A Hummer Of A Summer Day


Photo courtesy of The Baiting Hollow Hummingbird Sanctuary

I don’t think I’m too far off when I say that most people are fascinated by hummingbirds.  Delicate yet swift, they confound gardeners, bird watchers, and photographers alike – all of whom wait patiently for one to appear.  And when one does, an excited whisper passes through the crowd, as if Beyonce has just walked up to the feeder.

“Oh, there she is.  She’s right there.  Oh, look at her . . .” Then, as quickly as a hummingbird appears, it zips away.

I haven’t seen a hummingbird since I was a child, but that certainly hasn’t dampened my fascination.  So when my friend Michele suggested a field trip to the Baiting Hollow Hummingbird Sanctuary, I jumped at the chance.  Would I see one?  Would I even be able to snap a picture?

Located on a bluff overlooking Long Island Sound, the Sanctuary is more than a labor of love for its founder, Paul Adams.  It is a passion.  His three-and-a-half acre garden is, at first glance, in a natural state – filled with native trees that provide perches and nest building materials for his guests of honor, hummingbirds that migrate from Mexico and Central America.

Then, all around, are splashes of sweet nectar and color, thanks to butterfly bushes, salvias, cardinal flowers, trumpet vines, honeysuckle, and a selection of tropical flowers to make the hummingbirds feel more at home.

There is a small, tree-shaded area for parking and, fortunately, I listened to Michele about wearing a good pair of walking shoes.  The ground is uneven, and there are some crudely built steps to help visitors negotiate the ups and downs of the garden.  And be sure to mind the hand-painted signs – all of which are there to help you safely explore.

The first stop for Michele, me, and two other friends, Jeannie and James, was a hollow, accessible by a tighly packed dirt steps.

At the bottom, a large sign reminded us to be quiet – and it was like entering a church.  We were dwarfed by walls of butterfly bushes, accented with the stained glass hues of butterfly wings.

We then strolled under a canopy of wild cherry, oak, and beech trees, all the time keeping our eyes glued to the various feeders, hoping to catch a glimpse of a hummingbird.  My hands gripped the camera.

Eventually, we made it to the cottages, one of the most peaceful locations on the property.  Here, visitors sat patiently in Adirondack chairs, cameras in hand, waiting for a hummingbird to arrive by a feeder or to enjoy the nectar from any of their favorite flowers.

Behind the cottage closest to the bluff, there was an amazing view of Long Island Sound and the steady buzz of bees.  A hummingbird made a quick appearance, but then flew away faster than I could say, “Hum.”

We ultimately returned to the garden between the two cottages, one of which is where Mr. Adams spends his summer months.  The rest of the year, he’s a professor of neuroscience at Stony Brook University, on Long Island.  On this visit, we were his pupils, as he taught us about the life and habits of hummingbirds.  Then, in midsentence, he said, “There’s one at the feeder now.”

Every head turned and there was the collective whisper of awe.  Instinctively, I snapped a photo.  There was no time to zoom and I hoped the digital camera would be able to focus faster than a hummingbird’s wings.

At some point, I began to wonder if the hummingbirds were playing with all of us.  It’s as if they knew we were waiting to capture their image, and when they saw all of the cameras take aim, off they flew.  One even hovered above the deck where Mr. Adams was speaking to us, but as the cameras were lifted, so too did the hummingbird.  Gone.

Just as I was about to pack up the camera, one hummingbird seemed to feel sorry for us and sat on a branch, preening and posing itself.

And I had my close up.  At last.

Not only is it remarkable to have seen a hummingbird in the wild, it’s an inspiration to meet a man so passionate about his love that he is willing to share it with the public for free.  Yes, you read that correctly.  The Sanctuary has no admission fee.  In fact, Mr. Adams will not even accept a monetary donation (his website encourages donations to other specified organizations), although sturdy old chairs and plants are always welcome.

The Sanctuary is only open in August.  For more information about the species, the Sanctuary, the battle to protect it from development, starting your own hummingbird-friendly garden, as well as days and hours of operation, please visit either the website or blog.

40 thoughts on “A Hummer Of A Summer Day

  1. What a beautiful place. If I sat in that Adirondack by those flowers, I’d probably never get up again. I love hummingbirds. They are always right out my window of my home office. They like my asters there that my husband wants me to dig up and throw away. He hates them. But the bees and hummingbirds like them (and I’m lazy), so the asters have stayed. Some hummingbirds made a nest right outside on my mom’s front porch in Vegas. She got to watch the whole nesting and baby period–lots of fun. The mama wasn’t scared of my mom (I guess birds can tell who nice people are).

  2. Beautiful and generous! I just saw a hummingbird stop to rest for the first time this summer, in NJ. There was a big storm, lots of rain and yet the litte thing held its own and kept coming to eat, then stopping. Amazing!

  3. Wonderful pics. We are lucky enough to have seen hummingbirds visit our garden with some frequency, but never lucky enough to have a camera in our hands at the right time. My wife had better luck while visiting our son in Ecuador – they have many more species than the one we have in the midwest, and are far more common.

    • They are a unique species of bird — and the way we all ooh and aah, they almost have a magical quality. You just have to be quick with the camera, that’s for sure.

  4. Your words and pictures captured the essence of the Hummingbird Sanctuary perfectly. I think the professor will be pleased! Elusive to the end, and then… the money shot!! Briilliant! So, when’s the next field trip? 🙂

    • Thanks Michele — and thanks for suggesting the trip. It was a really a great day — and always a blast to see you! I’ll keep you posted for the next trip! 🙂

  5. I have had several encounters with those little guys this year. I planted Salvia guaranitica ‘Black and Blue’ (sometimes known as Hummingbird Sage) in some patio containers this year, and they really are attracted to it. I see them every morning. The most fascinating thing happened at work recently. A hummingbird flew up to me at face level and hovered in place for several seconds. I stood there motionless as I was so surprised. There we sat, just checking each other out, then off he went.

    • Hi Mario. The plant you mentioned is the exact plant that Mr. Adams wholeheartedly endorsed. Like you, he said the hummingbirds loved them. As for your close encounter, you’re not the first person to mention that. It kind of makes me wonder if they’re from another planet — maybe scouts from another intergalactic civilization — and they’re here observing us. What? It could happen. Be well — and I hope some cooler weather and rain is on its way to you.

  6. Hummers are so phenomenal. I’m glad for your reminder that not everyone has them flitting about in perfect Tinkerbell fashion.

    On my knees, weeding, and a hummer flew just under the brim of my hat and had a good look at me. I was thinking “No one will believe this,” when the hummer came under the brim for a second look.

    They are so abundant, fierce, and important, one of our nature centers hosts a festival for them every May. So come to Colorado, Kevin. Close encounters of the magical kind…

    PS, and if you do, bring Hawaiian shirts with red flowers on them. They love to check them out.

    • Cheryl, see the comment from Mario. He had the same experience! I guess they’re as curious about us as we are about them. Thanks for the invite. I’m on my way to the store now to get a red Hawaiian shirt. 🙂

  7. What a lovely place! I’m so glad you encountered your hummingbirds! They are so plentiful in our yard and make daily appearances. It didn’t occur to me that they might not be across the country in the same numbers! What a wonderful sanctuary, and a wonderful opportunity, especially since it’s only available for one month! Debra

    • Hi Debra — it certainly is a beautiful spot, and I was so impressed that Mr. Adams opens his property to the public for free. I don’t know if I could have that kind of stamina for company, but he does — and he’s immensely charming and gracious. Take care!

    • Hello Ann. According to Mr. Adams, he said that hummingbirds spend a lot of time perched. I think we tend not to notice them at that moment — they’re just a bird taking a break. It’s when they’re in flight and hovering that we pause to take a good look.

  8. What a wonderful place! How nice of him to share his love with others, too. I love your description of a hummingbird being like Beyonce! So true! haha Great close-up shot, too – I have never been able to get one.

    • I agree. He’s a very interesting man. As for the close up, I would have loved to have gotten one of those close-ups of a hummingbird feeding while in flight — I just did not have the patience to sit and stare at one spot, hoping one would zoom in. I think that’s all part of their charm — be elusive and keep the viewing public on its toes. 🙂

  9. Kev, James and I love the reliving of our wonderful day. Your words and photographs beautifully capture the tranquility of this magical hidden haven. It was wonderful sharing this experience and summer day with you.

  10. This post makes me realize how lucky I am to have hummingbirds visit my garden regularly. I love the way that I often hear them before I see them. Every so often, one will get fascinated by a print of flowers on the front of my t-shirt — which is just a little disconcerting. Have you considered hanging a hummingbird feeder in your garden to attract them there?

    • Now that I’ve seen them up close, I will now be on a mission to attract them. By the way, several commenters have also reported having hummingbirds attracted to their shirts. Fascinating!

  11. Pingback: A Hummer Of A Summer Day | Pattu's terrace Garden

  12. That’s so wonderful describe about the garden and you have captured some beautiful flowers and bird and butterflies… humming bird sanctuary is the first of its kind I am knowing and good about Mr.Adams taking care of the natural park on his own.

    I loved the close up on the bird!

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  14. Thanks to Freshly Pressed (congrats!) I have discovered your blog and just begun digging through it ~ I look forward to your future posts. What I have read so far is delightful, as well as moving (your beautiful 9/11 post). ~ Kat B.

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