Ruby-throated Hummingbird on garden arborRuby-throated Hummingbird on garden arborOne of many ruby-throated hummingbirds in our garden rests on the garden arbor.

Welcome to our blog! It's all about our discoveries here in our Shady Oaks yard, a Sanctuary for birds and other wildlife. We began to restore habitat for wildlife here in 1996 and gauge our success by the diversity of species we observe and document with our photography. We hope you enjoy our images and come back often to see what's new! 

Dog days of Summer 7-14-18

July 14, 2018  •  Leave a Comment

They are here, the dog days of Summer. It seems like every critter has slowed down a bit, conserving energy in this heat. I've never seen a squirrel get in the water to cool off, but they do like to lay on the stone wall, close to the cooling effect of it.


Eastern Gray Squirrel 7-10-18Eastern Gray Squirrel 7-10-18


Birds are different indeed. They love to find the nearest bird bath and refresh their little selves. Sometimes one by one, and sometimes two by two, they dive in. These young Carolina Wrens were soon chased off by the female cardinal who wanted a bit of the action.


Two juvenile Carolina Wrens 7-13-18Two juvenile Carolina Wrens 7-13-18

Northern Cardinal 7-13-18Northern Cardinal 7-13-18


The other bird bath had a pair of Eurasian Tree Sparrows thinking about it. Once they left, a Tufted Titmouse didn't hesitate.


Pair of Eurasian Tree Sparrows 7-13-18Pair of Eurasian Tree Sparrows 7-13-18

Tufted Titmouse 7-13-18Tufted Titmouse 7-13-18


Birds like this Carolina Chickadee continued the splash-fest while the temperature climbed to 97 degrees.


Carolina Chickadee 7-13-18Carolina Chickadee 7-13-18


We've started watering again to help the plants until the rains come. The sprinkler was on the garden when we saw a Ruby-throated Hummingbird take a little shower before perching in the pond cypress. Dan spotted an Eastern Phoebe splash-bathing in the stream bed late one afternoon. Another day, an uncommon Yellow-billed Cuckoo went to the Bubbler for a long drink. So the birds remain active during this time. Be they thirsty, hungry or needing to feed young, almost anywhere we look at any time of day, there's bound to be something to see.


We hear the Barred Owls at different times but I have yet to find a youngster. The Red-shouldered Hawks slip into the woods and perch, waiting for a vole to make its last move.


Red-shouldered Hawk 7-10-18Red-shouldered Hawk 7-10-18


The hummingbirds still hit the feeders in between nectaring at various flowers. This beauty is a favorite, the native Royal Catchfly (Silene regia).


Royal Catchfly (Silene regia) 7-12-18Royal Catchfly (Silene regia) 7-12-18


Ruby-throated Hummingbird 7-13-18Ruby-throated Hummingbird 7-13-18


I've been hearing a House Wren across the street when I water the plants on the front porch. Yesterday, I happened to catch it looking for food near the pond.


House Wren 7-13-18House Wren 7-13-18


Summer is also the busiest time for butterflies and other insects. I saw a female Monarch one day, laying a few eggs in the garden. She headed south before I could grab the camera. Great Spangled Fritillaries bounce about the coneflowers when the sun is high. This one is a bit tattered. The underside of its hindwing has large silver spots, which help to differentiate it from the Variegated Fritillary.


Great Spangled Fritillary 6-20-18Great Spangled Fritillary 6-20-18


A velvety Spicebush Swallowtail nectared at Black-and-blue Salvia in the shade before resting on some Cliff Goldenrod (Solidago drummondii).


Spicebush Swallowtail 7-11-18Spicebush Swallowtail 7-11-18


One of many Silver-spotted Skippers nectared at this Purple Coneflower (Echinacea purpurea) in the garden.


Silver Spotted Skipper 7-11-18Silver Spotted Skipper 7-11-18


A Familiar Bluet damselfly found a stem of Coral Trumpet Honeysuckle (Lonicera sempervirens) to rest on.


Familiar Bluet 7-11-18Familiar Bluet 7-11-18


So, keep a lookout for activity in your gardens. Fingers crossed, the rains will come and cool things off a bit. Who knows, maybe there will be a few first of fall migrants soon?



Bubbler Pond Makeover 6-29-18

June 29, 2018  •  Leave a Comment

Our good friends, Sue and Kim Poley decided this past winter that it was time for a facelift for their Bubbler Pond. They had followed our lead years ago and found a preformed pond on sale in the fall of 2004. They started with that pond, one Bubbler rock and basin/cascade for their Bubbler, doing all the work themselves. They soon added a second Bubbler rock and cascade for it. Sue had diligently added native trees and perennials to help feed the birds as well. In March, I took some 'before' photos.


Before View of Poley Bubbler Pond 3-18-18Before View of Poley Bubbler Pond 3-18-18


The water flowed through the two main Bubbler rocks, into the cascades and then into the pond. The water constantly re-circulated via the pump and a filter. They used a similar heater to ours in the coldest weather.


Before View of Poley Bubbler Pond 3-18-18Before View of Poley Bubbler Pond 3-18-18


All of this was functional and had attracted many birds over time. Sue has documented a variety of species including Yellow-billed Cuckoo and Red-breasted Nuthatch in addition to many resident birds. She has also seen at least 18 species of warblers, including Golden-winged, Yellow-throated and in 2015, a female Black-throated Blue Warbler. So, their bubbler was working yet it was not aesthetically pleasing to them. Their situation reminded me of this quote, which I think can apply to a garden or water feature as well. 


"Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful."  William Morris


Why not have a thing be both useful and beautiful at the same time? Sue and Kim wanted to achieve a more natural and appealing look by hiding the mechanics of the water feature. It was time to call in some pros to help them. I recommended the company that we've had here to work on our large pond, Bauer Falls LLC. The Bauers were part of the initial crew that installed our pond ten years ago. (Disclaimer - I receive no monetary benefit from recommending them, I just love their work and apparently, so do the birds!) 


Josh and Caleb Bauer have installed water gardens and pondless bubblers for other friends and also for the Brightside Demonstration Garden in the city of St. Louis. Here are a couple of photos from the Brightside Garden. What a great resource! You can learn more about it here:

 Brightside Demonstration Garden


Brightside Water Feature 6-7-17Brightside Water Feature 6-7-17 American Robin bathing in Brightside Water Feature 6-7-17American Robin bathing in Brightside Water Feature 6-7-17


Work on the new look of the Poley Bubbler Pond began the first week of June. The old pond was removed first, then the pond area was dug out to enlarge it. A shelf was added for a shallow stream bed. By Thursday, June 7, 2018 the transformation had begun to take shape. Following the original idea of having two Bubbler rocks, Josh prepared two new ones with larger holes. This really helps the water to 'bubble' as it comes up through the rock instead of shooting high. Josh uses a larger pump to recirculate more water each hour. One rock would sit in the main pond area, the second in the shallow stream bed. The water then flows over all the crevices in the rocks. The valves can be turned to adjust the flow if needed.


Bubbler Rock #2 6-7-18Bubbler Rock #2 6-7-18 Bubbler Rock #1 piped in 6-7-18Bubbler Rock #1 piped in 6-7-18 Bubbler Rock #2 piped in 6-7-18Bubbler Rock #2 piped in 6-7-18


On Monday, June 11, it was time to test the flow by partially filling the pond. Yes, it was still a construction site, but it was time to get excited. Sue and I were beginning to understand how well this was going to work!


Poley Bubbler Pond testing the flow 6-11-18Poley Bubbler Pond testing the flow 6-11-18


The men wrapped it up that afternoon. The water would take a day or two to clear, but that is par for the course. Sue and Kim love the new look as the rough limestone rock blends into their native garden style so well. The sound of the moving water effectively masks other noise and helps them relax when they sit on their adjacent patio.


Poley Bubbler Pond 6-11-18Poley Bubbler Pond 6-11-18


Here's the schematic. The water is pulled through the Bio-filter and then pumped up through both Bubbler rocks and out another pipe from the Bio-filter, into the pond and then recirculates. This system refreshes all the water in the pond 3 times an hour. There is an overflow on the left side that ensures the water will stay at the current level even if there is a heavy rainstorm.


Poley Bubbler Pond 6-11-18Poley Bubbler Pond 6-11-18


Here is another view of the stream bed or shallow pool area on the left and a couple close-ups of the Bubbler rocks.


Poley Bubbler Pond 6-11-18Poley Bubbler Pond 6-11-18 Bubbler Rock #2 Poley Bubbler Pond 6-11-18Bubbler Rock #2 Poley Bubbler Pond 6-11-18 Bubbler Rock #1 Poley Bubbler Pond 6-11-18Bubbler Rock #1 Poley Bubbler Pond 6-11-18


So, the work was done. Sue had added some wonderful, stable branches from her collection for perches. At this point, it was a waiting game to see who would venture in first. I went back to photograph any activity on Tuesday, June 19. The birds were not used to anyone sitting outside and watching them, Sue usually keeps tabs from inside the back door. Carolina Chickadees, Mourning Doves and others came to the feeders and kept an eye on me, aware and a bit wary of the green hat with the big lens.


Mourning Dove Poley Bubbler Pond 6-19-18Mourning Dove Poley Bubbler Pond 6-19-18


An Eastern Chipmunk was the first to get a drink.


Chipmunk Poley Bubbler Pond 6-19-18Chipmunk Poley Bubbler Pond 6-19-18


Blue Jays, Northern Cardinals and American Robins were using other trays of water or bird baths that Sue had nearby.


Blue Jay at Birdbath 6-19-18Blue Jay at Birdbath 6-19-18

Northern Cardinal 6-19-18Northern Cardinal 6-19-18

A House Finch watched me, quizzically.


House Finch 6-19-18House Finch 6-19-18


A young Brown-headed Cowbird finally came down and took a drink from Bubbler Rock #1. Sue had seen this bird there several times.


Brown-headed Cowbird Poley Bubbler Pond 6-19-18Brown-headed Cowbird Poley Bubbler Pond 6-19-18


The bird went over to the bird bath where its adoptive parent, a Northern Cardinal, met it with some food.


Brown-headed Cowbird fed by Northern Cardinal 6-19-18Brown-headed Cowbird fed by Northern Cardinal 6-19-18


A Common Grackle came down but left quickly when it spotted us. Yep, Sue's birds were not used to our presence out there. But another issue was obvious to me. I counted five other small bird baths surrounding the Bubbler Pond, nestled into the garden beds. It is really important to offer fresh, cool water in this heat. Perhaps it was easier for the birds to go to these rather than investigate the new Bubbler Pond? "Sue, I think it's time for some tough love!" I really couldn't imagine a finer water source than this new water feature for the birds and maybe they needed a bit of a push to come to it. Sue agreed and emptied some of those bird baths and turned them over. This would be less maintenance for her, too!


Common Grackle Poley Bubbler Pond 6-19-18Common Grackle Poley Bubbler Pond 6-19-18


I returned on Saturday, June 23 to sit again and see what might come. Birds were in the surrounding Serviceberries and at the feeders. The water was beautifully clear and inviting with room for plenty!


Poley Bubbler Pond - Shallow Stream  6-23-18Poley Bubbler Pond - Shallow Stream 6-23-18 Poley Bubbler Pond - Shallow Stream  6-23-18Poley Bubbler Pond - Shallow Stream 6-23-18


There was one interested customer, a young male Northern Cardinal. Well, the bird came pretty close to getting in. Patience will prevail. As Sue tucks in more native plants around the Bubbler, it will look even more natural to them. 


Curious Northern Cardinal juvenile  6-23-18Curious Northern Cardinal juvenile 6-23-18  


I mean really, how can they possibly resist?? Sue told me today that the Northern Cardinals, House Finches, Eurasian Tree Sparrows and Carolina Wrens have been coming in and getting drinks and an occasional bath. I think the new Bubbler has begun to win them over! The residents will soon be used to it and by August when fall migration begins, the place will again be a hub of activity.





Summer is here! 6-21-18

June 21, 2018  •  3 Comments

Summer has officially arrived, although it has felt like summer since early May. Today, we've had a bit of a respite and tomorrow's high may only reach 75 degrees. We'll take it!


Nesters have been busy and calling a bit more when it's cooler in the mornings. I heard a Warbling Vireo two days ago, which means that species may now be raising young nearby. The Northern Cardinals are raising a second brood. This juvenile male is on its own now.


Northern Cardinal juvenile 6-13-18Northern Cardinal juvenile 6-13-18


The Red-shouldered Hawks have been seen in the woodland, hunting voles and possibly larger prey. The male often works from this stump.


Red-shouldered Hawk 6-13-18Red-shouldered Hawk 6-13-18


The female Red-shouldered Hawk has been taking a different approach, sometimes trying to catch goldfish!


Red-shouldered Hawk fishing 6-14-18


I've been seeing both male and female Ruby-throated Hummingbirds and managed to photograph this female at the south feeder. The bird is just refueling to be able to capture more insects to feed the nestlings. Instead of the nectar from plants, this time the feeder was more convenient. 


Ruby-throated Hummingbird female 6-13-18Ruby-throated Hummingbird female 6-13-18


A young Great Crested Flycatcher perched near the bubbler one afternoon, checking out the water.


Great Crested Flycatcher juvenile 6-14-18Great Crested Flycatcher juvenile 6-14-18


My friend, Sue Poley and I were getting ready to leave for the Native Plant Garden Tour last Saturday, June 16. We were looking at pond plants that I was going to share with her when I heard an Eastern Wood-Pewee call. Sue spotted it on the cedar perch near the dripper in the east bed. The bird then hovered, sipped from the dripper and flew higher in the tree. Some sightings we just smile and enjoy! We also enjoyed seven of the ten gardens on the Native Plant tour that day, despite the heat warning and 107 degree heat index. It was well attended and I did take some photos which you can view here:  

2018 Native Plant Garden Tour


The next post will feature the makeover of this well-loved Bubbler! Check back in a week when I'll share the creative transformation! 


Before View of Poley Bubbler Pond 3-18-18Before View of Poley Bubbler Pond 3-18-18











Babes in the Woodland 6-7-18

June 07, 2018  •  Leave a Comment

Babes of all shapes and sizes are seen at this point in the year. The Northern Cardinal pair have nested again in the Coral Trumpet Honeysuckle (Lonicera sempervirens) on the arbor by the pond. Their first brood is out and about. It is always somewhat gratifying as I watch them lead the young to the Bubbler and leave them to it. To me, that signals the Bubbler to be a safe place for the fledglings to explore on their own while the adults are off finding food.


Northern Cardinal fledgling 5-29-18Northern Cardinal fledgling 5-29-18 Northern Cardinal fledgling 5-29-18Northern Cardinal fledgling 5-29-18


The female Northern Cardinal is seen in this clip carrying more material to rebuild the nest. Look closely on the left, there's a Ruby-throated Hummingbird nectaring at the flowers of this native plant. Coral Trumped Honeysuckle is also a host plant for the Hummingbird Clearwing Moth.


Northern Cardinal and Ruby-throated Hummingbird 6-1-18


Two Tufted Titmouse siblings were investigating the Bubbler and surrounding trees one day while I was planting pots on the deck.


Tufted Titmouse 6-4-18Tufted Titmouse 6-4-18 Tufted Titmouse 6-4-18Tufted Titmouse 6-4-18 Tufted Titmouse 6-4-18Tufted Titmouse 6-4-18


The Eastern Phoebes are nesting nearby, possibly under the eave of a neighbor's porch. But the pair have been coming in and collecting material to reinforce their nest. It was a surprise to me to see one pulling string algae off the Bubbler rock. That's the first time I've witnessed this behavior and the algae has practically disappeared. Moss is commonly used and the rocks in the basin are covered with it. The basin has become a very convenient source for them.


Eastern Phoebe gathering string algae 5-30-18Eastern Phoebe gathering string algae 5-30-18 Eastern Phoebe gathering moss 5-31-18Eastern Phoebe gathering moss 5-31-18


There are other critters as well, baby squirrels, chipmunks and deer.  We had lived here for 15 years before I ever saw a deer.  It became the joke of the neighborhood. "She can see the tiniest bird and not see a deer?!!!" It was true. Boy, has that ever changed. Deer are multiplying rapidly around us and it amazes me with our proximity to the busiest 4-lane road and interstate in the county. Deer find it comfortable in the suburban areas partly because of all the invasive bush honeysuckle (Lonicera maackii) in yards. Deer move easily through it, are well-camouflaged and will bed down under it. That means that the ticks that feed on the deer increase as well, bringing the higher possibility of disease to us. That reality is not a comforting thought. Deer also jump into the paths of cars, I know of at least four incidents. Thankfully, no one was seriously hurt. 


We have removed all of the invasive bush honeysuckle in our yard, and there was 8,000 square feet of it to tackle. It remains throughout the neighborhood, though. Deer have learned where the dogs live and avoid those yards. They come to our yard when other yards are being mowed. Over the last few years, does have been bringing their young fawns here, to feed, drink and rest. One has to admit, the fawns are pretty cute; we are programmed to appreciate "cute". 


White-tailed Doe and Fawn 5-30-18


This doe was feeding on violets, jewelweed and sweet coneflower in the garden one afternoon.  The doe will leave the fawn in cover to rest while it feeds.  


White-tailed Doe 6-1-18White-tailed Doe 6-1-18 White-tailed Fawn 6-2-18White-tailed Fawn 6-2-18


Now, we all have our limits! This morning, I had come in for another cup of coffee to take to the gazebo when I looked up to see a doe eating a lovely Fuchsia "Gartenmeister" I had just planted in a pot on the deck.  "NO!" I clapped my hands and the doe looked at me first to see if I was serious, then bounded off a ways.  Eating jewelweed is one thing but I draw the line at anything on my deck or porch.  I chose the Fuchsia so my blue-eyed boys could watch for the hummingbirds that come to it. Good grief!


Fuchsia eaten by doe 6-7-18Fuchsia eaten by doe 6-7-18 Doe under bush honeysuckle 6-7-18Doe under bush honeysuckle 6-7-18


And so it goes...the daily challenges of trying to live in peaceful coexistence.




May is a wrap! 5-31-18

May 31, 2018  •  Leave a Comment

What a month it has been! The weather turned warm and with those southerlies, the birds swarmed in.

Here is the month in numbers:


Year-to-date Yard Species Total: 106 species

Year-to-date Bubbler/Pond Species Total: 77 species

Total Species for May: 87 species

New record: 8 days of 50 species or more

New Best Day record: 58 species with 16 warblers on 5-4-2018


A couple weeks ago, I said that the Kentucky Warbler seen on 5-8-18 might have been the same one I had seen a week earlier. I've reviewed the photos and now believe they were two different birds. The first bird seen on 5-1-18 is richer and deeper in color overall. It was a bit further away, but one can tell the difference. I don't recall ever having two of these beautiful birds in the same season before.


Kentucky Warblers seen 5-1-18 and 5-8-18Kentucky Warblers seen 5-1-18 and 5-8-18


Details keep life interesting! I was able to add an image of the second Kentucky Warbler to the exhibit at Powder Valley. The exhibit will be up another week, until Friday afternoon, 6-8-18 for those of you who may still want to view it. Here are the particulars again:


The exhibit is free! You are invited to stop in at Powder Valley, stroll through the Art Hallway and enjoy the display.  

The area is open every day, but building hours are restricted, see below or check here:  Powder Vally CNC

Powder Valley Conservation Nature Center

11715 Cragwold Road

Kirkwood, MO 63122-7000


Building Hours:

Sun Closed

Mon Closed

Tue 8:00 AM - 5:00 PM

Wed 8:00 AM - 5:00 PM

Thu 8:00 AM - 5:00 PM

Fri 8:00 AM - 5:00 PM

Sat 8:00 AM - 5:00 PM


As promised, here is the link to my online gallery of the photos in the exhibit:  Warblers!

The 8" x 10" metal prints will be available for purchase. Contact me for information at: 


Check back next week for a new blog post on "Babes in the Woodland".