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 (

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Good news and a little less good; Fred adjusts, and relieves himself

Today I received in the mail a letter from the law firm of Purcell and Ingrao confirming that they had been retained by State Farm to defend me in the lawsuit Terry v. Adams, with law firm partner Lynn Ingrao representing me. This afternoon I had a long chat with Lynn, and was impressed by her approach and directness, and particularly by her expressed intention to visit the sanctuary to see things for herself. She made it clear that she would be defending me on all the claims in the lawsuit, not just the liability for payment of $3m in compensation for the "irreparable harm" the hummingbirds have inflicted. She accurately characterised the suit as crazy, but needing to be taken seriously.

Here's a video showing how Fred is adjusting to the situation.

In a less welcome development, I received today the following email from Richard Downs, the Town of Riverhead Code Investigator, who issued the Notice of Violation back in late december.

Mr Adams 

The NOV and Complaint Number (CC 130246) which you are referring to is an active violation. My records indicate it was mailed on December 18, 2013. With regard to any conversations you had with the Town Attorney on this matter I was clearly not a part of. The NOV stands as written. If you do not agree with the issuance of this notice of  violation you may seek a variance with the Zoning Board of Appeals pursuant to Chapter 108-76 of the Riverhead Town Code.  Should you have any further questions with regard to this matter please feel free to contact me directly. Thank you. 


Rich Downs
Town Investigator

This was in response to the following email I wrote to him on june 4:

Dear Mr Downs - back in december you sent me an undated NoV (complaint #
130246). The day after receiving it I spoke to the Town Attorney, who
assured me that no further action would be pursued by the Town, or was
required of me.
I'm uncertain as to the status of this NoV, whether I should or can appeal
the NoV, or if any compliance measures are still required. I've been out of
the country for 5 months. Please advise me.Thanks very much - Paul Adams

It's all a bit confusing, since Mr Downs works in the Town Attorney's office. I sent the following email in reply:

Mr Downs - thanks for the clarification. In considering the possibility of an appeal to the ZBA, as you suggest, or in planning "remediation",  it would be helpful to know what features you observed during your visit aug 5 to my property constitute the ongoing violation. Or perhaps there are other aspects of my property or activities that have led you to issue the Notice? I can neither remediate nor appeal the violation unless I know the contributing elements. For example, I have erected no structure on my property in connection with my backyard bird sanctuary (or indeed otherwise), other than a very small temporary shed (6X8) that I use for storing gardening tools, as permitted under the Code.
Please note that since receiving your Notice, on dec 19 2013, I have received no visitors to my property to view hummingbirds, and indeed during most of that period, there have been no hummingbirds. I have not yet decided whether in august 2014 I will admit guests interested in hummingbirds, whether members of the public or otherwise; it depends, amongst other things, on hummingbird numbers and the outcome of an ongoing private lawsuit.

Backyard bird sanctuaries are perhaps a bit of a grey area under typical zoning ordinances, though they are quite common and indeed encouraged by national organizations. Private gardens that are open, on limited days, to the gardening public are also quite common, even in the Town of Riverhead. Indeed, the Riverhead Gardening Club wishes to visit my sanctuary this coming august - I have not made a definite arrangement since I don't want these good ladies to be in violation also!

I have been advised by Jill Lewis (deputy Town Supervisor) that the issuance of an NoV in itself does not constitute proof of a violation, merely a formal opinion that a violation might have occurred. The establishment of a violation would require formal legal action, which is not planned by the Town. In the unlikely event that the ongoing private lawsuit Terry v. Adams establishes that the violation did in fact occur, I could presumably either remediate the violation (as directed by the Court) or appeal to the ZBA, or both.

Finally, I would appreciate it if you would let me know whether it is generally the case that an NoV that you issue remains forever in force, unless formally rescinded or otherwise acted upon, and whether the only means of rescinding an NoV, within the Town of Riverhead, is for the "violation" to be approved by the ZBA. That would be unfortunate, since it would confirm that the violation occurred in the first place, but was allowable. 

Sorry to bother you with all this, but we must both do our duty.

- Paul Adams

Here's Fred pooping.


  1. Nice blog with nice click in video.

    1. Thanks, glad you like it! I wish I could write more about hummingbirds and less about lawsuits etc, and spend more time outdoors with my camcorder!

  2. With all the problems it has the Town of Riverhead should be focusing on more important issues.

    1. Emily - of course I agree. What annoys me is that I get different versions from different officials. I suspect that the people behind the private lawsuit (including the plaintiffs, but also my neighbor Supreme Court Justice Mayer) are pushing certain Town officials to harass me, while other officials realize this could backfire and make the Town look stupid. If all this can happen to a tiny little private hummingbird sanctuary, it makes one realize that on the bigger issues there's no hope.

  3. I am pleased you have a determined legal team in place for your defense. I sincerely hope those who are abusing their positions are revealed and punished accordingly.

  4. I hope so too. Of course they are already scuttling behind "lawyer privilege", but I will continue to throw sunlight on the unfolding little scandal. For the latest in the NoV saga, see today's (my birthday) post.