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, May 31, 2015

Fred flashing close-up

Here Fred is perching near the coral huneysuckle, occasionally turning his throat "gorget" (which looks dark from the side) towards the camera and glinting red.

Friday, May 29, 2015

what's in flower right now

A very good and old friend from England, a longtime Boston resident, stayed with me in Baiting Hollow for 36 hours and helped with watering in all the new plants. He also took a lot of photos, and here are some.

 more wild cherry

 and more

 Red Buckeye - Esculus pavia (good hummer tree)

 red  buckeye again


 ostrich ferns and columbine

 ostrich ferns and columbine

 columbine and Wendy's Wish salvia

 wild cherry

 this very fragrant small flowering tree was at the Slaves' Burying Ground, in Orient. Any identification?

 Salvia splendens "van Houttei"

 Salvia guaranitica

 3 masks on a storage shed

Terry Farm Rd becomes Hummingbird Way as it enters the sanctuary

 The nearly extinct bell

 shrimp plant

the small white flower has nectar

the bract surrounding it is colorful

Golden Shrimp,, Pachystachys lutea

 Abutilon (Flowering Maple)

 Clerodendron thompsoniae


Thursday, May 28, 2015

Fred guards Coral Honeysuckle and Darts his Silvery Tongue

On the north east corner of the front cabin "Seagull Lodge" grows a tall coral honeysuckle (Lonicera sempervirens, available from, the best honeysuckle for hummingbirds:

It's in full bloom and is attracting visits from male (principally Fred) and female hummers. Curiously the flowers emerge from the center of the leaves:

Fred sometimes guards this honeysuckle (he cannot be near all the good nectar sources at the sanctuary at once!) and here he's perching on a nearby twig, and darting out his tongue.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Salvia chiapensis ; Pink Lady Slippers in Bloom

Though Fred is very vigilant, I sometimes do see a female surreptitiously visiting flowers or feeders - however so far I have not had my video-camera to hand. Yesterday evening I saw a male, probably Fred, sampling blooms of Salvia chiapensis on the back deck. Most of my other salvias are not blooming yet. The video shows the flowers shortly after the hummer visit.

I'm fortunate to have several nice clumps of pink lady slippers (a ground orchid) at the sanctuary:

It's rather rare that these flowers set seed, about 1% of the time.  Here's a description of the finicky pollination process taken from this excellent website.

"Pollination in lady's slippers involves deception and entrapment! It's pretty much the same process in all species of lady's slippers. The flowers have little or no nectar to reward insects, but their bright colours are attractive. The shape of the slipper part of the flower (the lip) encourages insects, usually bees, flies or beetles, to crawl inside. They enter through the fissure in the front of the lip, then find that they cannot exit the way they entered, owing to the infolded margins. The inside of the lip is designed to guide the insect to the only exit, out the base of the lip, where it must pass by the flower's stigma, depositing any pollen the insect may have been carrying. Then as it leaves the opening in the lip it brushes past the anthers, collecting more pollen, which hopefully (from the plant's perspective), will be carried to another lady's slipper of the same species."

If one is lucky seed pods may form in the fall. When these split open they release the tiny seeds, which are like dust, or even smoke. I monitor seed pod formation (I usually only get 1, 2 or 3 per year), and when the pod is perfectly ripe and about to split, I remove it, and split it open manually in locations where I think they might "take". Absolutely vital for germination and growth is a symbiotic fungus, which is only present in acidic forest floor duff, for example under mixed oak-jack pine woods (which I have along the western edge of my property). I try to do this on a windless day, and release the "smoke" very close to the ground. This procedure has been successful - I now have lady slippers popping up all along the woodland trail. Unfortunately the abundant deer sometimes browse both leaves and flowers, so my population is only slowly expanding. 

From the description of pollination given above it should be clear that lady slippers are NOT a hummingbird plant. But they are very pretty.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Pete shows up after sunset?

The last few days I've only seen Fred, the dominant male. But last night after this sunset:

a male showed up at a feeder near the front deck that seemed more hesitant that Fred, who is always very quick and certain. Pete?

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Fred pays a call of nature; sunset; where to get good hummingbird plants; Nest Cam

Fred continues to spend times, and pennies, on his favorite perch:

Yesterday was a clear cool evening (woodstove still going). Here is the sunset:

And here is a west-east panorama just after sunset.

In my last post I wrote that the best (and only specialized) place for hummingbird-friendly plants is Long Island Hummingbird Plants. Bill Koller knows what works, since he gets hummers in his yard. But many of the plants centers and nurseries on the island carry good hummer-plants. However, you must be careful to remember that the sales staff might not know what is best. For example, they might have seen a hummer visiting a geranium, petunia or impatiens in their yard, and recommend these plants. However, the key is to see what hummers PREFER not what they visit. They will also visit bits of red tape, but I don't recommend you festoon your yard with red tape - the flower has to reward the hummer with nectar (preferably lots of it), ortherwise he won't come back.

That being said here are a few of my other favorite places, mostly either near Baiting Hollow or Stony Brook.

Peconic River Herb Farm (Calverton)
Beds and Borders (wholesale, but with a retail outlet in Laurel, and wide distribution).
Colorful Gardens (wide distribution, and an outlet in Jamesport)
Long Island Perennial Farm (Baiting Hollow)
Kunz (Port Jeff)
B & G (St James)
Homeside Florist (Tropicals, Riverhead)
Olde Towne Gardene of Setaukete
Trimbles (Cutchogue)
Lynch's Garden Center (Southhampton)
Marders (Bridgehampton).

I'll soon write about more, and also give specific plants recommendations (see also

Here's a cool live webcam showing 2 babies in a hummingbird nest in California (see also link in right column of this blog):

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Fred's second favorite perch; Another type of flowering maple; A visit to Long Island Hummingbird Plants

Here's a video of Fred on his second favorite perch, in a wild cherry that's about to bloom - though he spends much less time here than at his favorite spot. You can see Old Field Point, 23 miles away, on the horizon. Immediately after I filmed him, he shifted back to his favorite perch.

Also today, a very kind friend who overwinters some of my tropicals in a greenhouse she has access to brought a first batch to the sanctuary, including several in full bloom: a yellow angel trumpet (Brugmansia), a shrimp plants (hummer ***) and a flowering maple (abutilon), also an excellent (**) hummer plant. Thanks Rosa for taking such good care of these full-grown babies. Here's a view of the abutilon.

You can get both shrimp plant and abutilon - and a whole host of other superb hummer favorites, at Bill Koller's "Long Island Hummingbird Plants", located in Medford near exit 64 of the LIE. In particular, during my visit there 2 days ago, I saw he has treasures such as Coral Honeysuckle "Major Wheeler", many salvias, cardinal flower,  Mina lobata, and best of all Lavender, Purple and Pink Porterweed, which he propagates himself. Definitely the best place on Long Island for hummingbird shopping!

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Shep Jones wakes up; Bahama Woodstar Hummingbird filmed the day I fell ill.

back on may 5 I filmed parts of the Avalon preserve that lies on both sides of Shep Jones Lane, the dirt road that links 25A in Saint James to Harbor Rd in Head of the Harbour (see,+St+James,+NY+11780/@40.9079909,-73.1515259,1042m/data=!3m1!1e3!4m2!3m1!1s0x89e83932f7c4835b:0xfd0f7483f3b129d9)/ Here are some of the results.

I'm in Stony Brook and have no fresh hummer vids from Baiting Hollow, so here's a movie I shot april 4 at Calypso, Eleuthera, the day I fell sick. It shows a male bahama woodstar (note the purple gorget) feeding at firecracker (Russellia equisetiformis), which is abundant in my large garden there. Shortly after I took to my bed, where I languished for 10 days before returning urgently to the US.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

The Southold Mile-Posts; Fred posing in morning light

This is the first of a series of old granite mile markers that record the distance along the "King's Hwy" (now Route 25) from Suffolk Court House ("CH"), in what is now Riverhead, Long Island. These may have been positioned by Ben Franklin when he was Postmaster General under George III. The ones in Riverhead have, not surprisingly, all disappeared, but the ones in Southold still exist. The first in a series of videos featuring these mileposts. This one is located near the southern end of Aldrich Lane, on the south side of Franklinville Rd, in the front yard of the beautiful and historic Cleaves-Kuester House (circa 1703). It's just behind the front fence. On the other side of the house lies busy Route 25. You can just about make out the "Suffolk" but the mileage above and the "C.H." below have been effaced by the many elapsed years. It would be a wonderful project to re-create the missing Riverhead markers, in or near their proper place, even if most of them end up in Gas Stations and Seven Elevens.
Here's an interesting article about whether the mile stones were indeed installed by Ben Franklin:

Fred's on his habitual lookout. Here I filmed him in morning light, with the sun in the southeast. 2X slo mo. At the end he takes off, and in another short clip I show this take-off in much slower motion.
I modified my set-up slightly so I no longer have to climb on the rickety table, though the tripod/camera are still there, 40 feet away from Fred's perch.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

2 females battle it out in Manorville

Dominick has posted this wonderful video of 2 female hummingbirds fighting over his feeders in Manorville. One of them is presumably Lady Di (the female who successfully nested in Dominick's backyard last year), and I will call the other one Camilla (for reasons that will be obvious to Brits and those Americans who follow the antics of the British royals; see for example Notice that although there are several feeders, each with several ports, they absolutely will not share.

Dominick has also posted the following cool vid of one of his ladies feeding at a window feeder.

Makes one want to move to Manorville!

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Paul's favorite perch; what's in flower?

My last 2 posts have feature's Fred's favorite perch at the Baiting Hollow Hummingbird Sanctuary. Funnily enough my favorite perch looks out over the same wonderful view - what I call the western valley, really a more a dell or dingle (in Scotland a glen). But it's not on a thin dead twig at the top of a 50 foot maple, but instead at the northwest corner of the front deck of the front cabin "Seagull Lodge". This spot overlooks both the full extent of the little wooded valley that runs in a southerly direction, and also Long Island Sound 150 feet below - all the way from Old Field Point 25 miles to the west, and Orient Point 25 miles to the east, encompassing the widest part of the Sound. In the usual humidity of summer one cannot (rather thankfully) see the coast and mountains of Connecticut. Furthermore one cannot see another house anywhere in view! From this position I can sometimes see hummingbird mating dances, for which it's a preferred location. And of course the spring and summer sunsets are spectacular. Of course I'm not really looking for potential mates, just enjoying the unrivaled (at least on Long Island) panorama. Here are 2 quick vids.

And here are some videos featuring some of the things that were blooming at the sanctuary yesterday, of which the native columbine Aquilegia canadensis is the best hummer flower. I'm currently in Stony Brook (morning duties at the University and a shopping trip to Ikea with Claire to pick up some Applaro garden seats for the sanctuary and a new bright red sofa for Stony Brook) and taking advantage of the much better bandwidth here to upload movies to YouTube.

Fred on his favorite perch, in evening light

He's on his favorite perch, 40 feet away, with the evening sun illuminating his back. Baiting Hollow.
2X slo mo.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Fred on his favorite perch, 40 feet away but close-up

Fred is the dominant male hummingbird at the Baiting Hollow Hummingbird Sanctuary. His favorite perch, where he spends more than 50% of his time, is near the dead tip-top of a red maple tree, that's probably about 50 feet high. From this spot he can watch several of his feeders, but above all the whole of the western valley beneath him. Luckily though the maple is tall, the base is about 30 feet below the upper garden and the decks. But that still means he's 20 feet above me, and my closest approach is 40 feet away. Furthermore, he's silhouetted against the silvery sky. The maple is also somewhat concealed behind a tall oak. However I've found that I've a clear view of this perch from the side deck of the back cabin, below which the ground falls abruptly down more than 50 feet. Nevertheless even from this vantage point he's still silhouetted against the sky. Furthermore, because he's 40 feet from me, I have to use my 1.5 X teleconverter lens on my Vixia G30, in addition to the standard 20X zoom plus the 2X digital zoom, for a total zoom of 60X! Even if I carefully brace my arms against the armrests of a good chair, there's still too much camera shake at that high magnification. So I have to use a tripod (my trusty, and slightly rusty after 20 years, old Bogen). To reduce the silhouetting problem, I have to get the viewpoint quite high above the deck (about 10 feet) so I've put the fully extended tripod on top of an old rather wobbly table that's on the deck. From this higher viewpoint (about level with the hummer) I can see the bird outlined not against the sky but against the woods on the other side of the valley. I have to climb on top of this ricketty table to set the focus. Once focussed, I can wait a short while for him to show up, always exactly at the same spot, and then press the "roll" button. Here's the first result. It's not quite in focus on the bird (the depth of field is only a few inches), and the lighting is not good (the sun was near it's zenith and slightly behind the bird) but not too bad for an initial attempt. You can see the ruby-red throat, though it's not exactly flashing, because of the bad lighting. He sometimes takes off briefly to catch an insect, out of view, but often quickly returns. 2X slo-mo.

Prince Charming in Manorville

Dominick sent me this cool photo:

Here at the sanctuary activity has died down: I'm seeing males and females (possibly only Fred and Suzy) very briefly and individually, either perching, feeding at my widely scattered feeders, or zipping . I suspect that Fred has driven Pete away.
Lilacs and crabapple in magnificent bloom, as well as columbines and wonderfully fragrant daphnes. Will post videos soon.

Monday, May 11, 2015

more mating - but very different this time.

Yesterday while I was working in a flower bed, I noticed 2 box turtles chasing each other. When I returned a short while later, I observed the male climb onto the back of the female. They were partly obscured by leaf litter and a newly planted Salvia guaranitica, whose rather minimal shade and cover they seemed to like for their amours. The male remained firmy attached to the female (who you can only just see underneath in the videos), and after settling in comfortably he started regular brief bitings in the region of the female's withdrawn head. Each bite made a definite faint clicking sound, which you can hear on the second video. Apparently this coupling can last for 2 hours, but I had to go shopping.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Lady Di's Prince Charming arrives

Dominick, in Manorville,  reports that an adult male is now also frequenting his feeders, along with Lady Di and another female (Camilla?). Here's a vid:

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Fred Flashes again; what's in bloom at the sanctuary; where to get hummingbird plants.

Here are a couple of recent clips of Fred perching and flashing. I've seen several more mating dances, though none to match the one I filmed a few days ago. Suzy is coming up from the bluff face to feeders near the bluff edge. Fred has a favorite perch at the very top of a dead maple, partly hidden behind the top of an oak that's rapidly unfurling its leaves. From this spot he can survey both the western valley and some of the feeders near the cabins. However the closest I can get is 40 feet away, and even with the 60 X zoom I now have, I cannot film him really close-up - and, as expected, camera shake is an increased problem. In these 2 clips  he was perching closer, though never for long.

There's not much blooming at the moment at the sanctuary: shadbush trees, the sweet-smelling Vibernum carlesii,  bleeding hearts and a few native columbines (Aquilegia canadensis, much more hummer-friendly than the ornamental varieties).  Most of the daffodils have faded, and the lilacs and a large crabapple are just about to flower.

Shadbush (Amelianchier arborea), also known as serviceberry, is quite prolific close to and on the bluff. At this time of year (when the shad run) it's clothed in white. In this movie I zoom out to show the western valley which is rapidly leafing out (already much more than shown here).


Bleeding Heart

Vibernum carlesii (Korean Spice Vibernum). Today I saw Fred very briefly trying the flowers of this plant, but obviously not finding much nectar.

However I recently acquired (from B&G nursery in St James) a large blooming Salvia greggii, which I've placed, in its pot, on the edge of the bluff, and is getting quite a few visits, mostly from Fred. The Aesculus carnea gets lot of bees but so far no hummers.

However, the best place to find good (3 star) hummingbird plants on the island is, appropriately, They are conveniently located in Medford - take exit 63 (intersection with route 83) on the LIE. But they are only open by appointment, starting this coming saturday (may 16). Every plants they feature (with cool photos) is an excellent hummer plant! They also have an interesting collection of hummer-related gear. I'll write more about them in a future post.

Friday, May 8, 2015

Lady Di is back!

Some of you may remember that towards the close of last season I was featuring videos of a nesting hummingbird we called "Lady Di" (in honor of Lady Diana Princess of Wales) in Manorville. Dominick reports she appears to be back and has posted the following nice videos:

She seems to be lapping up the calories she burned during her long trip back from central America. Let's hope she successfully nests in the same spot as last year (which often happens) or perhaps in an even more visible location. Here are clickable thumbnails of the same vids. Thanks Dominick!

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Fred attacks Suzy at the Baiting Hollow sanctuary; visiting procedure

In this recent movie. Fred, the current dominant male at the Baiting Hollow Hummingbird sanctuary, attacks Suzy, an interloper female. Here we see Fred perched at the top of a tree (one of his favorite lookouts), and, zooming out,  the female hummer Suzy (note the throat is light not dark) cautiously approaching a feeder swinging in the wind. But before she starts drinking Fred seems to realize she's there and cruelly attacks (or at least pesters her). Then Suzy rapidly takes off. Of course it's possible that this was merely a prelude to a courtship display; indeed a bit later in the afternoon I did see a courtship display (see my other Youtube vids), though I don't know that involved the same birds shown here. It's rather lucky that at the crucial attack moment, the wind swings the feeder to the right, revealing Fred. 4X slo mo, 1080P HD

I've updated the right column of this blog to explain how you can visit the sanctuary this year. Please read carefully. It's the same "slot" system as last year. It's a bit of a hassle for all concerned but it does ensure controlled, very limited, traffic on the long private road access to the sanctuary. 

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Plot thickens: there are 3 hummers in the mating dance movie! And a bonus: Fred sticks out his tongue!

On closer study I think there's a lot more going on in this short (7 sec) video than I initially realised. In particular as well as the regular male mating dance passing above the feeder (only the last rightward swing of this dance is shown in this short excerpt from a longer movie, "Hummingbird Mating Dance may 4"), and the departure of the target of the dance, a perching female, there are 2 other events that at first I did not see either on the movie or in real life. First, a hummer (probably Fred, but possibly Pete) makes a further swing below the feeder. Second apparently (see my Youtube commentary) 2 hummers (probably Pete followed very closely by Fred) hurtle towards the feeder but then abruptly change course. These 2 "new" events are more difficult to spot, happen very quickly (much less than 1/4 second!) and really require one to advance the movie frame by frame, or by setting replay at 0.25 speed on Youtube. I've indicated the locations (or location centers) of these events by white boxes, which pop up briefly at the 5 different locations involved.

This is a copy of the previous 7 second (expanded to 30  sec by 4X slo-mo) excerpt "may 4 mating dance female watches male", on which I've superimposed a set of 5 annotation boxes. These white boxes show up at the following approximate times: 1 sec, 3 s, 10s, 16, 28 and show the approximate locations of the following events:
1s: the male (probably Fred) executes a last left-right swing above the female and the feeder, passing rapidly through this box in a right-upward motion
3 s: location of perched female; she shows up as an upward blip on a branch inside the small box (the box unfortunately moves slightly, but the female does not, until much later in the movie (at 28 s, or actually 7 s real-time).
10s Fred does a left-right upward swing just below the feeder, hurtling through this third box.
16 s Pete, rapidly and closely followed (I think) by Fred hurtle from the lower right edge toward the feeder but then abruptly change course near this 4th box, speeding toward the right.
28 s The female, Suzy, leaves her perch, moving down rightward probably to join Fred below the bluff edge.
The events are 10 and 16 seconds happen very quickly and are difficult to spot, but trust me they are there, and you can see them by patiently toggling frame by frame, or by viewing the movie directly on Youtube with a further 0.25 slowing factor.
I suspect that in general a lot more is happening before our very eyes than we suspect: hummers move and react extremely rapidly.

Well that's all rather complicated and professorial, so to end up with I end up with a recent vid of Fred perching and sticking his tongue out at us!

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Thrills and Trills: mating dance!

Yesterday around 4 pm I saw my first mating dance of the 2015 season.  I was sitting quietly in the lower garden observing a couple of feeders close to the bluff edge (my slow recovery from pneumonia requires a lot of resting!), when I observed a hummingbird doing his unmistakable "pendulum dance" in and above the wild cherry tree (Prunus serotina) right in front of me. When I realized what was going on I activated the Vixia G30 video camera and pointed it, zoomed out, at the general area of activity. Of course because I have it permanently set up with a 2X digital zoom it cannot capture a very wide field of view, so the video only shows the central, lowest, part of the dance - presumably where the target of the dance, most likely a receptive female, was located. However, I could not spot the female, partly because I, like she, was mesmerised by the dance. The U-shaped arc seemed to go much higher than the tree-top, though I could not follow the complete swing. As he came downward, near the nadir of the dance (close to the presumed female) he emitted a distinct  brief "trilling" sound presumably created by the air rushing through the tail feathers (see  Here's the video followed by my Youtube description:-

This movie shows a hummingbird mating dance, at the Baiting Hollow Hummingbird Sanctuary, shot on may 4 2015. The male arrived a week before and established a breeding territory and the female presumably only on may 4. You have to quite carefully to see the male doing his U-shaped "pendulum" dance, and even more closely to see the perched female near the base of his dance (i.e. the bottom of the U). In fact, it's impossible to spot the female, unless you watch carefully near the end where the male does a final close swing, and then, after a short delay, the female takes off to the lower right. In fact, you have to slowly, frame by frame, rewind the movie so you can see the spot where the female starts her rightward departure. Then you realize that the female was perched at that spot throughout the dance, intently turning to follow the male's dance. The movie was shot with the camera "overcranking" - i.e. it's shot at 60 fps for playback at 30 fps, giving a 2X slow motion effect. Because the male, then the female, are moving very rapidly, they shift position from frame to frame very quickly. Unfortunately I don't think standard Youtube allows you to rewind the movie backwards, frame by frame (see Note below), so you can identify the female's takeoff spot. But I can do this using Quicktime, and it's quite clears she is perched at that spot until the point, near the end, where the male's dance stops and she takes off to the lower right. I also show, below, an excerpt from this movie, at 4X slo mo. My Vixia G30 allows overcranking, but unfortunately in this mode the sound is switched off. However I could clearly here a trilling sound that the male emitted (probably using his tail feathers) as he reached the base of his dance and starts to accelerate upwards. 
Added Note: you can add a frame-by-frame advance/rewind app to Google Chrome ( that will allow you to rewind the video frame by frame from the moment the female takes off to the lower right, so you can find out where exactly she is perching during the male's dance. You can also make out how she moves her head/body while perched to follow the male's dance. Note that she's just a speck in a quite large tree, and it's essential you use the full 1080P HD setting.

Here's the second, 4X slo-mo, excerpt showing the end of the male's dance followed by the female's departure to the lower right.

This is a short extract from the video "hummingbird mating dance may 4", shot at the Baiting Hollow Hummingbird Sanctuary.  It shows the last part of that movie, at 4X slo-mo. The female is perched at the same spot throughout the longer movie, and is turning to follow, with great interest, the "pendulum" mating dance of the male. Then near the end, as the male finishes his dance, she quickly leaves her perch, flying off to the lower right, presumably to where the male is waiting for her. It's almost impossible to spot where she is perching either in the full movie or in this slowed excerpt. You have to look for moment where she suddenly takes off to the lower right, and then rewind the movie slowly backward from that point. You will see exactly where she takes off from, and then you realise that she's actually at that location (but very hard to spot) throughout the excerpt and, I think throughout the full movie (which shows only the second half of the full mating dance). During the filming I could not actually see the female, she's a tiny almost immobile (other than her rapid head-turning to follow the male) dot on a thin branch, and I did not clearly see her rapid departure either.But I suspected that she must have been there, and quite close to the nadir of the dance. Indeed, in this excerpt you can see that the last swing of the male is actually very close to where the female sits, though previous swings were not quite so close. Use this Chrome app to add frame-by-frame advance/reverse to YouTube: You can also see the feeder just below where the female is perching. Note that the female takeoff starts during the 29 second of the movie, and the male's last swing is closest to the perching female during the seond second of the movie (i.e. during the frames marked 1). Thus during 28/4 = 7 seconds the female comes to realize that the male has finished his dance and is waiting for her somewhere below the right bottom of the video.

Note that the pendulum dance is also used by hummmingbirds (I think males only) as an aggression display, eg towards immature hummers. However in my experience this is usually a more fragmentary type of dance. I think that in this case it's more likely to be a true courtship display, given the size of the arc covered, the presence of a hummer (most likely a newly arrived adult female) at the nadir of the dance, and above all the trill. However, I did not see the "shuttle dance" that usually follows the courtship pendulum dance, and preceded actual mating - perhaps because this happened somewhere down on the bluff. Let's hope that this courtship was consummated (off-screen, like an old-fashioned Hollywood movie) and that the female successfully nests nearby.  

I will now try to create annotated versions of these 2 videos, pointing out the key features to look at. 

UPDATE: looking at this vid more carefully I see that the male executes one more swing from right to left, at the 10/(4) sec mark. This swing passes below the female, quite close to the feeder, and he disappears below the bluff, to the left of the frame. This explains the otherwise strange lapse of time between what is the penultimate swing above the female and the female's departure to the lower right. Note that the total actual duration of this movie excerpt is around 7 seconds, so there's a lot happening very fast. Also note that in individual frames the moving hummers are blurred because of the relatively slow shutter speed (not sure what the exact speed is because the camera was in Programmed mode; I will try to shoot more video using a fast (eg 1/1000 speed) but of course this demands intense lighting.

Monday, May 4, 2015

Fred shifts position; Aesculus x carnea; visiting this year

Fred, currently the dominant male hummingbird at the Baiting Hollow sanctuary, sits on a twig watching for intruders. Near the start of the movie he shifts his position by 180 degrees, but to do so he uses his wings briefly to lift off and adopt the new stance: hummingbirds cannot walk at all. Indeed when first seen by Europeans they were thought to be legless, and this group (technically an Order, which also includes their close relatives the swifts) is still called the "Apodiformes', which means footless.


Aesculus x carnea is a cross between Aesculus pavia (the red buckeye, one of the best hummingbird trees for the North East, and A. hippocastanum, the horse chestnut. It has magnificent spikes of pink flowers which attract bees (you see one in this movie) and, supposedly, hummingbirds. Recently I picked up an A. x carnea at a local nursery. For the moment I will leave it in its pot, positioned in a prominent place where I hope it will attract the attention of Fred, Pete and newly arriving hummers, and earn at least one star in my hummer-friendly rating scale. However I'm not optimistic: the feeders are the only 4-star attraction. 

I've updated the right column of this blog to explain how you can visit the sanctuary this year. Please read carefully. It's the same "slot" system as last year. It's a bit of a hassle for all concerned but it does ensure controlled, very limited, traffic on the long private road access to the sanctuary. 

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Fred Flashes Red

Here's Fred, the dominant adult male hummingbird currently in residence at the Baiting Hollow Hummingbird Sanctuary. You can see hints of red on his throat, and at one point he rapidly gobbles an insect. At the end of the movie he leaves his perch and flies down to briefly sample nectar from the nearby feeder. Note that there's another, more timid, adult male around, Pete. No slo-mo.


Pete doesn't quite know how my minifeeders work: instead of going straight to the feeding port, which in this case is located on the other side of the feeder (located at the top of the bluff with Long Island Sound below), he's going for the traces of nectar that seep from the cap-feeder junction. You can see his brilliant green back. At the end he quickly dives down the bluff to escape possible attack by Fred, who is zealously guarding all his scattered feeders.

Here we see that Pete, the nondominant male hummer at the Baiting Hollow Hummingbird Sanctuary, has figured out how to use his favorite feeder, located at the bluff edge where he can rapidly scoot down to cover. But he still investigates the entire edge of the cap, not convinced yet that the port is the way to go. Notice that as well as uncertain about the way the feeder should be used, he spends much longer at the feeder than Fred does. Fred just liked to quickly sample, just to check that it's a functioning nectar source which he needs to guard. But now I've got quite a few scattered feeders up, and so he's forced to patrol a larger territory, allowing Pete to sneak in.

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Getting more interesting: 2 adult males

Well, it appears that at the moment I'm hosting 2 adult males - a dominant one I will call Fred (since he might be the same one I saw in june last year), and an intruder. The dominant one is spending a lot of time perching near the various feeders I now have scattered around, and attacking the intruder from time to time. This happens very quickly and almost impossible to film. But here is some more footage of Fred perching and feeding.

He's still here! New sharper video

I arrived back at the sanctuary at noon, and immediately saw a male hummer - almost certainly the one I saw on wednesday, at the feeder on the rearmost deck of the back cabin "Hummingbird Cottage" This is always a popular one because it's essentially in the tree tops, despite being only 6 feet above a deck. This feeder was quite low, so I re-filled it. I saw him on the move a couple of times, then around 1.15 pm filmed the following movie (2X slo-mo as usual), which is much better focussed than my last one.

Although I'm still weak, I managed to pick up a couple of interesting hummingbird plants at local nurseries on my way here. More details soon. I'm now going to

Friday, May 1, 2015

Shep Jones Lane on May Day; more hummer arrivals

I went to a faculty meeting at Stony Brook University this morning, partly to test my strength. My colleagues seemed happy to see me alive, and I even managed to chip in a couple of relevant comments. I also renewed my parking garage car and my Stony Brook ID card (and, what's nice they turned out to be one and the same: one less card to carry.) However I grew tired as the morning advanced, and went home for lunch and a nap. I hope to go out to Baiting Hollow tomorrow and shoot some decent video of "my" hummingird, assuming he's still there as I think he will be.

But in the afternoon I went for a very short walk along Shep Jones Lane and the surrounding fields of Avalon Preserve - an absolutely beautiful spot just 5 minutes away from our house by car. My most dedicated readers may remember that I posted about Shep Jones (also the originator of a well-known folk-song) last fall. I've recently acquired a "smartphone" (Huawei Vision 2, cost $80 total at Consumer Cellular, with a $15 a month phone-and-data plan). So I took a photo at Shep Jones, and even managed to send it via Bluetooth to my MacAir computer (where I compose all these posts). Here is is:

Interestingly the fields at Avalon have just received their annual mowing. This allows all the marvelous wildflowers to self-seed, while keeping the fields open and free of perennial weeds and invasives.  They also look wonderful. If only I could persuade the Open Space Committee of Riverhead Town to proceed in similar fashion at the Town Preserve (the "Sound Ave Preserve") that lies very near the hummingbird sanctuary, at Sound Ave and Terry Farm Rd. But it's being completely neglected and choked with invasives (Rosa multiflora, Russian Olive, japanese honeysuckle etc), with wildflowers unable to establish. Their main focus seems to be in putting up signs and laying down thick coarse mulch on all the paths making them nearly un-walkable. Perhaps I will write more of my interactions with this committee when a more generous mood descends. I think that many visitors to this preserve prefer to walk up Terry Farm Rd itself, though even there the footing is not ideal, because of the gravel my neighbors like to deposit there. And of course the hummingbird sanctuary at its northern terminus is private and strictly closed until august (and not much to see till then either, except an invalid trying to rest). You can see how much more attractive, walkable and rural Terry Farm Rd used to look when I first arrived in Baiting Hollow 25 years ago here:

The above image shows part of the northwest Avalon field, and you can just make out a nice nesting box (for bluebirds?) . The footpath is the slightly more green part in the middle; in a few weeks the wild flowers will have grown up on either side of the footpath (which might receive a bit of additional mowing as the season advances. No horrible thick mulch on the paths, which makes for good walking. When the monarda and cardinal flower (the latter along the stream banks) come into bloom I expect to see hummingbirds there.

In the meantime here's a very recent nice hummer photo taken april 23 in Manorville by Bob and Alicia Evers. You can see the classic "ruby-throat" of the adult male (who are always the first to arrive).

And here's another, from Donna DeSousa in Greenlawn - her first ever northward migrating adult male, on april 30:

Enjoy Donna's Facebook Page "Friends of the Baiting Hollow Hummingbird Sanctuary", inspired by the legal attack on the sanctuary (ongoing saga of which more soon) but now a very useful general source of info about hummingbirds and hummer photography, with a focus on Long Island (see also the link to the right of this post).

Of course today is May Day, my traditional first arrival date for a male hummingbird in Baiting Hollow (though in recent years I've usually missed it because we would still be in Eleuthera). May Day is celebrated throughout the world (except the US) as International Workers' Day. Ironically this was initially started to honor some demonstrating workingmen who were executed long ago in Chicago (see Le plus ça change le plus ça reste la meme chose (sorry no circumflex accents on my keyboard). But we have Labor Day, when plutocrats helicopter en masse over the sanctuary on their way to East Hampton.

Has my illness made me dyspeptic? Or just given me the leisure to read and spout?