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Posts Tagged ‘birds’

Another Photo Challenge? Birds!


My mom said she loved bluebirds, but she was frustrated that she never saw any in upstate New York. Because of this, I believed bluebirds were rare. Then I moved to central Pennsylvania and here bluebirds seem quite common. This one spent a lot of time at the community garden where I had a plot in 2015. I especially like this photo because I think the bird is pretty, and seeing it makes me think of my mother.

Yes, I’m still trying to live up to the photo challenges I gave myself while heavily drugged after major surgery. This one features birds.

My parents maintained a “life list” of birds they’d seen. I suspect most of those were birds that visited the feeder outside their kitchen window. I never became a “birder,” but I did develop a love for feathered creatures. I used to offer seeds on a large feeder in our front garden about six feet from the picture window in our living room.

When my kids were young, we’d watch the feeder and immediately consult a field guide when we spotted a bird we couldn’t identify. I was taken aback one day when I couldn’t identify a visiting bird and my oldest child asked, “Isn’t that a nuthatch?” Indeed it was.

Last year, I captured far more than seven bird photos. My favorites may not be National Geographic material, but at least one of them deserves an “awww.”

Ruby-throated hummingbird

While working in my new rock garden last summer, I heard a familiar whirring and looked up to see a ruby-throated hummingbird getting nectar from the flowers of our canna plants. As is usually the case, I was wearing my camera and captured a few decent photos of the hummingbird in action.


Robins are the omnipresent “native plant” of northeastern birds. We mark the seasons by their coming and going. I find them especially entertaining when I’m turning soil in my garden. Invariably, a robin watches, ready to pounce on exposed worms when I retreat far enough from my work. I made friends with this robin when I made a planting bed for black raspberries: I collected grubs and left them where the robin had to spot them. It did spot them and seemed to relish every one.


Seagull, right? No! It’s a kittiwake. I had no idea until my Ethiopian son announced his intent to spend the summer in Alaska studying Kittiwakes. His professor, apparently, scoffed at the term “seagull.” I photographed this kittiwake while waiting in line to board a ferry to the Statue of Liberty. We hosted two Japanese students for nearly three weeks last summer and took them into New York City, for a hike in the woods, and to experience a local county fair among other adventures.

House finch fledgling

While building my rock garden last spring, I heard a wet thud in the grass behind me. When I looked hard enough, I spotted this very young bird on the lawn. After a moment, I also found its sibling and looked up to see their nest had tipped onto its side. This is a baby house finch. I set up a step ladder, laid the nest flat on a branch, and used twine to tie that branch to the one above it so the nest couldn’t flip up a second time. Then my wife passed the young birds up to me and I returned them to the nest. Within a few hours, the parents were coming and going as if nothing had changed.

House finch adolescent

This adolescent house finch perched in our lilac tree one day while I was poking around among the heucheras, violas, and primroses beneath it. I quite like having house finches in the yard.

Red-tailed hawk

Not a stellar photograph, but I couldn’t leave it out. I spotted this red-tailed hawk perched way closer to me than they typically approach and was pleased it remained as I captured a dozen or so photos. Just a few days ago during my morning dog walk, a similar hawk soared out of a tree with a squirrel clutched in its claws.

Small Kitchen Garden – Another Photo Challenge? Birds!

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Robins Nest at My Small Kitchen Garden

Catbirds could pass themselves off as the generics of birds. What they lack in flamboyant feathering, they make up for with genuine curiosity. This one visited me nearly every time I stepped into my small kitchen garden in 2011.

Gardens attract birds. I’ve made no scientific measurements, nor have I reviewed science journals to support this claim. But I’ve no doubt that it’s true.

I have two favorites that have hung around my small kitchen garden for several seasons. First, perhaps, is the cat bird. A cat bird is quite unremarkable: brownish-gray with a dark spot. But what a cat bird lacks in appearance, it makes up for with personality.

Catbirds are naturally curious, and when one nests in or near my yard, it invariably flies to the garden whenever I go there to work. A cat bird won’t get close if it doesn’t need to, but it will stay close enough to keep an eye on me; as if it’s supervising my activity.

When you stress out a catbird, it scolds. And, a catbird’s scold sounds kind of like a cat’s meow. I understand that the meowing earned the catbird its name.

We get only the ruby throated variety of hummingbirds in Pennsylvania. These are some of the bravest wild animals I’ve ever seen. During our photo shoot, they hovered near my head as if measuring the camera angle. Usually, if hummers are in the garden it coincides with my watering activities.

Humming Birds in my Small Kitchen Garden

While humming birds don’t spend so much time in and around my garden, they are amazingly curious about me when they’re there. Splashing water on a sunny day seems irresistible to a humming bird. When I do see a humming bird in the garden, it’s usually when I’m watering in bright sunlight; the bird will zip around me a few times as if deciding whether to shower.

One of my best moments with humming birds was when I made the photo in this article. I stood ready to shoot, and time and again I’d hear the buzz of a hummer’s wings behind me. When I turned, at least one bird would be hanging in the air about three feet from my head; staring at me. I danced with the hummers for about a half hour before one decided to use the feeder.

Robins on the Downspouts

So, this past summer a catbird nested somewhere in our yard. I never spotted its nest, but it was in the garden pretty much whenever I was. We also had hummers, though rarely at the garden. They were happy to visit the feeder just outside our screened porch but they otherwise stayed away.

The first flock of robins above our deck hatched out in early spring. While I spent some time watching the babies grow, they didn’t show much interest in me.

Robins, however, weren’t shy about their relationships with us. Our screened porch abuts a deck from which stairs lead down to the yard and garden. Above the stairs, robins built a nest on the bend in the downspout. The robins were prolific. They raised a small flock of chicks and, when the chicks left, the robins raised a second flock. Photos in this post are of the first robin family.

Robins aren’t particularly friendly. They make house a few feet from our main walkway, and then fly away scolding when we come and go. Occasionally, whichever parent is on incubation duty hunkers down low as we walk by—a great time-saver when we’re particularly active.

I enjoy having the robins around; in most years there are two or three nests in our yard. Their child-rearing fascinates me, and I watch them come and go, but the robins aren’t at all interested in what I’m doing. Their only interest in me, I think, is whether I’m about to try to eat them. (I’m not… yet.)

When the first flock of robins left the nest, all but one vanished in a day. This one sat on the downspout next to the nest for hours before it, too, flew to a nearby tree. At one point this year, the robin parents administered to two of their babies while sitting on my kitchen garden’s rodent fence. Sadly, the photos I captured weren’t nice enough to publish.


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Yard Bird Update

While it’s nice to have a Yard Bird standing watch to greet visitors, I think I’d go for a slightly taller sculpture for this spot. Short or tall, a Yard Bird at your door will start a lot of conversations.

Visitors to Your Small Kitchen Garden blog seem to like Yard Birds as much as I do. I introduced these handmade folk-art lawn and garden sculptures at the end of July.

A local machine repairman designs and assembles Yard Birds using parts of gardening tools and farm machinery. He sells his whimsical garden creatures on the lawn of a church during Lewisburg’s annual Festival of the Arts. Through the rest of the year, the unsold Yard Birds live in the tool shed behind his house.

Yard Birds have clearly found a second home here at Your Small Kitchen Garden. I’ve had to remove some from the Yard Bird Store, but I’ve also added several new designs. The artist has created a few small Yard Birds crafted from hand tools rather than full-sized tools. While a Yard Bird made from a typical garden shovel might stand about 20 inches tall, starting with smaller hand tools results in more demure Yard Birds running about 12 to 18 inches tall.

A big-old subwoofer in the corner of a room doesn’t add a lot to your décor… unless there’s a Yard Bird standing on it. Speakers, end tables, stereo cabinets, even spaces between chairs make great perches for these happy creatures.

As I become more involved with Yard Birds, I see more and more possibilities for them. Turns out they add just as much whimsy to a music room or a front step as they do to a garden. If there’s a large potted plant in the lobby or conference room of your office building, a Yard Bird or two would add unique conversational flare. I’d have one in my cubicle or office if I still lived the nine-to-five life.

Visit the Yard Bird Store and find your gardening or work companion.

I’ve seen some unusual artwork in people’s music rooms. Seems about time for Yard Birds to move in as well. It’s kind of fun having this inquisitive bird kibitz while I’m tickling the ivories.


When last I visited with the artist of the original Yard Bird, a group of his creations clambered out of his shed onto the lawn for a group picture. These haven’t yet made it into the on-line store, but if you see one that interests you, drop me a note and I’ll add it.


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Yard Bird Garden Sculptures

A Yard Bird stands faithfully wherever you want to add a whimsical accent to your garden or yard. ID#0001

Did I finally break down and install backyard chickens in my small kitchen garden? Not so much. But I have stumbled across some remarkable objects de arte that could fill at least some of the giant hole my lack of chickens creates: Yard Birds.

Garden Folk Art

Yard Birds are colorful and playful sculptures of unidentifiable birds (though there are a few beetles and spiders in the collection as well). A yard bird makes a terrific accent at an entryway—whether to a garden, a garden shed, a house, or an office building. A yard bird also livens up a garden by peaking out from behind foliage, rooting around in a flower bed, or taking center stage in a color-coordinated display.

Made from various pieces of gardening equipment including shovels, rakes, hoes, trowels, and parts harvested from crop-harvesting machines, Yard Birds are creations of the owner of an equipment repair shop in town. He has designed a veritable menagerie of critters which he rolls out once a year to sell during a local town festival.

A green Yard Bird can blend with your garden’s foliage, or stand out against a backdrop of flowers. ID#0002

Yard Birds for Your Garden

I spoke with the creator of Yard Birds at this year’s festival and he was happy to let me sell Yard Birds on my blog on an “as-available” basis. Each year, he seems to have about 20 Yard Birds on display, but he’ll make more as his inventory runs low.

I can’t predict what he’ll have in stock, so I’m offering to act as an agent. If you like what you see in this post, drop me an email and let me know which piece or pieces interest you. I’ll find out whether the piece is still available, and/or send photos of similar sculptures.

Prices run from $40 up to $65, depending on the complexity of their construction (sometimes a smaller piece is more expensive than a larger piece because it involves machining on a metal-working lathe). The sculptures are rigid and heavy, ranging in height from about eight inches up to three feet. Packing and shipping is likely to cost from $15 to $20 per unit.

Let me know if you’d like me to help find the right Yard Bird (or Yard Birds) for your garden, lawn, entranceway, foyer, sitting room, or cubicle. Send an email and be sure to mention the ID number of the Yard Bird that caught your eye.

I wish I had met this Yard Bird while I was working in a cubicle at Lotus Development Corporation. It would have fit in well with the propeller heads who haunted the hallways there. (The propeller doesn’t spin.) ID#0003


Forget those cheesy plastic flamingos. This Yard Bird suggests flamingo while clearly expressing its preference for gardening. ID#0004


This Yard Bird started life as a leaf rake. It’s hard not to wonder if the artist had a particular type of bird in mind when he sculpted the feathered beast. ID#0005


Not all Yard Birds are birds. This spider is bigger than any living arachnid I’d want spinning webs in my garden; and it’s quite a conversation piece. ID#0006


Most gardeners, I think, are happy to see ladybugs in their gardens and yards. This ladybug will devour any rebar-legged iron aphids that happen along. ID#0007


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