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! 

December is upon us!

December 04, 2017  •  Leave a Comment

Where did November go, December is here with its ever shortening days!  The sun seems to hang so low in the sky.  We've lost over 5 hours of daylight since the Summer Solstice and it will be a few weeks yet before we start to gain.  


Since my last post, there have been some very slow days interspersed with bursts of activity.  Flocks of American Robins have been coming in to drink and bathe.  Some Cedar Waxwings got brave and joined them at the pond on Saturday, 11/25/17.  


Cedar Waxwings 11-25-17Cedar Waxwings 11-25-17 Cedar Waxwing 11-25-17Cedar Waxwing 11-25-17 Cedar Waxwing 11-25-17Cedar Waxwing 11-25-17 Cedar Waxwing 11-25-17Cedar Waxwing 11-25-17


The robins have been feasting on the American Beautyberries (Callicarpa americana) with the flock of birds numbering in the dozens.


American Robin 11-25-17American Robin 11-25-17


Northern Cardinals are foraging for the berries and eating seeds they find as well.  Here, a female eats a 'maple squirt' from the Sugar Maple (Acer saccharum).


Northern Cardinal eating Sugar Maple seed 11-25-17Northern Cardinal eating Sugar Maple seed 11-25-17


And, my little friend, the Tufted Titmouse still prefers the safflower seed.


Tufted Titmouse  12-1-17Tufted Titmouse 12-1-17


A young Yellow-bellied Sapsucker was seen on Friday, 12/1/17.  It went to the Bubbler several times.  A second sapsucker, an adult was chasing after it in the woodland.  


Yellow-bellied Sapsucker juvenile  12-1-17Yellow-bellied Sapsucker juvenile 12-1-17

Yellow-bellied Sapsucker adult  12-1-17Yellow-bellied Sapsucker adult 12-1-17


On Sunday, 12/3/17 a Brown Creeper scooted down the oak and decided to check out the Bubble of water on the large rock to take a quick bath there. Too many robins were in the basin!


Brown Creeper  12-3-17Brown Creeper 12-3-17 Brown Creeper  12-3-17Brown Creeper 12-3-17


It was another busy day with a large flock of American Robins.  A female Northern Flicker drank while they bathed.


American Robins and female Northern Flicker  12-3-17American Robins and female Northern Flicker 12-3-17


I was pleasantly surprised to see my first Rusty Blackbird of the fall/winter in this mixed flock.  I had last seen a single bird on 1/3/17.  They are an uncommon winter resident in the south and rare in the north and the flocks are very nomadic.  It spent a bit of time at the Bubbler, easily holding its own with the robins.


Rusty Blackbird  12-3-17Rusty Blackbird 12-3-17 Rusty Blackbird and American Robin  12-3-17Rusty Blackbird and American Robin 12-3-17


The Rusty then went down to the sump puddle, tossing leaves about and foraging for insects.  Swampy wet woods and damp meadows are this bird's preferred habitat and its coloring is absolutely perfect to help it blend in.


Rusty Blackbird  12-3-17Rusty Blackbird 12-3-17  


The Rusty Blackbird is listed as a Vulnerable species and partly due to loss of habitat its numbers are in decline.  I feel very fortunate to be able to see them and glad they can find some food to sustain them here.


The deer have been seen early in the mornings.  One of the larger bucks came within view on 11/19/17.  It was collecting a young doe.


8-point White-tailed Buck 11-19-178-point White-tailed Buck 11-19-17 8-point White-tailed Buck with Doe 11-19-178-point White-tailed Buck with Doe 11-19-17


There were 3 does together on Saturday, 12/2/17 and this one took to the beautyberries with gusto.



I have identified some birds that I was not able to photograph before they flew.  Two Pine SIskins were at the Bubbler and were spooked by the larger birds on 11/25/17.  Hopefully, they'll be back.  There was also a juvenile Red-headed Woodpecker in the maple by the pond, looking down at the water on 12/2/17.  


The temperatures have been warm and it's still very, very dry.  We are in for a big change and snow is in the forecast for later in the week, so we'll be on the lookout.  Last but not least, Dan put together this video from the trail cam clips.  It does show a bit of the night life!






Birds of November 11-15-17

November 15, 2017  •  Leave a Comment

Bird activity has slowed down a bit.  I'm still hoping to see some winter finches as it is an irruptive year for them, but none have come in as yet.  Winter finches would include birds like Pine Siskins, Purple Finches, Common Redpolls and Red Crossbills, all of which have been seen in the area parks.  Fingers crossed on those, they have all found their to our yard in the past if only for a day, as happened with the Common Redpoll.

We have been hosting a Brown Thrasher since 9/30/17.  Typically, this species moves on south and by early October few remain.  "Primarily only single birds are seen through the remainder of October, and thereafter it is rarely encountered." Description from Birds of Missouri, Their Distribution and Abundance, Mark B. Robbins and David Easterla.

This bird has been popping out every 3 or 4 days and I was able to get some photos in good light on 11/13/17.  We have lots of leaf matter for it to forage in and it has been coming regularly to drink at the Bubbler, sometimes staying 15 minutes or more.  The thrasher seems comfortable here, but for how long?


Brown Thrasher 11-13-17  3:14 pmBrown Thrasher 11-13-17 3:14 pm


The last Ruby-throated Hummingbird was seen on 10/15/17 and I have had them as late as 10/30.  I am still keeping one feeder going, just in case a vagrant species zooms by.  So far, the goldfinches and this female Downy Woodpecker have been the only visitors.


Downy Woodpecker on Hummingbird feeder 11-10-17Downy Woodpecker on Hummingbird feeder 11-10-17


Dark-eyed Juncos began arriving on 10/29/17.  These birds seem to signal the beginning of the winter season for us.


Dark-eyed Junco 11-4-17Dark-eyed Junco 11-4-17


Birds have been feeding on the American Beautyberries (Callicarpa americana) in the garden.  American Robins and Northern Cardinals are frequent visitors to these shrubs but this was my first time to see an American Goldfinch enjoying the fruit!


Northern Cardinal eating American Beautyberry (Callicarpa americana) 11-2-17Northern Cardinal eating American Beautyberry (Callicarpa americana) 11-2-17 American Goldfinch eating American Beautyberry (Callicarpa americana) 11-2-17American Goldfinch eating American Beautyberry (Callicarpa americana) 11-2-17


An Eastern Phoebe was around for a few days.  I always enjoy watching them splash bathe in the pond.  It spent some time sallying out from the arbor to catch flying insects, too.


Eastern Phoebe 11-1-17Eastern Phoebe 11-1-17

Eastern Phoebe 11-5-17Eastern Phoebe 11-5-17


A Brown Creeper actually got in the basin to bathe one day, without holding on to the perch.  That little bird is pretty darn cute! 


Brown Creeper bathing 11-4-17Brown Creeper bathing 11-4-17


When things are really quiet, I begin to check for hawks.  That was the case last Tuesday, 11/7/17 when a Cooper's Hawk was looking for a meal.  The hawk was unsuccessful in its quest.


Cooper's Hawk 11-7-17Cooper's Hawk 11-7-17


On the other hand, when things get really noisy, as with several American Crows fussing up a storm, it's time to look for a Great Horned Owl!  This predator was well concealed in the neighbor's Norway Spruce.  Have you spotted it yet?


American Crows harass Great Horned Owl 11-11-17American Crows harass Great Horned Owl 11-11-17


The owl was quite indignant about being disturbed.  It was giving the "look that could kill".  In fact, American Crows are a favorite meal for these owls.  No wonder the crows make such a stink!


Great Horned Owl 11-11-17Great Horned Owl 11-11-17


On Monday, a Golden-crowned Kinglet stole the show when I spotted it splashing and flashing its flaming crown.  What joie de vivre!  So, November does have its bright and joyful moments in these darker days, and for that I am grateful.  


May you have a safe and Happy Thanksgiving with family and friends!


Golden-crowned Kinglet 11-13-17Golden-crowned Kinglet 11-13-17

Golden-crowned Kinglet 11-13-17Golden-crowned Kinglet 11-13-17

Golden-crowned Kinglet 11-13-17Golden-crowned Kinglet 11-13-17




The Titmouse and "The Tree" 11-6-17

November 06, 2017  •  Leave a Comment

“If you spend too much time in the woods you know, you can become a little squirrelly,” said dear friend #1, kindly, as we discussed the possible need for me to occasionally be in the society of humans.


“This is my dear friend, Margy, who photographs birds and butterflies, and always dresses in nature's colors so that she can blend in,” introduced by dear friend #2, effusively, on one of those rare occasions.


Yes, well, I’m probably more than a little squirrelly by now and yes, I always dress to become a part of the woods, to “make like a tree” so that the birds will ignore me and go on about their business. I have always figured that if the locals accept my presence, our sanctuary space will be that much more comfortable and inviting for the migrants who come through.

Now, with cold winter days upon us, birds like woodpeckers, nuthatches, chickadees and titmice will cache seeds away, just like squirrels do when they bury their treasured acorns. Here are a couple examples, a White-breasted Nuthatch is about to tuck a sunflower seed into the vine, and a Tufted Titmouse has a beak full to stash in a secret place.


White-breasted Nuthatch caches seed 10-16-17White-breasted Nuthatch caches seed 10-16-17



A picture is worth a thousand words, they say. But there are times when there can be no picture,

only the story because the bird got

“up too close and personal”.  


The Titmouse and "The Tree"


On Saturday, I was focusing on a bird at the Bubbler when I felt a fluttering wing brush my right hand.  I slowly pulled back from the camera to see a Tufted Titmouse with a safflower seed in its beak clinging to my camera strap.

(Use your vivid imagination here, photo taken post-experience.)


Camera strap 11-4-17Camera strap 11-4-17


Hmm, it was attempting to conceal the seed in a nook of my tripod.  The little gray bird then looked up at me and oh-oh, it flew off. I chuckled and went back to watching for birds. 

A few minutes later, the Titmouse was back. This time it perched on the cedar post that was maybe five feet in front of me.  


Cedar post 11-4-17Cedar post 11-4-17


The bird had another seed. It looked me right in the eye, flew straight to me and landed on my shoulder. I could feel its smooth little bill against my skin as it gently deposited the seed under my hat, at the back of my neck, into the collar of my sweater.  It then hopped onto the brim of my hat and flew off. 


Eureka, metamorphosis!

The moment had finally come, I had become "The Tree", or at the very least, a completely accepted part of the landscape

by one trusting little bird!



"Those who dwell among the beauties and mysteries of the Earth are never alone or weary of life."  

Rachel Carson



For all the images taken since the last post, begin here:  November Week 1


Halloween Treats 10-31-17

October 31, 2017  •  Leave a Comment

More birds have arrived that will spend their winter days here. White-throated Sparrows have come in, like this 'white form' with white stripes on its crown. The composite photo shows the tan form as well.


White-throated Sparrow 10-16-17White-throated Sparrow 10-16-17

White-throated Sparrows 1-19-16White-throated Sparrows 1-19-16


The Golden-crowned Kinglets are still flitting about, visiting the Bubbler some days.


Golden-crowned Kinglet 10-19-17Golden-crowned Kinglet 10-19-17


The last Summer Tanager of migration was seen on 10/19/17. 


Summer Tanager 10-19-17Summer Tanager 10-19-17


This Brown Creeper is in an unusual position clinging to the moss-covered rock behind the Bubbler.  One can really see its russet tail, when usually its colors blend into the bark of a tree.


Brown Creeper 10-20-17Brown Creeper 10-20-17


The first Hermit Thrush of fall has been seen several days and was at the Bubbler on 10/20/17. This bird also has a rusty tail that it raises, then slowly lowers.


Hermit Thrush 10-20-17Hermit Thrush 10-20-17


An Eastern Towhee was seen near the pond, foraging under a 'Blue Muffin' Viburnum on 10/29/17.  Now that's a bird that blends in with the leaves.


Eastern Towhee 10-29-17Eastern Towhee 10-29-17


A juvenile Yellow-bellied Sapsucker was here with another male. This bird is the 'scruffiest' one I've seen here, without any signs yet of a yellow belly or red feathers on its head. It may stay in this plumage into March. I confirmed its identification with an expert because it did have me scratching my head and wondering if it was a vagrant sapsucker. The next photo is of a young male that I took exactly a year ago. There is always more to learn about birds!


Juvenile Yellow-bellied Sapsucker 10-29-17 confirmedJuvenile Yellow-bellied Sapsucker 10-29-17 confirmed

Yellow-bellied Sapsucker 10-29-16Yellow-bellied Sapsucker 10-29-16


It was very breezy yesterday and the wind was keeping the birds down. I went into the front room to sit by the window for a bit, thinking that we really do have a lot of hiding places here for birds. Anything could be tucked into the garden! Just then, a Winter Wren popped out of the Coral Trumpet Honeysuckle on the arbor, did its bouncy little dance and then dashed back into cover. I smiled to myself, cheered by the antics of the tiny brown speckled bird. I got the camera and it took about 20 minutes to find it again working over, under, around and through the leaves like a little mouse. See what I mean? It is #105 for the year.


Winter Wren 10-30-17Winter Wren 10-30-17


The Yellow-rumped Warblers will be here into April before moving north to their breeding grounds. We may see an Orange-crowned Warbler again, but most of the warblers have gone south for their winter.


Yellow-rumped Warbler 10-30-17Yellow-rumped Warbler 10-30-17


Now for some Trick-or-Treaters!  I have suspected for some time that we had a coyote around because of some still images taken with the Trail Cam. Now, we both feel certain. This video was taken on 10/18/17 at 3:25 am.


Coyote 10-18-17 3:25:38 am


The beautifully marked fox came for a drink a couple times recently. This video was from 10/25/17 at 6:30 am.


Red Fox at the Bubbler 10-25-17 6:30:08 am


The White-tailed deer are becoming much more active with bucks strutting through in the night and even in broad daylight. We have at least 5 different bucks.


White-tailed Buck 10-28-17 1:53 am 2 White-tailed Bucks 10-28-17 1:54 am White-tailed Buck 10-29-17 at 1:12 pm


That's scary enough for me!  Happy Halloween!

PS.  To view all the short video clips, start here in the Wildlife Gallery:  Video clips


Ways to prevent birds from hitting windows 10-24-17

October 24, 2017  •  Leave a Comment

It happens far too often, a bird is fooled into thinking it can fly through a window and instead, the bird collides with it. We saw a solution in Costa Rica that we have adapted to two of our windows. It has helped to reduce the incidence greatly. Dan drilled holes in PVC pipe and threaded simple twine threaded through it, then hung the barrier on the outside of the window. The holes must be spaced 4 to 4 !/2" apart at most for it be effective.


Window protectorWindow protector


Recently, we did have a bird hit a narrow window that was not protected. Fortunately, the bird did recover! Here's the story.


A Blue Jay had made an alarm call and a Black-throated Green Warbler took off, colliding with the window.  I turned to see it and took a quick photo.


Black-throated Green Warbler - window strike 10-9-17Black-throated Green Warbler - window strike 10-9-17


Dan heard the bird hit, too and brought out a container lined with a towel. (We have also used a shoebox as is sometimes recommended.) I held the bird in my cupped hands for a few minutes to keep it warm and then placed it in the container to rest. It was stunned and took about 20 minutes before it hopped up to the edge when it was ready and flew deep into a nearby dogwood, where I lost sight of it. What a relief it is to see a bird recover after this happens.


Black-throated Green Warbler - window strike -rest 20 minutes  10-9-17Black-throated Green Warbler - window strike -rest 20 minutes 10-9-17 Black-throated Green Warbler - window strike - recovered 10-9-17Black-throated Green Warbler - window strike - recovered 10-9-17


We are very fortunate in the St. Louis area to have the organization Wild Bird Rehabilitation to help our native birds. This is their website:


To read more, each page will open in a new tab:


Why Birds Hit Windows

Making Windows Safer for Birds

Better Glass Can Save Millions of Birds


To look at more options for windows:  Bird-smart Glass


Thank you for learning ways to help our native birds!