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, September 10, 2012

Still quite a few hummingbirds! Rescue!

Closed for the season.

This morning in Baiting Hollow was superb: quite a few hummers still around (despite the north wind), no helicopters or other noise, other than the slap of waves on the beach far below, crisp sunny weather, blue sea and just the right amount of puffy white clouds overhead. The flowers are now at their peak. But of course, I had to go to work.....!

We have had good (though not very good) hummer numbers over the last few days, including saturday when we were open but few came to visit. Understandably people are now thinking of other things. So now we will be closed until next august. But I will continue to report on the hummingbird situation, as long as they are around, and as long as I still have good pictures (taken by you all this year: thanks) to post.

Just as I was about to leave, I noticed a hummingbird inside the rear cabin, and had to rescue him. I am more used to a hummer inside the front cabin, since I leave both doors open there and they often take a short-cut through them. On average I have to rescue one there once every season: they fly in (often as part of a chase) but cannot immediately find their way out. They then try to escape through the high, light-colored ceiling. But a hummer in the rear cabin has only happened once before. So I had to get the step-ladder, and try to corner the bird using a broom. Luckily I was able to push him gently with the broom behind one of the books perched up on the high window (it's there to discourage birds from colliding with the high window), and then, using the step-ladder,  reach in and (very gently) grab him. He relaxed immediately in my hand, and I took him outside, and opened my palm. After a second he flew off unharmed, as they always do. Of course it's like holding ..... air.

The picture is by Joe Mure, and shows a hummer enjoying the sea view.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

open this sat afternoon 3-5.30, probably for the last time; 3 blood-drops

OK, we will open this afternoon 3-5.30, but this will probably be our last time this season. There are some hummingbirds around, and I think the big storms will hold off till tonight. Tomorrow the strong wind will shift to the northwest and numbers will be down, and probably not recover much. There is a (rather noisy) event at the 4H camp, so please be extra careful driving on Terry Farm Rd.
The photo, by Patrice Ellert, shows a young male feeding on rosebud salvia. Note the 3 "blood drops" on his throat - the first tiny feathers of the ruby gorget that gives the species (technically Archilocus colubris) its name. He will develop a full set on his wintering grounds in Central America. The only other member of the Archilocus genus (i.e. the rubby-throat's closest relative) is the black-chinned hummingbird, Archilocus alexandri. It looks very similar, but breeds in the west.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Closed today (fri); possibly open at the weekend

We are closed today but might open for a morning or afternoon this weekend.

The photo is by Rick Mei.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

closed today, thur and fri; "chirping", swallow spectacle

We are closed today (wed), tomorrow and friday. There are still some hummingbirds around and we might open at the weekend if the conditions are favorable.
Many of you (but not I) have heard the "chirping" sound that hummers use to communicate with each other (often to say "get out of my flowers"). Note that I say "sound" not "noise": someone recently asked me about the noises they make, and I replied that only humans make noise, and birds make sounds. The chirping is rather high frequency, so I cannot hear it. On this link (at the very useful website of NY Stare bird song recordings made by my Stony Brook  University colleague Tony Phillips) you can listen to the chirping (but again I can barely hear it). A much louder sound is recorded here:

So I don't know what to beleive: my ears or my lying eyes.

Yesterday evening between 6 and 7 there were thousands of swallows mostly moving west (though a few were circling, or going briefly east), and all seemed to be catching insects as they flew). The were over the bluff and slightly over the Sound, both above and belwo me. They did not have forked tails so were not barn swallows, and were probably tree or cliff swallows. Over a 1 hour period I sat mesmerized by the spectacle; tens of thousands must have passed over that period.

Today's photo is by Linda Sullivan. The hummer is feeding at rosebay sage.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

closed today (tues); pollen crown

We are closed today, and will not open again before the weekend (and possibly not at all). however, I will be posting more information and pictures, and possibly a few sneak open times, over the next couple of weeks. Keep reading, and keep emailing me your photos! Hummingbird numbers are well down, and perhaps the southward migration is early this year, just at the spring migration was (hummers arrived on Long Island already in march; late april is typical). However yesterday our sparse visitors all saw several birds, with several 2-hummer-chases, and one 3-hummer one.
The photo is by Mark Schaller. The hummer is feeding at Salvia guaranitica, or Anise Sage, a four star hummingbird plants, and perhaps the best for LI gardens. Notice the dab of pollen on his head.  Most flowers deposit pollen on the beak but cardinal flower (another 4-star plant) has evolved to be specifically pollinated by hummingbirds, and as the bird inserts his bill, the anther snaps down and places pollen on the top of the head. You will often see hummers at the sanctuary wth this "golden crown".
Here is a nice image, by Laura Eppig, of a hummer at cardinal flower (Lobelia cardinalis).

Monday, September 3, 2012

Open today (mon) 3-5.30; 10 FAQs; S van Houttei

We are open this afternoon (Labor day) 3-5.30, to all-comers. Please no bell ringing today.  Activity is still low (though we did see some 3-hummer chases yesterday, and 2 hummer chases this morning), and I suspect the season is ending early.

While we do not charge entry or even accept donations (except garden chairs and plants),  if you want to contribute to knowledge and welfare of eastern hummingbirds, consider, and its associate Hilton Pond is a private sanctuary in South Carolina (absolutely no connection to us), and Operation Rubythroat is based there and focusses on the ruby-throated hummingbird (research, education etc). Buy one of their splendid tee-shirts. Their newsletter is very well done and this week presents the 10 most commonly asked hummingbird questions, with clear and reliable answers.

Today's photo, by Sandra Jantzen, features the wonderful Salvia splendens "van Houttei".
S. splendens is a Brazilian shrub that is the progenitor of all the common showy miniature red annual salvias that decorate garage forecourts etc. The common feature is that the bracts surrounding the flower base and the flower itself are the same color - in the case of the species and most of its cultivars, red. But intense selection has resulted in nectarless, compact and highly floriferous descendants. van Houttei was an early dutch horticulturalist who made a very early selection, which still has lots of nectar, and has been rediscovered (so many of the older varieties are superior to the newer, commercialized, ones). The flowers and bracts are both burgundy-purple. Of course this causes confusion for inexperienced hummingbirds, who struggle to learn that only the long protruded flower-tube (see photo) has nectar - lots of it!
I find it does best in semishaded areas with richer soil, where I plant it with its red cousin S. splendens "Louie's Delight". It does take time to start flowering properly, after an initial early bloom, but is rather gorgeous. I get both from Beds and Borders.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Open today (sunday) with limits; no bell; Grand Prize

We are open today 3-5.30 only to those who have not yet visited this season. The day started very quiet but activity did pick up later in the morning.  It's the weekend, so please do not ring the bell. Yesterday hummingbird activity was again rather low, although we did see some 3-bird chases, and all those who were a bit patient had several sightings, some quite prolonged. When activity is low, it's best to sit, anywhere you prefer, enjoy the view and atmosphere, keep an eye out, and they will materialize. They spend a lot of time perching, to conserve energy and build fat reserves for the long journey south, and are then quite difficult to spot. But they are not resting, instead constantly scrutinizing their patch of flowers to detect an interloper, who they will immediately attack. They are like toddlers with toys: they will not share! You will also often see them chasing each other  at high speed through the tree tops, sometimes with incredible bursts of acceleration (up to 9G).
Directions and info are to the right of this post. If you are sure on your feet, please take the Woodland Path, starting at the yellow minibridge, but if you have any difficulty walking follow the driveway to the right (east) of the minibridge. If you (or one of your party) have great difficulty walking, email me (via to request permission to park in the closer small parking area.
We welcome any nice images you take (please try to include a hummer somewhere!) ; submission is taken as permission to post on the blog, with acknowledgements.
Today's image is by John Ward, part of the wonderful nature photography group NWPLI that came earlier in the season. You see a hummer at rosebud sage (Salvia involucrata), with bog sage in the background. At the end of the season I will select a Grand Prize winner from all the posted submissions; the reward will be your own personal private afternoon or morning at the sanctuary next season!

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Open today (sat) with limits; no bell; trumpet creeper

We are open today 9.30 to 12.30 to all-comers and 3-5.30 only to those who have not yet visited this season. No bell-ringing today please - it's the weekend. Yesterday activity was rather low, though everyone saw hummingbirds, usually several. I'm beginning to wonder whether, just as the season started early, it will end early. The wind will shift to the north today, making matters worse. We will probably be open tomorrow, but only to "newbies" (but check this blog). We should be open monday (newbies) and tuesday (all-comers), and then will only open a few more sporadic mornings or afternoons before completely closing for the season.
Today's first photo is again by Michelle Neacy, and shows trumpet creeper (or trumpet vine) flowers. At first glance there is no hummer but then one spots him half hidden behind a leaf. He appears to be exploring the base of a flower, rather than the opening. I often seen this, and it seems that many hummers find the flower itself a bit too long, despite the fact their tongue can reach much further than the tip of the beak. There are often holes at the base made by nectar-robbing orioles. Although trumpet creeper is a good hummingbird plant, I do not rate it as highly as many others, and only give it 2 stars. A better vine (***) is coral honeysuckle: less invasive, far longer blooming, and more nectar. Here is a photo, by Joe Mure.