Backyard Visitors: Wildlife Wednesday

mystery feather
mystery egg

Thank you Tina for hosting Wildlife Wednesday where people are encouraged to share their wildlife experiences and photos the first Wednesday of each month.

Things Left Behind

Going for a walk outside is a bit like stepping into a mystical adventure. I wouldn’t ever dare to expect to find something wonderful but moments of grace happen just often enough that I am always hopeful. Sometimes the moment is all drama like the time I saw a cat kill a wren right before my eyes and shared the horror and agony of the flock/family as it darted around screaming its heartbreak. I didn’t know if I should hide away the limp body to ease their distress or give them time to say goodbye.

Other times the moment is as gentle and ephemeral as a finding a cast off feather or abandoned egg shell. What happened here in my absence? I can’t know for sure and that’s ok. Those tiny things — found objects — remind me the world goes on with or without my presence and that idea is more than ok.

I feel like each encounter with the wild is a delicate thing. So much can go wrong that the moments when we do connect feel like gifts.

Random Encounters

Just as I watch out for wild things, I know our house is also under surveillance. As soon as I open the door in the morning I will hear the chpchpchp of a cardinal followed by wing flutters. It is usually a juvenile, hungry and lurking patiently. It will return in a moment or two with friends to share some breakfast seed. They know my habits. Before I even make coffee I pour seed into the feeder.

White-winged dove

The animals we share this space with extend some trust but I usually sense more wariness than curiosity.

squirrel on the fence
fox squirrel

The squirrels

are the exception to that rule. They are fearless. They don’t startle even at an arm’s reach away.

baby squirrel
baby squirrel eating fallen mulberries

I have no idea how the squirrel below found a pecan at this time of year. I actually wonder if it fell out of someone’s lunch on their way to school. 2013 was a really bad year for pecans: not only was it an off production year but we didn’t get enough chill hours for even the random nuts to set. Luckily, the squirrels usually have plenty of pecans to eat here most years. They also eat acorns and will nibble on grasses and herbs. I swear I saw one eating sunflower leaves one spring.

I love their energy. The games of tag, the acrobatics on the high telephone wires, their mad leaps from tree branch to tree branch … boundless. They look like freedom.


squirrel eating mast

The Invisible Anole and other Reptiles

I was thrilled to finally get a shot of an anole — which are common everywhere in Austin but here. One day I happened to glance up and saw a splash of green way up on the trunk of the oak tree. When I zoomed in with the camera I was surprised to see it was an anole soaking up a tiny sunbeam that somehow made its way through the leaf canopy. He was way up on the main trunk of the oak tree. I always thought of anoles as living close to the soil but I guess they are arboreal when it suits them. We have a lot of reptiles here including tiny iridescent blind snakes, pink geckos, skinks and spiny lizards with skin that looks like the scales of pecan bark.

blurry anole

The reptiles are much more cautious than the birds. Do you remember when people used to talk about reptilian brains? It is not hard to imagine where the idea came from. Lizards don’t get startled, they completely panic. I saw one poor thing fling itself repeatedly onto a fence post in a desperate attempt to flee even when I clearly posed no imminent threat. You just can’t reason with or soothe a stressed out lizard. They just have to work their way through the adrenaline. I can relate. I had a panic attack once and I will never forget the experience.


blue jay
Blue Jay

The Blue Jay

is a new addition. Blargh blargh blargh. He always trumpets a warning or maybe a fanfare before he approaches. I am not sure who he is talking to other than the world at large.


baby grackle
juvenile grackle

Grackles and Potato Salad

This is a baby grackle wiping his beak on tree bark. He helped himself to some store bought potato salad my son didn’t want when we were having a picnic outside. I guess having an oily sticky beak feels worse than unpleasant. Next time I will make my own salad. Bad enough to get a two thumbs down rating from humans but when even the grackles are disgusted you know something is terribly wrong. Dumpster-diving grackles aren’t usually terribly choosy eaters.

And so much more

But I will stop before this turns into a boring catalogue.

If you haven’t done so already, I hope you can join in Tina’s monthly Wildlife Wednesday meme. Check out My Gardener Says for details.

36 thoughts on “Backyard Visitors: Wildlife Wednesday

  1. These beauties should not extend trust but run from us, since we are the worst predators of all. Kids are so mean, nowadays. Some of my visitors get too used to me and I discourage it because they might trust someone who will harm them. Humans can be cruel and horrible. The chipmunks who live in my yard used to follow me everywhere. They would sit on my feet and take food from my hand…but that wasn’t good for them. So I stopped being so close to them. It’s awful, and I hate saying it but too many humans can’t be trusted. Too many people are hateful and just mean.


  2. Absolutely beautiful post! Beautiful words. Brought me to tears for reasons I won’t go into here. I’ll simply say that because of horrific backyard events week before last, I’ve kept my curtains closed since. I wish everyone in the world could read this post and understand the subtle daily activities and beauty in even the smallest of God’s creatures. AND how even the smallest do come to trust us and in return will grace us with song and anxious greeting. I wish for people to become aware– to recognize this connection and their responsibility to honor that trust and the harm they cause otherwise.


        1. Could be! I am sticking with the sharing, though. I am certain my cat keeps trying to teach me how to hunt so that she doesn’t have to eat old meat from cans.


  3. Around here not just the squirrels but also the rabbits are fearless. They don’t fear me, anyhow. I walk towards them and they just sit there, nibbling away. Eventually they saunter slowly off (if you can saunter while hopping) when I get right on top of them. Really, it’s insulting.


    1. Oh, I love rabbits. You are so lucky. I saw a bunch of ‘wild’ ones nibbling clover under cottonwood tress at the Milk River in Alberta once and it is a image I will never forget. ANd yeah ‘wild’ just doesn’t really work as a an adjective for them. hahaha


  4. Very nice photos and finds. I never knew there was a wildlife Wednesday. I guess every day is wildlife around my blogs. Squirrels are so busy in the garden, I have ignored them for a long time. You remind me how photogenic that they can be.


    1. Thanks, Donna. Every day IS wildlife day for your beautiful blogs. Today was the first day and I am really glad Tina is doing it.


  5. A boring catalogue? Never. I find your wildlife and your descriptions of it fascinating. I love your reptiles and your gorgeous birds look so exotic to me.
    I did see a beautiful white barn owl hovering over the field across the road yesterday, but of course, I didn’ t have a camera handy. I never do. You are very good at capturing these moments.


    1. I would have loved to see your barn owl. Thanks for the kind words but trust me — for every keeper shot there are many (many) throw aways hahaha


  6. Great post (as I’ve come to anticipate with every visit). The story about the grackle and the potato salad is hilarious. Grackles are notorious beggar birds aren’t they? I had one so persistently attentive in his attempts to get at my tortilla chips on a local restaurant patio one afternoon my daughter dubbed him my “boyfriend”. Now whenever we see a grackle checking out the ground underneath a feeder here I announce “my boyfriend is back in town!”. (yeah – I am that cheesy..)


    1. Thanks for the kind words. I know I am not supposed to like them but I adore grackles. Tortilla chips! hahhaha That’s just so perfectly Austin.


  7. Thanks Debra for joining in!! A lovely post with great photos. I’ve experienced the same a you when I’ve witnessed a bird die and the family members are obviously in grief and fear. And like you, I’m very fond of squirrels–so smart and cheeky and they keep my cat entertained so she doesn’t pay attention to the birds!


  8. Aren’t those Blue Jays something else? We have several families in our yard. They love to steal the cat kibbles. Thanks for this post. I’m joining in the monthly Wildlife Wednesday, too.


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