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Hummingbird sanctuary in Baiting Hollow to close its gates

Walking over the small yellow bridge onto a short woodland path off Terry Farm Road in Baiting Hollow, visitors twist and turn around trees festooned with bird feeders.

The feeders contain sugar water and are used to draw hummingbirds to the 3.5-acre lot at the end of the path. The property, the home of Paul Adams, is full of plants and trees that attract hummingbirds, as well as butterflies and bees.

However, the sanctuary, which has previously been open to the public, will be closing per a settlement agreement Mr. Adams reached last July with some of his neighbors.

Mr. Adams said the neighbors claimed that hummingbird sanctuaries weren’t permitted under Riverhead Town code, and the town issued a notice of violation in 2013. He said he has since settled with the town.

Additionally, some neighbors said Mr. Adams was running a commercial business, something Mr. Adams debunked, saying he never asked his guests for anything or charged a visitation fee. He said he was inviting those who shared his love of hummingbirds to enjoy the garden he spent 26 years growing.

“This dragged on for many years and was causing me a lot of grief,” he said. “So in the end I decided to settle, in which there can be no visitation.”

Mr. Adams said he will continue to place feeders out on his property to attract the hummingbirds he’s grown so fond of. He realizes, however, that he can’t keep the place up forever and is looking for a foundation to continue the garden in the future.

That’s where Seatuck Environmental Association comes in. Mr. Adams is talking to the East Islip-based organization about eventually passing his land on to them.

“I think it’s very important for young people to be exposed to nature,” said Mr. Adams, a biology professor at Stony Brook University. “More and more people are entrapped with their electronic devices and everything. There’s nothing quite like actually seeing living animals doing their own thing, close up. Hummingbirds are an ideal way to do this because they live their lives in front of you.”

Photo: Paul Adams at his Baiting Hollow home. (Credit: Nicole Smith)

The garden, which overlooks Long Island Sound and is bordered on three sides by the 4-H Camp, contains Amistad, cardinal flowers, butterfly bushes and other plants that draw the tiny birds.

Benches and chairs are situated throughout the property so that a visitor can stop anywhere to enjoy the views and, hopefully, the hummingbirds.

Mr. Adams said this year one male and a few females have frequented the sanctuary since April. The male adopts the whole sanctuary as his territory, Mr. Adams said, and defends it against other hummingbirds that try to enter. The females visit to “check him out” in the hopes of mating.

“I like watching them,” he said. “I don’t know why, but right from the beginning, way back in San Francisco [when he first saw a hummingbird], I found hummingbirds fascinating. They’re remarkable birds, because of their flying abilities and their ability to defy gravity. So I enjoy that, watching them.”

Those interested in the sanctuary can visit the website at bhhummer.blogspot.com to view photos and videos and learn more about the birds that frequent the Baiting Hollow garden.

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Top photo credit: Nicole Smith