Birds!

Of course, we love birds! We are Chickadee Gardens, after all. In fact, this whole garden thing sprang from a love of birds and bird-watching at the old house and garden. We were pretty involved with the Backyard Habitat Certification Program and although that program does not extend into our new town of Saint Helens, we still want to provide habitat for our feathered friends. Fast forward to 10 years later and we enjoy an extraordinary variety around our two-acre garden.

What follows are images of only a few different birds that visit Chickadee Gardens. Capturing plants on camera is easy - birds, especially up in trees, prove a larger challenge. Sometimes I get lucky, though.

First up is an evening grosbeak. These beauties come through the garden once or twice a year and gorge themselves on black-oil sunflower seeds.



This little one is a white-breasted nuthatch - possibly the slender billed white breasted nuthatch. She was seen in the larger trees, on the feeder and up in the oak tree, the preferred habitat of many birds. This is the first year I've noticed them, so will keep an eye out. The red breasted variety are abundant here, this one is not.


Apologies for the fuzzy photo, it was taken through a window. The western tanager is an elusive fellow so this is the best I have today. These birds bring to mind parakeets or tropical birds due to their colorful markings. This one was caught taking a bath, an even rarer sight. Early in the summer I was watering in the shade garden under a big maple tree and one came into view, I stood silent, letting the water spray a fine mist. The tanager jumped down onto the log in front of me and took a most joyful bath about 3 feet away from me. It's the closest I've ever been to these beauties. I was ecstatic.


Oh, the quail! You know the story of Jon Snow and Danerys (see the end of this post from July). Basically they had babies on our land! We saw them several months later, nearly full grown, still hanging out with the folks. It seems they all survived (as of August or so). They are charming and funny, running so quickly, bobbing along the ground.


We are pro-crow. The crows hang out with the chickens, it's one big happy family. They also keep the hawks and other birds of prey away by surrounding and escorting them out. For that, we are grateful, well - the chickens more so than us - for we do like the birds of prey, too.


Dark eyed juncos are everywhere. If you look down, you will likely notice movement which would be the juncos. They are quite goofy and bounce around from branch to branch, from ground to feeder and back again. They also forage all over the garden for seeds and insects and are here nearly year-round.


A trio! I watched this scene play out from our bedroom window. The largest bird on the left is a black-headed grosbeak, middle is a cedar waxwing and the smallest is a white crowned sparrow. All were interested in taking a bath at the same time.


Guess who won the battle for the bath tub? The sparrow, long gone by this shot said "I'm outta here" - smart bird. The cedar waxwings are incredibly beautiful. A great way to attract them is to grow plants that produce berries like viburnum, cherries, etc. Earlier in the year I caught them eating strawberries in the garden . . . and let them be. How can you deny a cedar waxwing?


This photo is a couple of years old, admittedly, but it shows our lovely blue jay so well. This is a Steller's jay, native to North America. He likes the sunflower seeds and probably helps plant them in hopes for a bumper crop next year.


 The spotted towhees with their signature screech-like warning tell all the other birdies when we are out and about. Relax, towhee - enjoy your bath. They have red eyes and are fairly common in our garden.


Taken from quite a distance (apologies for the photo), a female downy woodpecker pops around looking for insects. These little ones frequent our suet feeders in the colder months as well as snatch a black-oil sunflower seed or two from the feeder.


Not a bird, but our native Douglas squirrel, Doug. Here he has a whole sunflower head in his mouth, running like crazy to stash his prize.


He eventually dragged the sunflower through the fence to the other side where he made quick work of its seeds.


A little sparrow (can anyone i.d.?) taking a bath.


I think this is a Cooper's hawk out in the veggie garden in autumn looking for mice.


We are fairly certain this is also a Cooper's hawk just hanging out on our deck. Photo taken from inside. FM thought it might be a peregrine falcon, but I think it's an adult Cooper's. If anyone knows better, let us know.


The northern flicker, a gigantic version of a woodpecker, climbs up this old snag looking for insects. These birds are so beautiful but very timid. The slightest movement will cause them to take flight.


Here's another downy woodpecker, but a male - note the red patch on his head.


This red-breasted nuthatch is literally taking sunflower seeds from the feeder and stuffing them into the bark of this oak tree for safe keeping. I'm surprised I don't see sunflower sprouting from the trunk of this tree every spring.


Can you see them? A flock of goldfinches made quick work of these Agastache foeniculum seeds, as well as the nearby Echinacea purpurea seeds. As a side note, this whole area is crawling with birds this time of year. They forage under the evergreen shrubs and hop from limb to limb looking for insects and seeds. I'm quite surprised how active this area is - but I think it's because of the cover (shrubs) combined with grasses and seeds of perennials I leave standing until spring. It kind of has an open chaparral feel to it.


Here's an older photo for a detail shot of an American goldfinch.


One of several Eurasian-collared doves who frequent feeder sites foraging on the ground for leftovers.


A red-breasted sapsucker. This photo is a couple of years old, but they are frequent visitors to the gardens, making many-a-hole in a few favorite trees.


Aah, now we're talking - the chickadee. This is the chestnut backed chickadee (with a seed in her mouth), a clown of the garden, ever present and full of life.


The black-capped chickadee, possibly my favorite of all (with a seed in her mouth). They are quick, agile, smart and sweet. They have come to accept our presence in the garden so we get to interact with them often. Sometimes when I'm refilling a feeder and carrying the full feeder back to its place among the trees, a hungry chickadee will land on it while it's still in my hands, grabbing a quick snack.


 Hummingbirds have a special place in the garden and in our hearts. Here a male Anna's hummingbird enjoys a drink of sugar water.


We also have rufous hummingbirds, although they are migratory and only here in summer. They give our year-round resident Anna's hummingbirds a run for their money and routinely hijack feeders.


But the most magical bird of all is Moby. He is a leucistic hummingbird, an Anna's hummingbird that has leucism which is the inability to deposit melanin, or color, to their feathers, unlike albinos who have red eyes and cannot produce pigment.


Here he is feeding on one of his most visited plants, Salvia microphylla.


He is amazingly quick and difficult to photograph. In the end, however, he did take a rest and pose for me. How sweet! Of course it was on the very top of a vine maple tree some 15' high. As many of you know he has visited our feeders and we keep an eye out for him. He was last spotted about a week ago.

So how to we attract so many birds?

Here are some ideas we incorporate into our regular gardening methodology to attract and protect birds, insects, amphibians, spiders and other critters:

  • Leave leaf litter in autumn - this creates safe areas for insects and birds love to forage through them.
  • Create layers in the garden - from a canopy to under story to shrubs then perennials and smaller plants to finally ground covers. This creates safe places at all levels for a variety of birds and areas for them to nest and forage.
  • We forego the use of pesticides and herbicides of any kind. They aren't necessary.
  • If you keep feeders, make sure they are clean and filled regularly. Black oil sunflower seeds are the #1 choice of wild birds and do not attract the invasive house sparrow. 
  • Water water water...all creatures need it, especially in frozen winter. There are bird bath de-icer warming thingies that will keep the water just above freezing. Water year round, especially moving water will grant you instant bird hang out status.
  • Plant native plants (native to your area). These attract insects that have co-evolved with them over thousands of years and thus attract wild birds. Birds need to eat insects, not just sunflower seeds, so provide food in the form of insects. Also many plants that have fruits or seeds can be food for birds.
  • Let those dead trees stand for snags. These are especially attractive to woodpeckers.
  • Add nesting boxes

Most of these photos were taken this year but I included a couple older photos as stand-ins for birds we have definitely seen this year. As I enjoy making these posts I will continue to try to to photograph our visitors just because they are such a huge part of our lives. We feed them year-round (only black-oil sunflower seeds) and in winter we put out suet. The hummingbirds are also fed year-round as the Anna's have adapted to live in the north year-round. We are not bird experts at all, rather just backyard birders who gain so much enjoyment by being a part of their world. Feel free to correct any i.d.s we have incorrect.

Not shown but present in the garden at some point or another are:
scrub jay
ruby crowned kinglet
song sparrow
bush tit
pine siskin
varied thrush
crane (their migration route is literally above our garden)
house finch
raven
bald eagle
Townsend's warbler
brown creeper
great horned owl
robin
peregrine falcon
lesser goldfinch
barn swallow
pileated woodpecker
golden crowned sparrow

That's a wrap for this week at Chickadee Gardens. As always thank you for reading and commenting, we love hearing from you! Happy gardening!

Comments

  1. Oh, I enjoyed these photos and your tales of bird visits so much! I get a lot of the same visitors. Varied thrushes are pretty, but so skittish. I had a visit from a western tanager many years ago, but haven't seen one since, it was quite a treat.

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    1. I'm so glad you enjoyed the post, Alison! Not surprised you get a lot of birds visiting your garden, too. Here's to a flock of tanagers visiting you next spring!

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  2. What a great diversity of birds. They provide so much enjoyment especially through the winter months. So nice to see someone else who invites corvid family members. They are so maligned and yet are fascinating and intelligent. We have magpies our way which are smart, beautiful and greedy.

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    1. Aren't they entertaining? I don't know what it is about observing birds that is incredibly joyful. Oh, yes, we love the crows, ravens and jays - so smart, we talk to the crows every day. We have a "language" and understand each other. I know you know what I"m talking about...We would love to see magpies - unfortunately they are not visitors to our part of the world.

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  3. I love this post, especially how you have shown the birds in the garden habitat. I agree with Cooper's hawk IDs. What do you think about a non-breeding chipping sparrow as an ID?

    Chipping Sparrow | Audubon Field Guide
    https://www.audubon.org › field-guide › bird › chipping-sparrow

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    1. Thank you Jane for your kind words, identification and for commenting! I think you are right, it looks like a chipping sparrow indeed, thank you!

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  4. Oh, the birds! They are definitely one of my favorite aspects of having a garden and are topmost in my mind when planning and planting. I love that your crows are the "escorts" for the hawks away from the chickens :-). The Steller Jays have that role in my garden. The crows usually just fly by. Great variety of birds you have-- I have a lot of the same out here. Love it! Thanks for the wonderful shots!

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    1. Aren't they a huge reason for gardening? They are so wonderful.

      Aah, the jays, they are pretty cool, also.

      Thank you for reading and commenting, my friend!

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  5. You did a great job with the bird photos! And you clearly have your bases covered in attracting them to your garden. We turned off our fountain when our remodel started and also let the feeders go empty in the interest of keeping critters away while half the house was wide open for months. Now that things are mostly (but not yet entirely) done, we've got to get the fountain running again and fill the feeders in the hope of bringing everyone back. I miss them! (Even the raccoons.)

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    1. Thank you Kris! Oh, get that fountain going..I"m jealous you have one - isn't that the #1 way to get birds to visit? We don't have a logical place to put a fountain (yet). It will all be worth it when your remodel is done and you get the feeders and fountain going again...just imagine! Paradise at Kris' garden.

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  6. Fab post. I only wish I could get it together to catalog our birds. We have most of those you get, though haven't seen the pileated woodpecker. And if we had quails, I'd be so excited. Of course, Ms. Chiquita would make their lives miserable. We are having quite a herd of rabbits. That's probably going to be a bigger problem come spring. You're so organized and dedicated to your gardening life. I wish I was more like you. Cheers, Darling.

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    1. Oh, Dahlink Patricia, you are too kind! Sorry about the rabbits, sheesh...can Chiquita scare them off?

      OH, organized? Hmm...maybe that's a Capricorn quality but my gosh, we are both dedicated. Don't sell yourself short! You have an awesome garden, website (plantlust.com), home, family and critters. Cheers to you my friend!

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  7. What a plethora of birds you have visiting your garden. Fun to see the photos. I love quail. They are such lively creatures.

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    1. Aren't quail sweet? We love watching them bob along the ground...so adorable.

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  8. Oh this post makes me so happy! You have cultivated such a special place for birds to visit. I've never seen a White Breasted Nuthatch before. I have what I think is a pair of 'Brown Creepers' that hang out in the trees near my office..and Red Breasted Nuthatches both at home and here at work. Birds make the heart happy!

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    1. Yay! YOU have an amazing amount and variety of birds, Jen -thanks to your bird friendly gardening ways. The white breasted nuthatch was a surprise for us, we are thrilled to have them. Birds DO make the heart happy, well-said!

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  9. Thank you for this post! I had to copy/paste some of the birds you list at the end of your post since I'm painfully ignorant of many bird species. (I made notes.) I've seen many of them in my garden too and you're right about providing water and the other things birds need. ... I talk to my bird visitors all the time and my neighbors probably think I'm nuts but I am so honored to have them visit and/or take up residence in my garden. ... To answer your comments on my blog. My records show I bought Daphne 'Eternal Fragrance' in 2015. I actually bought two of them from Fry Road Nursery (before it closed). They were small, growing in four inch pots. The other plant is in almost full shade and interestingly is about twice the size. It is a stellar plant. Thank you for the info on Clematis urophylla. I bought it last year after seeing Anna Kulgren's photos. I am looking forward to January!

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    1. Let us be nuts together - we talk to the birds *all the time*.

      Thanks for the Daphne info, looks as if it's pretty darned happy in your garden, Grace. I look forward to mine getting larger.

      That Clem...it is STUNNING in winter. Too bad more people don't see it in the garden at Joy Creek - I mean they can come visit, but no one really does in January.

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