Yard Birds


     My yard is by far my most enjoyable and productive birding spot. Since I built the house and began putting together the water feature and native landscaping in 2004, I have photographed over 80 different species of insect, bird and animal in the yard. And I would estimate another 10 to 15 that I have seen but couldn't get to the camera in time.
    The water feature is a rubber lined recirculating creek and ponds about 75 feet in length and 15 feet across at the widest and 2 feet at the narrow point. I have rebuilt and reworked it a couple times and am in the process of trying to improve it's attractiveness to dragonflies at the present time. As long as I have running water there, the birds seem not to mind the changes.
    I have planted native plants to feed and attract birds. I'm working on stuff for butterflies and dragonflies. I do put out feed. I have only one small plastic feeder mainly for the chickadees. I put some sunflower seed on top of a large stump, I put some cracked corn near a small brush pile and throw a few peanuts out under the shrubbery. I maintain one or two hummingbird feeders as needed. Also a pole with holes filled with suet for the woodpeckers, and I am in process of making two hanging suet feeders to replace the one for the smaller birds.
    On this page are six of the over 60 species of birds I have photographed in the yard. I didn't use any particular criteria in choosing them, I just went through my files and pulled six I liked.
Great Blue Heron

Great Blue Heron


     I had seen Great Blue Heron fly over and one had set down very briefly in the backyard once previous. But when this one landed about 10 feet from my living room window I was almost in disbelief. While I scrambled for my camera he casually strolled to this spot about 25 feet away. This was good because even at that I had to back into my hallway to take this picture through the window. I don't have fish in the pond but as he became more at home, I started to worry about him poking the liner if the pool so I finally walked over to the widow and waved. Even then he didn't seem particularly worried as he flew away. So while I was happy to add him to my yardlist I will also be happy if he doesn't return when I'm not around.
    Of course, here in western Washington, these are fairly common and are seen in almost every wetland. Even so, they are one of the most interesting birds to watch. Moving ever so slowly, one long leg and then the other, neck stretched to see or slightly pulled back to strike, he is so patient. And then as the prey reveals itself, so quick. And often swallowing critters far bigger around than his own neck.
    This is the tallest and possibly the largest bird I've had in the yard.(I did have a Bald Eagle) When he stood up straight he was as tall as the bush behind him which is just over 3 feet tall.
Pileated Woodpecker

Pileated Woodpecker


     Before this suet feeder finally gave up, it hung from a branch about 6 feet closer to the window than where the heron was standing in the picture above. While this Pileated Woodpecker is nowhere near as big as the heron, being about the size of a crow, he is still one large bird compared to the Downy Woodpeckers normally seen on this feeder. The suet pole was put in with hopes of attracting this kind of bird and he does use it when he visits. But for a while he really had a thing for this small feeder.
    He is also a fun bird to watch. He will take some food and then look one way and then the other, maybe look up or around the pole and then pull back and hold very still before starting over. When he's had enough he'll shinny to the top of the pole and spend some time looking this way and that before flying off. He is apt to go any direction, not seeming to prefer one or the other.
Sharp-shinned Hawk

Sharp-shinned Hawk


     This is a Sharp-shinned Hawk, a female I believe. I have also had and photographed males and juvenile of this species in the yard. They and their cousins the Cooper's Hawk are frequent visitors. Most often they miss on their attempt to catch one of the smaller birds and end up perching here on the brushpile or in one of the small trees nearby as if trying to decide what to do next. They appear to be quite fearless, allowing me time for several shots if the camera is anywhere near to hand. One male even sat in a small pine tree and after several shots through the window, still remained while I ventured outside and took several more, some as close as 20 feet.
    Today, this female came zipping in from the woods behind the house and once again failed to catch anything. After the attempt she landed on the suet pole and sat watching the chickadees and juncos beneath her in the blackberry vines. It's winter so they were quite visible but deep enough to not be directly approachable so she waited and watched about 5 minutes and then flew off.
    Only one time did I see one take a bird from the yard, a chickadee by a juvenile Cooper's. It's amusing in a way that we can sometimes be upset by this, even though we may have had fish, chicken or a hamburger for our own lunch. Of course we grow 'em too dumb to run and mostly never have to dispatch them ourselves.
Swainson's Thrush

Swainson's Thrush


     The Swainson's Thrush is normally a shy, more often heard than seen, bird of deep thickets. Seeing this one, 10 feet from the window in the open in bright sunlight, was quite a surprise. Having it return a couple times so that I had time to get the camera and take several pictures was even more so.
    I had seen one around before and have seen one since but always in the first gray light in the morning or on a dark late afternoon. I often hear them in the morning in the spring. One of my favorite sounds.
Black-capped Chickadee

Black-capped Chickadee


     This little bird seems to have more spirit than it's little body can hold and so is constantly letting some out. If I go out to work in the yard, it's only moments until they are within feet of me darting back and forth, scolding or singing or both. If I put out a new feeder or change the menu, they are the first to try it out. If a hawk comes by they are the first to re-appear when it leaves.
     This is a Black-capped Chickadee. We also have Chestnut-backed Chickadees in the yard and they are much the same but it's the Black-capped that almost always shows up first. They are, either one, my favoritest bird.
Rufous Hummingbird in creek

Rufous Hummingbird


     The male Rufous Hummingbird has a facial expression that matches his disposition. Probably the most territorial of all the yard birds, he will get right in the face of birds big enough to swallow him whole, if they could catch him. He is probably also the fastest!
     He dominates the feeder, challenging any other male and chasing the females for some reason. When the young come to the feeder he chases them off but doesn't seem to bother them on the flowers, at least not as much.
     Kind of a show-off, he will zoom straight up out of sight and then plummet down making a u-turn just before reaching the ground and come to a stop, hovering, facing the female. He repeats this, waiting for some sign of approval I suppose.
     Like all the yard birds, he also loves the water feature, most often hovering just above it but sometimes, like here, bathing in the faster parts of the flow.
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