Tuesday, May 13, 2014

De Mi Nidito

Luna is a satisfied roommate.  She helps me monitor new birds around our area everyday from the office.  However, she does not like Ebird. Just bird.
 Today I'm writing about backyard birding.  It's the easiest thing a person can do.

In the beginning, we moved into our home.  There wasn't any bird feeder nor garden.  To make matters worse for this nature lover, we moved into midtown Tucson.

I planted the plants.  I created a living "TV" for my cats and watched it all come together.  And so did our cats.

After everything settled, I began with one feeder.  That feeder grew into two.  Then a hummingbird feeder.  A thistle feeder.  Then another hummingbird feeder.  A nut feeder.  A suet feeder. And finally an Oriole feeder.  
Rufous Hummingbird
But to be honest, I didn't hold out much hope.  My friends who lived in the foothills, near city washes and parks would get all the interesting birds beyond House Finches and House Sparrows.  So when a random Rufous Hummingbird flew to my feeder during monsoon, I was happy.   A year would come.  And a year would go.  More House Finches.  More House Sparrows.

Anna's Hummingbird nesting in our Live Oaks
But then something began to happen.  I noticed Anna's Hummingbirds nesting in our Oak trees.  One of my neighbors reported a strange looking hummingbird in spring hover in front of her.  It had a red throat and sounded like a bell.  Nooooo.  Could it be?  Another year passed. The Anna's stayed this time and never left our property.

Curve-billed Thrasher
Early in the morning and towards the evening, I would occassionally see a Curve-billed Thrasher.

Then they became common at sunrise and sunset feeding around my newly placed suet. 

My side garden continued to grow.  But I had to deal with another situation. 

Feral cats. I had seen Northern Cardinals in my neighborhood, but how could I get them to come to my feeders?  Eliminate feral cats. One still remains.  The other 3 were moved to the humane society.

Female Northern Cardinal
Then a miracle happened.  A red throated hummingbird with a tinkling bell sound floated my way this spring to one of my feeders.  A Broad-tailed hummer!

Broad-billed Hummingbird
On the outskirts of my yard, I could hear the Ladderback Woodpecker in the adjacent mesquite trees. 

Ladderback Woodpecker
My first of the year Black-throated Hummingbird came to my feeder. Things were getting interesting! 

Northern Mockingbird
In the winter a Costa's would come to my feeder but only go to one of the feeders on the north side of the building.  The Anna's controlled the others.

Costa's Hummingbird
Meanwhile my garden grew.  And a young canopy began to form. 

The Verdin uses our tree tops and slides down for a quick drink from the hummingbird feeder. 

An Anna's joins in on the fun making me smile.  Have I created a safe haven or oasis for birds?

While common at my feeders, I can't imagine a day without my sparrows or finches. 

House Finch
We add a fountain to the property.  Wildflowers and native flowering plants are placed around this water feature.  The water begins to attract more creatures....lizards, butterflies and other species.

I see a Praying Mantis.  It sits close to the hummingbird feeder......a hummer's nightmare.

And then.....a miracle.  My first Northern Cardinal shows up.  The world stops at my urban home.  It happened!  It really happened!

In the beginning after all the plants were placed into the ground, it looked like this.

And as time went on. Others began to notice.  My cats ran for cover inside the house.  The birds were silent outside replaced with strange calls. My yard gets real.  

Cooper's Hawk
Even the dead tree near our property acts as a lookout for others. It has purpose.

Red-tailed Hawk
Some of it also included me putting out the right food.  This was my first cardinal feeder.  I used sunflowers but didn't like the mess.  I replaced this messy food source with safflower seed. It worked.  I placed dead branches and twigs in piles behind our fence.  The Northern Cardinals started having babies. 

The Gila Woodpecker comes and drinks from the hummingbird feeder. 

But I still wasn't happy.  I wanted the very common Lesser Goldfinches.  The secret?  Thistle.  Today I have many of them in my yard. 

And the Cooper's still randomly visits......

And I wanted warblers.  So I added pineapple chunks and fruit.

On the top of our oak, I heard something rare during fall migration. Turns out this flycatcher was passing through the area.

Ash-throated Flycatcher
And in spring, I hear the unmistakable call of the Yellow warbler outside my door.  I look up and see it. I don't know what to do.  Watch or grab the camera!  So luckily I was able to do both. 

And the Mourning and White-winged Doves continued by the feeders.  I discover the White-winged Doves are the ones who are making a mess of everything.  They are also the bullies of the bird world.

The House Sparrows navigate around the larger birds.

And then it really really happens.  A Green-tailed Towhee stops by at my place for several days.  I know that I have passed Mother Nature's test.  I have officially been granted a desert oasis in the city.  All the hard work has paid off.

Other birds stop by and confirm this.  I find grackles chasing beetles swarming around the dates of our palm tree. 

The Verdins are nesting in our trees. 

Red and Yellow come together in peace. 

And the Rock Pigeons?  Well they stay safely away from our yard.  There is still one feral cat and he has an appetite for these birds.  The Pigeons learned quickly that our garden wasn't a safe place for them.

Now about those White-winged doves.....:)

If you dream it, it will happen.

I thought the world ended when a Nashville Warbler plopped along the ground near our living room window.  It was passing through our yard during migration. 

And it hasn't stopped. This spring has been loaded with so many incredible birds.  

I LOVE spring migration.  It's the first Black-headed Grosbeak sighting on our property.  This all just happened about a week ago!

Patience and planning are all that it takes.  So when I can't bird on the road, I don't mind sipping on my coffee at home from my windows and seeing who will pop in for a visit.  Anything is possible. 
Western Tanagers love Mulberry Trees.  It's one of the reasons I placed one on our property back in 2008.  

Cactus Wren


  1. You knew I'd love this post since I'm a Backyard Birder... I love my little birdies!!!!! You have really improved your area --and have attracted all kinds of birds. That is awesome.

    Do you not have trouble with Squirrels???? They drive us crazy!!!! AND--we have to put everything away at nights due to the raccoons which are smart enough to STEAL the entire feeders!!!! Fun Fun...


  2. Wow, you have done an amazing job and are being rewarded with some beautiful birds. The world needs lots more people like you. :)

  3. I'm amazed! You live in a paradise and have made a paradise for the birds too! And also well photographed! Thanks for your visit and comment!

  4. Chris, you have manage to turn your backyard into the place to be if your are a bird.. I love all your great backyard birds. The Verdin is one I missed on my trip and was so sorry. I am glad the birds have found a safe retreat.. Awesome photos.

  5. A wonderful post Chris :) Its lovely to see how all your hard work and planning in the gardens have paid dividends. You are attracting such a superb collection of species.

  6. Oh my gosh, oh my gosh, where do I begin. At first I thought this was going to be a post about the cats, and bird watching....but dear me,====what an incredible post of varied, beautiful birds. I'm so jealous of your Costa's hummer. I could spit. lol

    Beautiful series, and great commentary.

  7. All that work paid off!! I am learning the seed is key to attracting the right birds.

  8. P.S. The kitties are beautiful!!!!!

  9. Beautiful cats. You have created a backyard paradise for birds, what a great story!

  10. You are an oasis! It's amazing what will come and live with you if you give it a few of the things it needs. Love this post!

  11. You've done such a spectacular job of inviting nature to your yard.

  12. Wow! Thats some collection of birds (and photographs) - I think I may have to visit your garden!

    Cheers - Stewart M - Melbourne

  13. You get so many more types of birds than we do, but I don't have the lovely oasis of a yard that you do. I have slowly added a few things, and was particularly happy when I finally set out a bird bath. I get Pyrrhuloxia sometimes but have yet to get a good picture. Same for the Gambril Quail. I have wire screens and the camera won't focus through that if I try to take a shot from the window, and I have no place to wait and watch outside without being in the open. Your cats are adorable! There is one feral cat that kills the occasional dove and decides to eat it right outside my glass door. Not a pleasant sight when I step outside! We also have had Coopers Hawks in the yard, but that happened more the first year. Have a wonderful week! We are headed to Madera Canyon for a couple of days, and I am really looking forward to it!

  14. I meant to say, how wonderful you have a Costas visit! I get my little Annas all the time and that's the only kind, I think. Love tyhe Western Tanager too...the only time I've seen one is at the Sonoran Desert Museum! :-)

  15. Chris, this is just wonderful! I love all the birds you are seeing! It does seem like magic, doesn't it! And it is! It's Mother Nature working her magic with a little help from an elf named Chris!

    Love the pics! Seeing these makes me miss all those early mornings when I picked you up for our birding outings!

  16. Your garden birds make my own look rather pathetic, Chris, and we now only have one cat to scare them away! Actually, at just turned 19 years old, he's no danger to any bird, and they seem to know this as they just turn to look at him when he walks past at about 3 feet distance!

    Amazing post, and a well-deserved return for all your efforts in creating a bird-friendly garden.

    Have a great weekend - - - Richard

  17. It's great to create a garden where birds start to come, and even better when they stay. It's also interesting to see the different feeders as we don't have use them in Australia - mostly water is the thing to bring in the birds here.

  18. OMG Chris, you said you would like to be in my backgarden.. are you mad! I would like to be in yours. I enjoyed this post so much and you have inspired me to do more. The big birds like the galahs, corellas and other parrots are so easy, they come every morning but the smaller birds are more shy.. since moving my birdbath I get many more but I definitely need more small bird feeders. I guess if you create an 'Eden' they will come, thanks Chris..I'm on it :)
    p.s. the pussy cat audience is hilarious :)

  19. I can only imagine the little birds that might be hiding from you. It would be exciting to see who shows up. The bigger birds all congregate together while the smaller ones like to stay further away:) I think size matters in this case. Good luck and I hope you do put those feeders up. I think Oz is a magical place.


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