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, November 24, 2016

Largest Hummingbird

This violet sabre-wing is the largest hummingbird north of South America. Photographed by Rafael Adams (my eldest son and avid birder)  at Poasito, Costa Rica.

We are hunkered down for Thanksgiving  in heavy rain at our villa located at the foot of Arenal Volcano, one of the 10 most active volcanoes in the world. This evening Otto, the first ever hurricane ever to hit Costa Rica, will strike on the Atlantic coast just east of us. Hopefully it will weaken from its current Category 2 before it reaches us.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Costa Rica hurricane and hummingbirds: Purple-throated mountain gem

So far we have stayed 1 night in Tarcoles, 1 night in Dominical (both Pacific coast), 2 nights at the Wilson Botanical Garden near San Vito (central southern border near Panama) and 1 night on Poas Volcano (back in northern Costa Rica, not far from San Jose). The videos were shot this evening at the roadside outside our Poas hotel and show a female Purple-Thoated Mountain Gem (Lampornis calolaemis), which has a buff/orange throat and belly.
Unfortunately it appears that Otto, a late-season Atlantic hurricane, will make landfall in northern Costa Rica on Thanksgiving morning. Amazingly this will be Costa Rica's first ever recorded hurricane! We will be at Arenal Volcano Lodge at the wrong time and place. However I suspect we will just get yet more rain, with the real danger from washed-out roads - the roads leading to the lodge are always bad, and will be worse.
This morning we hiked up to the Poas Volcano crater - it looked like an open-catmone in West Verginia, with a large milky lake in the middle. This afternoon we discovered a marvelous but unnannounced  small hummingbird garden close to our hotel, and just across the road from the restaurant where we ate lunch (all 11 of us; Claire and I shared a dish of "chicherrones") and I have shot a lot of film which I will try to sort out soon - a remarkable display of many types of hummingbirds at the feeders there. But to finish with here's a close-up of another female mountain gem at that garden, who seemed rather torpid and immobile. Tomorrow morning we go to the famous La Paz Waterfall Garden, which is famous for hummingbirds.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

hummingbirds in Costa Rica: Purple-Crowned Fairy and Rufous-tailed

Claire and I (and in a couple of days our 3 children and 4 grandchildren) are spending Thanks-giving in Costa Rica (our third trip together here). The weather is appalling - continuous rain -but here are a couple of hummingbird videos shot just outside our room at the famous Wilson Botanical Garden, near the southern border with Panama. First the purple-crowned fairy (Heliothrys barroti, a male) and then a Rufous-Tailed (Amazilia tzacatl), both feeding on purple porterweed. We are at 3000 feet and the annual rain fall is 150 inches (of which 10 feet seems to have fallen in the last few days - parts of the garden are under water and  hairpin-bend roads have collapsed).
The rufous-tailed hummer seems to be the dominant one at this porterweed patch: he spends a lot of time perched on one of the rat-tail-like flowerstalks of the porterweed. Indeed, the spanish name for this plant is "blue rat's-tail".

Sunday, November 13, 2016

How Time Flies - Oldest Music in the World

It's cold and the days are much shorter so I'm often inside near the wood stove. Here are 2 interesting ancient music pieces. The first was written in cuneiform around 4000 years ago in Hurria (now Syria). There are various rather different reconstructions, this one is played on a copy of an ancient lyre.

The second one, also on the lyre, is more certain. It's from around 2000 years ago.

The last one is a Greek/Roman/Byzantine chant, from around 650 AD, 400 years since the Great Schism that split the Roman and Orthodox Churches.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Hummingbird Hovering

Here's a new video about how hummingbird hover:

and for a detailed technical/engineering analysis by the same group see here:

They compare hummingbird hovering with the advanced military Black Hornet micro-helicopter :

The wing shape (width/length ratio) is similar in both hummers and microhelicopters (and much less slender than in regular helicopters. Obviously the wing movements are quite different in the 2 cases: the hummingbird wing flaps and the microhelicopter wing rotates, but this difference is not fundamental: the hummer wing generates lift on both down- and upstrokes by changing the angle of attack (by swiveling the wing) and the rotor instead maintains the same attack angle consistently by continuous swiveling. Nevertheless the paper concludes that the hummingbird is about 27% more efficient than the microhelicopter.

Meanwhile here are more examples (including a Cloudless Sulfur and an American Lady) of the more leisurely flight of butterflies at the sanctuary

Friday, November 4, 2016

Hummingbird Painting; Peak Color; Movies

A young hummingbird enthusiast sent me this nice picture she painted:

We must be at peak color here on Long Island. This afternoon I went for a walk in the woods that surround the sanctuary, and was glad to see a young couple struggling through the neglected paths of the Town of Riverhead Sound Ave Preserve at the southern end of the driveway. I rarely see any visitors there, because walking there is so difficult. On the western side of the drive the polo field is immaculate. Then I hiked down to the Sound, back up again and chopped some wood for the stove that keeps me warm these cold nights when I'm not snuggled up at our cosy home in Stony Brook. I wonder whether another LaLa will visit the sanctuary this winter? Most of the flowers are still in bloom. Here's more videos from the summer.