection, quality of life, and security of ALL WHO RESIDE IN THAT COMMUNITY AND NOT A SELECT FEW.
That it cannot, by any compact, deprive or divest the People of the enjoyment of an environment free of excessive aircraft noise. 
That it must protect the property values of the taxpayers. 
That it must act as a proper steward of the land that it has preserved at high cost to the taxpayer by limiting the negative impacts of airport noise on those properties. 
We hereby call for a moratorium on accepting funding from the Federal Aviation Administration that IN ANY WAY restricts the ability of the Town of East Hampton to:

Limit the Number of Excessively Noisy Aircraft
Limit the Arrival and Departure Times of Excessively Noisy Aircraft
Set Altitude Limits for Excessively Noisy Aircraft
Ban Excessively Noisy Aircraft from Using East Hampton's Airport


Sunday, July 8, 2012

Mating Dances

Male hummingbirds do 2 types of mating dance, the U and the shuttle. The former is a U-shaped rapid flight that starts high (as much as 50 feet) and swoops down to a low point where the female is located, and then up again. As the hummingbird rapidly decelerates at the bottom of the dive, the force reaches 9G - the maximum experienced by fighter pilots. Any more and the bird would disintegrate.
If this spectacular display attracts the female's attention (i.e. she continues to watch) he will switch to his shuttle dance, where he moves horizontally back and forth over a distance of a foot or so inches away from the female. This display is accompanied by loud buzzing, following the rhythm of acceleration and deceleration every second or so. Both these displays are also sometimes done as a warning, though usually in fragmentary form.
A few days ago I saw a U-dance, quite close to where I was trimming bushes. I could not see the female, and I thought perhaps my long-handled pruner had triggered his indignation. This occurred in their favorite arena for such displays, the bluff at the northwest corner of the sanctuary. 
Today, working again with my pruner quite near this spot I suddenly heard the frantic rythmic buzzing of a shuttle dance, literally only a foot away! At first I again could not see the female: the dance was centered on a bare twig. But then, inches away, I saw the female, partly obscured by foliage. She was following the performance very closely. A few second later they both flew off.
Female hummingbirds can mate several times in a season: perhaps she already has a second nest prepared.
I will try to get video of a dance, but they have become quite uncommon compared to earlier years. In the meantime here is a video I took this afternoon, showing a female feeding from Salvia involucrata.
In the first frames you see the hummer darting about deciding where to feed next. Then she disappears for a few seconds while I try to see where she has moved. In the rest of the video she is feeding on S. involucrata, at one point clinging to a stem and even briefly bathing in a wet leaf. Notice also at one point she briefly backs off when a bee comes near.