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 (

Thursday, December 31, 2015

Jumping Ahead: Another Mother Hummer feeds her fledgling

Mme W is still quietly incubating her eggs. Meanwhile, another hummer Mom is feeding her recently fledged chick. In the sequence below my son Jamie photographed (1) junior perched on a twig (2) Mom arriving on the twig and Junior begging (3) they go beak to beak (4) Mom thrusts her beak into Junior (5) she goes all the way down into his stomach and regurgitates a mix of insects and nectar.  Bahama Woodstars photographed at Calypso, Eleuthera, late december 2015.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Mme W close-up

Mme W, the Bahama Woodstar hummingbird nesting at Calypso, our winter home on Eleuthera, is still quietly sitting on her nest, with occasional short trips for snacks. There's a nice big firecracker clump near her nest, whose small tubular red flowers are a good nectar source. She seems more tolerant of human activity near her nest than Gumbo was 2 years ago, and I can stand just 10 feet away with my video camera. However, I still need to zoom a lot and hand-shake is of course a problem, exacerbated by the swaying of the hanging branch. Here's the best I've managed so far.

However, I've now set up a step-ladder near the nest, which I plan to use as a support for the camera. I hope she well get used to this strange looming object. I've thought of trying to camouflage it with palm leaves, but then I decided that she probably doesn't mind whether nearby objects look natural or not, as long as they stay put and don't menace the nest.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

stunning new LaLa images

Kent Gomez viewed LaLa yesterday. She's doing well and posed nicely for him. Here's one of the results. More to follow.

and here, for contrast, is another of Jamie's photos of Twozy, the putative dad of the eggs currently incubating here at Calypso (Eleuthera, Bahamas). I hope this constant switching between Baiting Hollow, Long Island and Calypso, Eleuthera is not as confusing for you as it is sometimes for me. Too much of a good thing?

Monday, December 28, 2015

Monsieur 2Z - the putative Dad; LaLa update

This handsome fellow, an adult male Bahama Woodstar, is hanging out quite close to the nest I'm monitoring. Note the purple, rather than red, gorget in this species (Calliphlox evelynae; the genus name means "beautiful flame" and I presume Evelyn was the first describer*; there are 4 other Woodstars in this genus). Photo by my son Jamie Adams - check out his birding blog - he'll soon be posting a selection of his Eleuthera sightings.
Because hummingbirds are highly territorial, I suspect this is the father of the eggs than Mme W is incubating in her recently-completed nest. I therefore name him Monsieur 2Z, because male birds have 2 Z chromosomes. Other suggested names for Mme W are Mrs Bethel (in honor of Rita Bethel, a Bahamian friend), Thumbelina (a fairy-tail character) and Gumbette (because the nest is again in a Gumbo-Limbo tree). I'm currently favoring Mme W, primarily because it's very short and teaches an interesting biology lesson (after all, I am a biology professor). However I'm still open to other suggestions!
Note that Bahama Woodstars are very small - indeed slightly smaller than ruby-throats.
* Actually it seems this name was bestowed by the 19th century hummingbird expert Jules Bourcier; I suspect that Evelyn came from the 17th century naturalist diarist (and rival of Samuel Pepys) John Evelyn.

My friend Donna DeSousa went out to check on LaLa yesterday (sunday). LaLa is still very active and has drained 2 of the 4 feeders; Donna very kindly refilled those feeders. Because of the warm weather ants had invaded a third feeder and she set up an ant-trap. Can we keep LaLa happy? I suspect that as the days start to lengthen again, and Alaska re-warms, she might try an early trip back to her western breeding grounds. 

Sunday, December 27, 2015

W sits on her eggs

For the moment, pending a decision on a name for the female hummingbird nesting here at Calypso on the Bahamian "out island" of Eleuthera, I'm calling her Madame W. Female birds have 1 W sex chromosome and 1 Z sex chromosome, and males have 2 Z chromosomes, so W marks the lady. Here are 2 vids from today. from 2 different angles. She's catching the late afternoon sun, and is a little wary, sometimes eyeing me closely. Both vids were shot at normal speed so there's a soundtrack - which is just the sound of the ocean.

Saturday, December 26, 2015

LaLa still around; down south, adding the last Christmas decorations to an active hummer nest

Birder friends reported that this morning LaLa, the rufous hummingbird overwintering at the Baiting Hollow Hummingbird Sanctuary, is still around and feeding at flowers and feeders.

Meanwhile Claire and I are overwintering at our Bahamian home on the island of Eleuthera. My avid birder son Jamie is here over Christmas with his family, and this morning he spotted an active hummingbird nest quite close to where Gumbo successfully raised a family 2 years ago. The new nest is also low down in a Gumbo Limbo tree, although not the same tree as last time, and not in quite such a favorable location - but pretty good, as you can see from the following videos. In the first, she cautiously approaches her new nest with a piece of lichen, briefly lands but then, sensing danger, scoots off again. Because we stay motionless she then quickly returns (shown in the second video), adds the lichen to the top of the nest and settles on her eggs.

Note that at the very beginning of the second video she arrives on the nest and quickly snuggles down before placing the lichen on the top rim of her new nest. It's fairly windy here and the low-hanging branch at the bottom of which she has built her  nest is swaying quite a lot. From most angles her nest is hidden in foliage, but luckily it can be seen from a spot where I have the sun behind my back, though in this vid she's actually in shade. I have not looked inside the nest to check there are eggs, but I'm pretty sure there are. They have not hatched yet because she's not feeding the young, and the nest seems to be very new, since she's still decorating it with lichen. This helps camoflage the nest, exactly the same as in Baiting Hollow, but of course here we have a different species - the Bahama Woodstar (Calliphlox evelynae) instead of the Ruby-Throat (Archilocus colibris).

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Latest LaLa portrait

The following detailed portrait of LaLa, the rufous hummingbird that's spending the winter (at least so far) in Baiting Hollow, very far from her usual haunts in the far western US, was taken by Michael McBrien. This was last friday. LaLa has not been definitely seen since, but this does not mean she is not still around.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

LaLa goes for the flowers

This was filmed last week - I don't know if LaLa has survived the cold very windy weekend.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

LaLa still here, and one more too! Rufous, Allen's or "Selasphorus"?

LaLa is definitely a member of the western hummingbird genus known as "Selasphorus", which includes the Rufous (S. rufus), the Allen's (S. sasin), the Broadtailed (S. platycercus), the Calliope (S calliope, the smallest bird in the USA) and several more southerly  species (e.g. Scintillant and Volcano).   I and several real experts think she is a rufous, based on probability and appearance, but the only real way to be sure is to capture and measure the bird - and there's only one person licensed to do this in NY State, and he's far upstate. So, many birders prefer to be cautious, and refer to a member of this genus, in the absence of definitive fieldmarks or direct measurement, as a "Selasphorus". Indeed the New York State Records Committee requires definite identification to list a specific bird as a rarity.

Until very recently John Shemilt was hosting another Selasphorus, which he called "Ginger", at the entrance to the South Fork. Here she is (thanks John for the excellent photo):

However, Ginger departed earlier this week, while LaLa is still present the Baiting Hollow Sanctuary (as of friday). John suspects Ginger is a Broad-Tailed - the same species as the bird I saw at Mary-Jo Ballator's Arizona sanctuary.

It's rather extraordinary that 2 selasphoruses should be simultaneously in residence on the east end of Long Island.  We must be doing something right, and it's great fun for those who miss our summer hummers.

According to, the rufous makes the longest migration (relative to its length) of any bird. And of course LaLa has gone even further.

Friday, December 18, 2015

Summer Hummer

We briefly interrupt our LaLa coverage to bring you a reminiscence from the summer, courtesy of Heath Martinson. The young rubythroat is feeding at Salvia involucrata, which is still blooming at the sanctuary and nourishing LaLa.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

LaLa drinks a lot

LaLa regularly comes for brief visits to her favorite feeder, and when she feeds you can see air bubbles floating upward, corresponding to the substantial amounts she consumes. Then she zips off to safety in the western valley. Will she still be here for Christmas? What present could I offer her? Perhaps the best would be a companion - another rufous. But hummers are not very sociable and rufous hummingbirds have the reputation of being the most aggressive of all. However so far LaLa seems to keep her cool.

Monday, December 14, 2015

A summer-hummer squall in Baiting Hollow

Time to take a break from LaLa though she's still strutting her stuff at the sanctuary. Instead, here's a video from the summer, which shows one of the  squabbles between ruby-throated hummingbirds that goes on all summer: one starts to feed but is then rudely challenged by another - typically the "owner" of this particular patch of flowers. Notice the way the challenger spreads out his tail-feathers in a warning sign.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

LaLa by Mary Laura

Mary Laura Lamont, a noted local naturalist, expert birder and old friend, topped by to say hello to LaLa and took this photo. Note the speckling on the throat - but we still don't know if it's a boy or girl - but very likely the latter.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Charles P Torrey - abolitionist.

The gravestone of Charles Torrey, in Mount Auburn Cemetery, Boston.

"Memoir of Rev. Charles T. Torrey who died in the penitentiary of Maryland, where he was confined for showing mercy to the poor. By J.C. Lovejoy"

The Web in general, and Wikipedia in particular, is a mine of obscure but interesting information (as well as a terrible time-waster - but where does one draw the line?)

I recently came across the above interesting sentence while searching for something else in the Stony Brook University Library. The text of the excellent old biography is here.

And here is the first paragraph of Wikipedia article (from which the above photo was taken):

Charles Turner Torrey (November 21, 1813 - May 9, 1846) was a leading American abolitionist. Although largely lost to historians until recently, Torrey pushed the abolitionist movement to more political and aggressive strategies, including setting up one of the first highly organized lines for the Underground Railroad and personally freeing approximately 400 slaves (more than any other abolitionist). Torrey also worked closely with free blacks, thus becoming one of the first to consider them partners. John Brown cited Torrey as one of the three abolitionists he looked to as models for his own efforts.[1]

The article relates his tragic fate. At least he died knowing his cause was just.

Monday, December 7, 2015

More Magnificence

Here are some Arizona hummingbird photos taken during the recent family trip by my son Jamie (and have a look his blog). First up, an adult male Anna's. Note the glittering red gorget and purple head.

Now for the Magnificents.

wow - I think I would explode if one of these arrived at the sanctuary! These are twice as large as Anna's or Ruby-throats.

here you see the green back.

and one more

Sunday, December 6, 2015

2 new Lala portraits

My friend and Stony Brook colleague Maurice Kernan and his son Thomas came out yesterday to say hi to LaLa and me. Here's a couple of shots that Thomas took (of LaLa and my tripod - photographers get frustrated when their subject keeps trying to perch on their tripod).

She's still here today and is checking out all the flowers and feeders.

Saturday, December 5, 2015

New Lala vid

Lala, a rufous hummingbird from the West Coast, is still enjoying the Baiting Hollow Hummingbird Sanctuary, and is getting quite fat. Filmed on dec 5. 2X slo-mo. She arrived on or before nov 17. And here she's topping up at a feeder (4X slo-mo):-

Great Videos, though not from Baiting Hollow

Here I provide links to several Youtube vids not taken by me. First up, a short vid showing a rufous wintering in Alabama. You can see she's almost identical to LaLa, the rufous currently wintering at the Baiting Hollow Sanctuary. However, the one in Alabama does show a small patch of red on the throat. Despite this the movie says it's a she, and this is probably correct. Mine has no red spot, and is presumably a juvenile. The rufous is the hummingbird migration champion, breeding in Alaska and wintering in central america, and covering a distance of 4000 miles. They are also considered the most aggressive of US hummingbirds. These 2 facts might partly account for why they show up on the east coast in winter - even as far north as Long Island.

Many of my readers will have already seen the wonderful "Nature" video "Hummingbirds: Magic in the Air" -

I recently came across an equally good one, "Jewelled Messengers", presented by "National Geographic" and beautifully narrated by David Attenborough: 


The sequence starting at 23.00 is particularly striking- it shows the courtship dance of the tiny Wire-Crested ThornTail, which is found in Ecuador and Peru. 

Friday, December 4, 2015

LaLa still here!

I'm on my way to Court now but I just saw that Lala, my rufous hummingbird, is still here at the sanctuary. She's been here from at least nov 16 - almost 3 weeks.

My testimony ended earlier than expected (don't know whether that's a good or bad sign), and I'm back in front of the woodstove, and have seen LaLa again, at the feeders. (A couple of kind friends came out during my absence and refilled the feeders).  Unfortunately I neglected to bring a camera but will return tomorrow and try to get more video.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Back from Arizona; Anna's, Costa's and Broad-Tailed

We are back from our trip to Arizona. In the last few days we stayed 3 nights at Madera Canyon, 2 nights in Ramsey Canyon and a last night near Tucson.
In Madera Canyon we saw hummingbirds both at the Chuparosa Inn, where we stayed, and at the Santa Rita Lodge. In both cases we saw the large Magnificent Hummingbirds (see my previous posts) and smaller hummingbirds that often had a red or purple throat. On our way from Madera to Ramsey we stopped at the Paton Hummingbird Center in Patagonia. This is famous amongst hummingbird-lovers because the Patons for many years maintained feeders in their backyard , and invited hummingbirders to visit. Their yard is very close to the Sonoita Creek, one of the few year-round streams in southern Arizona, which attracts a great variety of birds, including many visitors from Mexico. Here we saw a couple of small hummers, but I'm not sure which of the 2 main winter residents, Anna's and Costa's, they were (similar doubts extended to the small hummers we saw at Madera, though there were many of them at the Santa Rita Lodge). We also saw small hummers at the Gilbert Riparian Preserve in Phoenix. This is a waste-water treatment center in a big city which has been cleverly made into a wildlife sanctuary. My expert birder son Jamie felt that the obviously red-throated ones at all these locations were Anna's, and the purple-throats were Costa's, but reviewing images on the web I'm not quite sure - Anna's can also look purplish. But the example below (filmed at the Santa Rita Lodge) is clearly red and presumably an Anna's,
Of course this late in the year we did not expect to see many hummingbirds, but we were not disappointed. It was frustrating however to be far away from my rufous in Baiting Hollow! I will soon check to see if LaLa is still around.

The next vid was from the Paton Center - definitely purplish and probably a Anna's, though at first Jamie and I thought it might be an Costa's.

We also visited Mary-Jo Ballater's wonderful Ash Canyon B and B near Ramsey Canyon, and compared notes with her on our very similar legal problems. I will write soon about this visit, but here I will just mention that we saw, but did not film,  a broad-tailed hummingbird. Mary-Jo hosts some unusual hummers in summer. She is probably the best place in the US to see Lucifers and the Plain-Capped Starthroat. M
PS Mary-Joe informs me that the above bird is probably an Anna's. A Costa's would be pre pink-purple, and the gorget would come down onto the top of the chest, like a British judge's wig.