Even though we had seen hummingbirds up close at the Asa Wright Nature Centre, we didn’t want to miss the opportunity to see more and, more importantly, to learn more about them. Hence, we arranged a visit to Yerette, billed as ‘Home of the Hummingbird’. Indeed, ‘yerette’ means hummingbird in the Amerindian language.
This mecca for all hummingbird fans is actually the home of Theo and Gloria Ferguson, who have dedicated the past few years of their lives to these incredible creatures. Their fascination came about through Theo’s passion for photography. He began by capturing images of flowers before moving on to birds and then specialising in hummingbirds. He invested in larger lenses and spent many hours trekking around the hills of the Maracas Valley in the hope of taking the perfect photo. His next step was to install a couple of hummingbird feeders in his garden, so that he could observe the tiny birds up close and significantly increase the number of opportunities he had to photograph them. Theo soon bought more feeders and that, coupled with the fact that his and Gloria’s beautiful garden was already filled with flowering plants, meant that, before long, they were being visited by hundreds of hummingbirds every day.
Soon, Theo had the idea of sharing this spectacle with the paying public. Gloria had reservations. After all, this was their home. However, Theo persuaded her by vowing to have visitors by appointment only, by not advertising except via word of mouth, and by having no signs leading to their house.
The result today is that you have to e-mail or phone the couple a few days or more in advance of when you’d like to visit in order to make a booking. Yerette is only open on certain days of the week and visits are timed to include breakfast, a light lunch, or afternoon tea, all prepared and served by Gloria.
Once you have made a reservation, Theo sends you detailed directions on how to find Yerette. Despite this, we still got lost! It was throwing it down with rain as we were driving up ever-steeper, twisting roads. We hadn’t appreciated just how much of a residential area we would be going to and, more than once, ended up on someone’s drive instead of the road! We were looking for a landmark silk cotton tree, the largest in the region, but needed to ask someone in order to find it. The final approach to Theo and Gloria’s house is up an incredibly steep, rutted track which proved a step too far for our battered old hire car. After two attempts which ended in us sliding backwards down the hill, we decided to leave the car at the bottom and reach Yerette on foot!
We were joined by three others and our visit began with an introductory talk by Theo, sitting on the terrace of his beautiful garden. Theo is a ‘larger-than-life’ character with a passion for hummingbirds. His enthusiasm for his subject was endearing and infectious. What he told us about these birds was so detailed and wide-ranging that it will be the subject of my next post.
After the talk, we had free time to spend in the garden, observing the hummingbirds taking the sugar syrup from the hundreds of feeders Theo and Gloria have put around the place. It was amazing to see so many species up close. The challenge was to try to capture some of them with my ‘point and shoot’ camera!
When lunch was ready, Gloria called us back to the terrace where she had laid the tables with brightly coloured linen and crockery. She served us a delicious home-made callaloo soup (made with dasheen, a leafy green vegetable),a garden salad, and a home-baked bread roll. There was a choice of juice, tea or coffee to drink.
After lunch, we went indoors where Theo showed us a DVD of his exquisite photos, freeze-framing the show to explain the details we were seeing. It was riveting! Before we knew it, we had been in Theo and Gloria’s home for three and a half hours and the time had come for us to say goodbye. We left after buying one of Theo’s children’s books and a copy of his DVD. We were sent away with the plea to become ‘hummingbird ambassadors’ ringing in our ears! With these blog posts and Mark’s home-made feeders (made out of empty rum bottles!) now gracing our deck in Tobago, I hope we haven’t let Theo down!