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 (

Friday, December 30, 2016

The putative dad

Yestarday I positioned a step ladder so I can film Thumbelina's nest from a more horizontal view, a bit closer - and the step ladder also conceals my movements somewhat.
Here's a male woodstar who is hanging out just on the other side of the cottage from the nest. I'm assuming he is the father. In the first video below you can briefly see his brilliant purple throat gorget (4X slo-mo). In the second video you can see how he repositions himself on his perch, using a very quick flight. Hummingbirds cannot walk - indeed that's why they are classified in the order "Apodiformes" or "legless ones", together with the swifts. Unlike other birds their legs are covered in skin rather than scales.

The wind from the north has arrived with a brief rain-shower, and now the nest is swaying around but looking good - I'll try to get video if the sun comes out and post tomorrow.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Nest at Calypso

There are 3 cottages at our winter property "Calypso" on the island of Eleuthera. Because some renovation work is being done on the main cottage (which we call "Woodstar", after the name of the local endemic hummingbird, the Bahama Woodstar, Calliphlox evelynae), we are initially staying in "SeaStar", which sits on a hill overlooking the ocean through a grove of magnificent coconut palms (see the picture in my previous post at this blog).
Just outside the southeast corner of this cottage sits a large tropical almond tree (Terminalia catappa). Actually when we bought the property 25 years ago, this same tree (along with several other notably large trees) had been recently cut down.  However when we arrived a few sprouts were growing from the cut trunk base; I removed all but one of these, and the remaining sprout (then only a couple of feet long and less than the width of a pinkie) has grown to immense size.
I sometimes sit in the shade of this tree overlooking the front garden, since there's usually a cool breeze coming off the ocean, and yesterday I noticed a hummingbird buzzing around this area. Closer observation revealed that she had a nest at the tip of  the northern-most and lowest branch of this tree, about 10 feet off the ground. Following an earlier suggestion by Donna DeSousa, I'm calling this little lady "Thumbelina" (or perhaps sometimes just Thumb, for short). She appeared to be putting the finishing touches to the outside of this nest (see the first video below). I get a reasonable view of this nest from my chair,  although the nest is almost hidden by the large leaves of the tree. I can also view the nest from at least 2 other angles, including from the front porch of "Seastar" (though I have to climb on top of the low wall that surrounds this porch).
You can see that the nest is built at the end of the branch, but incorporates the start of several small twiglets. The branch slopes down away from the tree trunk, as is typical for hummingbird nest (I believe to better shed water).
Unfortunately tomorrow morning a "cold front' will arrive from the U.S. bringing rain and a north wind ( predicted  a low of 66 degrees), and I anticipate this long branch will be whipping around in a 20 mph wind (it's completely exposed in this direction - probably the first test of her nest building skills!
The tropical almond is a deciduous tree, completely losing its leaves in the dry season, which is just starting. If this happens before the chicks fledge, in about 5 weeks, they will be baking in the sun, which can be fierce even in the winter.

 Although our internet/phone connection has been repaired, it's very slow, and it takes hours to upload these videos. But I will gradually add the clips I filmed yesterday to this post, and tomorrow I will add some I shot today, from a somewhat better vantage point.
We also took our first swim today. The ocean is quite pleasant - about the same temperature as Long Island Sound at the height of summer.

In the video below, Thumbelina, the female Bahama Woodstar hummingbird, puts the finishing touches to her new nest in a Tropical Almond tree at Calypso, our winter place in the Bahamas. At the start of the video she arrives near the nest, and briefly hovers. She then sits on the nest and as the camera zooms in one can see that she carries in her bill a tiny brown wisp of something which she carefully adds to the outside of the nest. This wisps are for camouflage rather than decoration.

In the next clip the camera zooms out to show the lawn rolling down to the Atlantic Ocean in front of "SeaStar" and then swings up and round to show the almond tree that hosts the nest. 


The last clip I filmed on dec 28 (below) shows the nest (empty because Thumbelina is away feeding or searching for further nesting material)  from a different angle. The camera zooms out to reveal our cottage "SeaStar". You can see that the nest is located about 12 feet away from the eastern edge of the front patio which overlooks the ocean. If I climb up on the low wall around this patio, and stand immediately next to the corner of the house (near the pink shutter to the left of the scene) I get a clear, though slightly precarious view of the nest from a third angle.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Mini Rufous Update

We arrived at Calypso, our winter place in the Bahamas, just before Christmas. The photo shows the view from our house there. As usual our DSL internet line is not yet working (the summer heat, humidity and salt here always takes a toll on the already flimsy infrastructure) so I'm using my cell phone "hotspot" to get online but only have minimal bandwidth for uploads, so I'll be very brief. In particular I've just had a report from the North Fork homeowner that her 2 rufous hummingbirds are doing well and enjoying yesterday's warm weather.

Monday, December 12, 2016

Videos of the 2 North Fork Rufouses

Here I show a few of the videos I shot on sunday in the North Fork yard which currently has 2 (two!) wintering rufous hummingbirds. Rufouses normally winter in Mexico and summer in the north-west and up into British Columbia and Alaska. However in recent years some rufouses have been gradually shifting their wintering grounds into the gulf coast area and then even into the mideastern parts of the US. This is happening because of at least 2 factors: homeowners are planting more hummingbird flowers and maintaining more feeders, and global warming is slowly altering long-established behavioral patterns (e.g. this recent article). However, a third factor might also be operating: more people are noticing hummingbirds and the internet has greatly facilitated the reporting of data.
Inevitably some of these western birds are ending up in the North East and this year I've heard at least 4 reports of winter rufouses on Long Island. Many thanks to the homeowner for allowing me to film these 2 brave and hardy hummingbirds! The first video is in 4X slo mo. This bird seems to have a single red spot on his throat.

The second video shows the same bird (the one that arrived first, in mid-october) perching on a privet bush from where she/he watches her/his feeders, and enjoying the scant warmth of the sun.

My third video shows what seems to be the second rufous, which prefers the feeder located on the left of the yard. If you look carefully you can see near the start a triangular red throat spot. 

I will post more of my videos soon. But here is another video, not by me, that's also on Youtube. The one shown at the start seems to have a larger triangular dark red spot on the throat than the one shown in my first video, and probably corresponds to the one shown in my third video.

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Update on North Fork Rufouses

Yesterday I was able to see the 2 rufous hummingbirds that are currently residing at a private North Fork yard about 15 minutes away from the sanctuary. The very nice homeowner is doing a great job of keeping them happy, and is determined to do what it takes to see them safely through the winter. Her yard has lots of excellent hummingbird plants, with many salvias still in bloom, but last night was the first hard freeze of the season and the flowers may not survive much longer. She is rotating 3 feeders and I was able to loan her 2 heated freezers (the ones we used to help LaLa survive much of last winter). She also has plans to supply them with a few live fruit-flies - they will need occasional protein snacks. I saw the 2 hummers come separately several times to the 3 feeders but I was not able to get video. I will try again tomorrow. The big test will come on thursday when the temperature will drop into the teens and I'm very happy that I could deliver the heated feeders in time for them to adapt to them. In the mean time here are some excellent photos taken previously by Cathy Taldone.

The second photo clearly shows a red gorget patch, but they may not be both male juveniles - apparently juvenile and adult females can also sport a red throat patch, unlike the rubythroat.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

white-throated mountain gem

filmed at Sevegre Lodge, San Gerardo de Dota, Costa Rica, feeding on Salvia leucantha. A male - notice the beautiful pale blue patch on the crown at certain viewing angles. 4X slo-mo
San Gerardo was one of our favorite stays - we actually stayed at Trogon Lodge, which is utterly beautiful - the garden with lots of hummingbirds, the various buildings, the rushing mountain stream in a mountain cleft, the little gas fire warming us at night at 7000 feet altitude, the surrounding cloud forest.  The neighboring mountain the sinisterly-named "Peak of Death", reaches 11,322 feet and the pass we ascended before we going down into the valley is at 10,942, where we were definitely short of breath. A couple of days early we were on the Pacific beaches.
Here's another clip at 2X slo-mo

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

More Costa Rican Hummingbirds; 2 Rufous Hummingbirds Show Up in a North Fork Yard!! Hurricane Otto Update

We returned safely to Long Island late tuesday evening from our marvelous family Thanksgiving trip to Costa Rica. Otto, the first hurricane ever known to have hit Costa Rica, passed just north of us at the border with Nicaragua, as we were hunkered down at the foot of Arenal Volcano. While all we got was a bit of wind and considerable rain, communities just 30 miles north of us near Aguas Claras and above all Upala were badly damaged. Otto claimed at least 23 lives, ten in Costa Rica. The rainfall caused several mudslides along our path to the Caribbean lowlands after Arenal, and prevented us from staying in the riverfront lodging we had planned (though we were allowed to stay a bit further back from the Sarapiqui river).

Here I'm featuring some hummingbird photos taken on or near Poas Volcano by my second son Jamie, who's a possibly even more avid birder than Rafael, the eldest. Actually I shamelessly and ruthlessly purloined these images from his deliciously humorous blog, which you should consult for more details, good giggles and great photos of incredible non-hummingbirds.

To whet your appetite here's a list of the hummers Jamie photographed, and I show below, in the first 2 days in Costa Rica:

Purple-Throated Mountain-Gem

First up is a violet-ear - actually the lesser violet-ear, Colubri cyanotus, recently distinguished from the Mexican violet-ear, Colubri thalassinus.

Here the Violet-ear puffs out his "ears", which are actually part of the gorget:

Jamie thinks he does this when he (the hummer!) is miffed though he (Jamie) used a stronger word.

And appropriately on the approach to Poas Volcano, the Volcano Hummingbird:

which should be compared with the Magenta-Throated, which has a neater shorter gorget and white flank marks:


Next a striped-tailed hummingbird (note the buff "shoulder"):

and a fiery-throated (unfortunately but nevertheless impressively photographed from the rear):

then a presumed female scintillant:

In such company even the Magnificent Hummingbirds we saw start to pale (we also saw these in Arizona last Thanksgiving, as some of my more dedicated readers might remember):

Last,  purple-throated mountain-gems, with my hand to show the size of the female. I already posted a vid of one of these. And on the right the superb male.

Here's Jamie's amusing commentary:

"This Purple-throated Mountain-gem was captured by my father who was intending to bring it home to his hummingbird sanctuary in Baiting Hollow, NY.  However, I convinced him to let it go free. I am kidding of course, he only put his hand there to show how tame these birds are and never actually touched it."

I was indeed sorely tempted to bring some of the amazing hummers back with me - but instead and even better I've just heard that 2 (YES TWO!) rufous hummingbirds are now in residence at a North Fork backyard (NOT at the Sanctuary)! More details to follow.