September 21, 2011

Bird Sanctuary

How many different kinds of birds do you think visit a small, suburban San Antonio backyard on a Saturday in September?

Would you believe 15! Between the drought and the change in seasons, we had a full bird sanctuary in our backyard this weekend.

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His throat is more red than the nectar. Amazing!
Ruby-throated humming birds are migrating through our area now. Usually, there were three, and up to five, within view at one time.

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I was so happy to see that a house finch and his wife have decided to frequent our yard. We used to have a pair that came by regularly, but I hadn't seen them in about two years.

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Another infrequent visitor that made an appearance Saturday was the titmouse. They are fairly common for a lot of suburban birders, but I only see this guy about three times a year. I was glad that he took an interest in the cat fur that I put in a suet box behind the wind chime.

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We have way too many starlings right now (about ten total). Their speckles are attractive but their manners are so bad that it's hard for me to appreciate their beauty. In their defense, however, they seem to be more tolerant of other birds right now than they are in the winter when they act like a street gang.

I rarely see cardinals taking a bath, but on Saturday, this one was splashing like a fool.

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Ditto for mocking birds. I don't know if I've ever seen one splash in the water. Doesn't he look ridiculously undignified when he is all puffed up and bathing?

The Carolina wren is Travis' favorite. He keeps hoping to entice a pair to our wren nesting box, but so far, no luck. This one must live nearby because it stops by once in a while. We see it about once every two or three weeks.

At least two of the golden fronted woodpeckers that were born in a nest in our tree survived. Unlike the other juvenile birds we've seen lately, the young woodpeckers are significantly smaller than their parents and easy to distinguish.


One. Two.Three scrub jays dined with us this weekend.

Another wave of Baltimore Orioles made a stop in our area. This time, I counted about seven at once.

And finally, if you look closely, you can see what I believe is a yellow warbler peaking out from behind this tree. If my ID is correct, it's my first ever sighting.

But wait; that's only 13 birds, you say. Well, I didn't photograph the usual suspects: sparrows, grackles, white wing dove and Inca dove.

Believe it or not, there are a few additional birds that I think I could reasonably hope to attract right now, but for some reason, I've never been successful. I'm still waiting for the lesser gold finches and chickadees to come to my sanctuary.

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Late breaking news! Look what landed in my tree after I drafted this post! TWO great horned owls!! They were calling with the same notes at the same time and you could hear the difference in the male and female's pitch. In January at about the same time of night (near midnight), the male visited us. Now he's here again with a mate. So cool!

WOW! Make that 16 different species of birds.


  1. PS - Nearly all of these photos were taken form indoors so please forgive the inconsistent quality.

  2. Wow!! I think this is my favorite blog yet! You inspire me "Martha"!

  3. How neat to see so many different types of birds. Sounds like your bird sanctuary is working. I feel the same way about the Starlings. Of course, I love the little wrens. I will have to check out the wren box. I haven't seen any owls in my area. I might have to have the hubby build me an owl box.

  4. Thanks Joni. It's so exciting to me to see these birds come to the yard. I love it.

  5. It's so exciting to see the wildlife visit isn't it? I'm totally jealous of your owls! My neighbor has a pear tree that has attracted flocks of Baltimore Orioles...I've never seen them here before. They're beautiful! Love that you were able to get so many great photos of all your visitors.

  6. Oh my goodness, how cool!! The hummingbird and owl pictures are my favorite.


  7. What an awesome post! Thank you for sharing. What kind of seed are you putting out? I see the orioles like orange slices :)

  8. The seeds is just a cheap, grocery store mix. The titmouse and the blue jay were probably picking through the mix looking for peanuts and the cardinal likes to find the sunflower seeds. I offered the wren and the mockingbird dried apple bits and dried meal worms (you can get them cheap at pet stores) and I noticed that only the meal worms were eaten. I think more than the food, the birds came for the water. Our hose has a tiny drip so we leave it in the bird bath, which keeps the water fresh. I think that's what attracts most of the birds.

  9. What beautiful photos! You must have been so excited to see so many birds! I am just now starting to get into gardening for the birds - my little girls bought me my first bird feeder - and it's been quite fun!

  10. Lucky you! That is a nice variety of feathered visitors.

  11. Wow! I'm so impressed by the variety of visitors you have.

  12. I love this bird post. I love the orange on the nail. I never thought of it. I'm going to read your blog now.

  13. Thanks for commenting at Hill Country Mysteries, so I could follow you back here. Great post! Especially the owls.

    How often did you replenish the orange for the orioles? I loved having them here but they wreaked havoc at the hummingbird feeders. Elegant solution.

    Have you tried putting out nyger (thistle)to attract goldfinches?

    Your yard looks like an oasis, I'm sure the birds think that too.

  14. Kathleen we were refreshing the oranges about once a day. It was interesting to see how the birds eat just the flesh and leave the then white membranes in the slices.
    We have a nyger bird feeder from Wild Birds Unlimited just for the finches. In 2008, we had bunches of American Goldfinches in the early spring, but for the last few years, we've been lucky to see one or two. I'm not sure what happened.

  15. must be a very talented photographer to take these lovely pictures!

  16. Your yard looks like an oasis! amazing yard!

  17. Hi!

    I hope you're having an awesome week! I thought you might like this infographic I helped build about the health, mental, and financial benefits of gardening (

    If you think your readers would like it too, please feel free to use it on the Down to Earth blog. There's code at the bottom of our post that makes it super easy to post on your blog. It's all free (of course). If you have any questions about posting it, let me know and I'll try to help.


    ~ Janey

  18. Hi, Abbey, You will want to check out my latest blog post about the giveaway. :)

  19. I love, love, love your pictures of birds. It is so much fun to see the different feathered visitors each garden may receive. It is obvious you are creating great habitat!

  20. Love your catches!! Wow! What an amazing group of birds you have in your backyard. The hummingbird shots are beautiful. And then there is your owl shot:) I. Love. Owls.:)