Joseph V Higbee.com

My Yard

Under Construction


I jokingly say the most memorable place I know is my yard because I return there the most often. Seriously, though, I have had more hours of pleasurable bird-watching and photography there than anywhere else. And I have seen more species of birds there than any other single location. Also very important these days, it's easy to get to.
   The video below shows an overview of my yard and the main locations the photos I take here are from. As you view it, you will see how I can watch the birds from inside the house. The photos, however, are taken outside, usually from the gazebo nowdays, and I have many props in place to encourage posing.

Overview


The overview is the way things are in July of 2014. They were different in the past, when many of these photos were taken, and it will undoubtedly keep changing as time goes on.
   I started planting native plants and building the water feature after I finished the house ten years ago. The water feature started out with two ponds and has been reworked four times to become as you see it now. For some time, I used a homemade blind here and there but now work mostly from the gazebo I built a couple years ago. I am giving thought to some camo curtains to use. Some birds are more shy and never seem to get used to my lens pointing at them.
   August, 2014: Things are changing faster than I can put this article together and I realize that will probably always be the case. So, instead of trying to put this up as a complete article, I am going to 'build it as I go', adding paragraphs, sections and maybe even additional videos over a period of time. My thought has been to have a short description and photos of the birds, animals and whatever else I have seen in the yard. My current plan is to have the description and discussion on this page with links to the species photos on my pbase pages. The first entry is Chickadees. No special reason other than I just like them and have quite a few photos to put on. Later I will arrange everything alphabetically.

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History of Changes

These photos are a brief historical view of the changes I made from late 2005, about a year after I started, to mid-2014. When I started I was hoping to attract dragonflies with the ponds but success was limited while the amount of work was not. Starting, then, in late 2011, I removed the ponds from the watercourse and built the gazebo seen in the final photo. This is working out much better and I still get an occasional dragonfly. The birds love all that moving water. Now, I'm trying to work in some weeds and flowers for the butterflies and bugs.

Yard,2005 Yard,2007 Yard,2007 Yard,2008 Yard,2008 Yard,2008 Yard,2011 Yard,2014

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When completed, the galleries will be arranged by family in taxonomical order. The species in each gallery will be shown in the chronological order they were photographed.
As I complete the reorganization of each gallery, I will put a link to the introduction to it here. These links will be in alphabetical order, by family, and the intro links below will be in taxonomical order also by family.
Chickadees Hummingbirds Sparrows Juncos Insects
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   When I finished building the house, one of the first things I did to attract birds was to put up the hummer feeders. Among the first plants I put in were the Red-flowering Currant which come into bloom about the time of the Rufous Hummingbirds spring arrival. They showed up right on schedule in spring of 2005. I think they may have fed first but very quickly they were in the water. I never knew!
   It wasn't until 2009 that I had enough Anna's coming to be able to get photos. Now I have Rufous from March to September and Anna's all year around. This last year I have finally gotten a few of the Anna's male in display mode but he doesn't pose like the Rufous.
   I always kept one feeder out in the winter and would bring it in at night but finally built two feeder heaters. Many mornings I see them at the feeder just before daylight even with the temperature well below freezing. It makes us all feel good.
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   Of all the birds in the yard, chickadees are my favorites. When I put food out, sunflower seeds or suet mix, they are the first ones there, often before I leave the feeder. They'll sit on a nearby perch and chirp. Whether they are scolding me for being late or just being, I haven't figured out but it makes it fun. When I have the camera, they are the first ones to ignore it and go about their business.
   I have the Black-capped and the Chestnut-backed Chickadees all year around. It's interesting how similar and yet how different they are. The CBCH's are almost always with a small flock, three to six birds, while the BCCH's most often come one or two at a time except when there are young ones. The two species mingle at the feeders and the water without any mentionable aggression. They both eat seed and suet but the BCCH seems to favor the seed and the CBCH definitely goes for the suet if available.
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   I have lumped the sparrows in one gallery. It makes it a large gallery but, having arranged it in chronological order, it makes it easy to see what sparrows are in the yard at different times. For instance, the Fox Sparrows are present when White-crowned are gone. Also easy to pick out the 'sometimes' sparrows as well as the 'not seen for a while' species. The Lincoln Sparrow and the White-throated Sparrow are of the 'sometimes' category while the Savannah Sparrow has been absent for a few years now.
   What is still hard to see from these selected photos is how many of each species is in the yard at a time. That varies from year to year and season to season. One year I went for a long time without seeing any Song Sparrows, one of the usually most common even though not the most plentiful at any time. In the summer months the most plentiful is the White-crowned and in the winter the Fox Sparrow with the Golden-crowned a close second. As I said, it can vary but that is the norm.
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   Juncos are sparrows but with enough variations to warrant their own gallery. There are two main species of juncos but the juncos in my yard are all Dark-eyed Juncos. There are at least six different populations of these, three of which I have seen in the yard. Mostly, they are the 'Oregon Junco' which can be further divided into six or more families. I also have photos of the 'Slate-colored' and 'Cassiar' varieties. The Cassiar is actually a hybrid of the Slate-colored and the Oregon juncos.
   Over the years, I have seen gray headed juncos that seemed to fit the description of the 'Pink-sided Junco' but have concluded they were most likely females of the 'Oregon' varieties. The bird guides all seem to agree that the female 'Oregon' and the 'Pink-sided' can be easily confused but the latter is seldom seen west of the divide.
   Disclaimer: I'm not an expert. In fact, I'm just barely knowledgeable about most of this stuff, just trying to pass on what I glean from other sources. What I am, is an interested birdwatcher with a camera who wonders at what he sees.
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   It started with dragonflies because they become plentiful about the time birds go into the summer doldrums. Butterflies are around at the same time and moths naturally follow and then little by little I began to notice the rest of the insect world. Even though the critters are small, compared to animal and bird species, they make up for it in numbers, literally too many to count.
   As I have begun to travel less, the yard has become more important as a source for my photos and attracting insects has required planting different types of vegetation. Flowers and weeds as well as shrubbery and small trees are now being included in the yard design. These will be a subject of a photo gallery also.
   The small size of most insects has led me into the photographic world of macro. I have recently purchased equipment that should enable me to do some justice to what I see and photograph. Expect, then, this gallery to grow as time passes.
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