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! 

Spring is here! 3-20-23

March 20, 2023  •  Leave a Comment


Today at 4:24 pm CDT. Officially.


3-1-23 FOY#42 Eastern Phoebe3-1-23 FOY#42 Eastern Phoebe

An Eastern Phoebe arrived earlier than usual, on February 28, picked up by our Haikubox bird call detector. I saw the pair the next day.They went AWOL for a while but returned on March 15. Time will tell if they choose the same nesting spot again. 


3-2-23 Carolina Chickadee nest box3-2-23 Carolina Chickadee nest box 3-4-23 Carolina Chickadee3-4-23 Carolina Chickadee

We put up the chickadee nest box on Thursday, March 2 in the afternoon. The next day we had 2.8" of rain which put a damper on activity. But on Saturday morning, March 4, a Carolina Chickadee got pretty excited and began preparations!


Big hugs and thank you's to D.A.W. and L.A.W., two of my favorite comic (and comical) consultants,

for helping with descriptive bird language for the Chickadee video! 


3-7-23 First winter Chipping Sparrow3-7-23 First winter Chipping Sparrow 3-7-23 First winter Chipping Sparrow3-7-23 First winter Chipping Sparrow

The first winter Chipping Sparrow has been seen regularly through Monday, March 13. Here it was taking a bit of a nap on a breezy day.


3-9-23 N. Mockingbird3-9-23 N. Mockingbird

3-9-23 N. Mockingbird3-9-23 N. Mockingbird

3-10-23 N. Mockingbird3-10-23 N. Mockingbird

For many of you, a Northern Mockingbird may be a regular in your yard. Here, I'm lucky to have one each year. This bird arrived as FOY #44 on March 8 and has been seen 11 days in a row, a record!



3-18-23 Fox Sparrow Bubbler Bird 1263-18-23 Fox Sparrow Bubbler Bird 126

3-18-23 Fox Sparrow3-18-23 Fox Sparrow 3-18-23 Fox Sparrow3-18-23 Fox Sparrow 3-18-23 Fox Sparrow -33-18-23 Fox Sparrow -3 3-18-23 Fox Sparrow -33-18-23 Fox Sparrow -3

Another infrequent winter visitor/migrant is the Fox Sparrow, FOY #46. This year, one to three birds have been around and it was new bubbler bird #126 on St. Patrick's Day. They are often in the leaves, looking for small insects and under the feeders for seed.


3-18-23 Fox Sparrow3-18-23 Fox Sparrow

Another beautiful sparrow that is quite at home foraging in the leaves is the Swamp Sparrow. This one certainly has great camouflage.


3-12-23 Red-breasted Nuthatch3-12-23 Red-breasted Nuthatch 3-12-23 Red-breasted Nuthatch3-12-23 Red-breasted Nuthatch 3-12-23 Red-breasted Nuthatch3-12-23 Red-breasted Nuthatch 3-12-23 Red-breasted Nuthatch3-12-23 Red-breasted Nuthatch

A Red-breasted Nuthatch is still here, caching food and on this day, it checked out the new bubbler perches, bathed and preened.


3-11-23 Eastern Bluebird3-11-23 Eastern Bluebird 3-11-23 Eastern Bluebird3-11-23 Eastern Bluebird 3-17-23 Eastern Bluebird at Chickadee box3-17-23 Eastern Bluebird at Chickadee box 3-17-23 Eastern Bluebird female3-17-23 Eastern Bluebird female

Eastern Bluebirds are seen daily, still visiting the birdbath and window box for a quick tidbit or most often flying down to catch insects in the leaves. They are still checking out every box option, even one with an entrance hole that is not quite their size!


3-17-23 Red-shouldered Hawk3-17-23 Red-shouldered Hawk

"Pale Male", our resident Red-shouldered Hawk, was in the woodland a couple days ago, hunting hopefully.


3-20-23 Carolina Chickadee with moss for nest3-20-23 Carolina Chickadee with moss for nest

Just moments ago, one of the Carolina Chickadees carried moss into the nest box. We are hopeful for a successful breeding season!


3-6-23 Carolina Wren3-6-23 Carolina Wren

It has been a busy few weeks of watching webinars on different topics and preparing new programs, so I'm a bit behind schedule. But every day, it's important for each of us to spend some time in Nature, time to look, listen and breathe it in. I saw something in the photo of this Carolina Wren that I'd never noticed before. Can you spot it?


The details of Life are exquisite! Happy Spring!






Signs of an Early Spring? 2-27-23

February 27, 2023  •  Leave a Comment

Will Spring be Early?

We "Spring Forward" on March 12, 2023 at 2:00 a.m.

The first day of Spring, or the Spring Equinox is Monday, March 20, 2023 at 4:24 p.m. CDT


Signs of spring seem to be all around us. Barred Owls are calling before dawn. Northern Flickers and Mourning Doves have been seen mating. The male White-breasted Nuthatch fed its mate a peanut as a promise to help raise their brood. The dawn chorus has really picked up and birds like this Blue Jay are putting a lot of effort into sprucing up for a mate.


2-15-23 Blue Jay2-15-23 Blue Jay 2-15-23 Blue Jay2-15-23 Blue Jay 2-15-23 Blue Jay2-15-23 Blue Jay 2-15-23 Blue Jay2-15-23 Blue Jay

Now that is a vigorous bather if ever there was one!


Our tree thinning and pruning was completed by Valentine's Day, so it was time to put up the nest box for the Eastern Bluebirds. On Friday, February 17, we had just finished, and as I got to the front door, I turned back to look. Good grief! The female was at the opening and the male was on the roof! I scooted inside to where the camera was ready.


2-17-23 Eastern Bluebird2-17-23 Eastern Bluebird 2-17-23 Eastern Bluebird2-17-23 Eastern Bluebird 2-17-23 Eastern Bluebird female2-17-23 Eastern Bluebird female 2-17-23 Eastern Bluebird pair2-17-23 Eastern Bluebird pair 2-17-23 Eastern Bluebird pair and female2-17-23 Eastern Bluebird pair and female 2-17-23 Eastern Bluebird pair and two females2-17-23 Eastern Bluebird pair and two females 2-17-23 Eastern Bluebird pair and female2-17-23 Eastern Bluebird pair and female

There was certainly a lot of interest in the nest box! The dominant pair seemed most likely to win.


2-18-23 Beginning of nest2-18-23 Beginning of nest

The next morning, Saturday, February 18, I checked and there was the beginning of a nest already. The pair had certainly laid claim to this box. 



2-18-23 Eurasian Tree "Squatters"2-18-23 Eurasian Tree "Squatters"

Eurasian Tree Sparrows (squatters!) came by but didn't stay long. The Eastern Bluebirds were successful nesting here last year, and have been protecting the box. However, we decided it might be time for a second nest box, two per acre is acceptable.


2-19-23 Red-breasted Nuthatch female2-19-23 Red-breasted Nuthatch female

For the first time this year, a female Red-breasted Nuthatch came in to the peanut feeder. This bird is very pale compared to the males, with gray feathers on its head. The next photo is a composite to show both sexes. 


2-19-23 Composite with male and female Red-breasted Nuthatches2-19-23 Composite with male and female Red-breasted Nuthatches

2-23-23 Red-breasted Nuthatch2-23-23 Red-breasted Nuthatch

The male's head feathers are black and the breast is much rustier.


2-19-23 Song Sparrow Bubbler bird #272-19-23 Song Sparrow Bubbler bird #27 2-24-23 Cooper's hawk immature2-24-23 Cooper's hawk immature

This Song Sparrow was Bubbler Bird #27 for the year. The immature Cooper's Hawk joined us at lunchtime one day as (first of year) FOY #40. Happened to catch it eliminating and ready for another meal!


2-24-23 Brown Creeper2-24-23 Brown Creeper 2-24-23 Three Rusty Blackbirds in swampy thicket2-24-23 Three Rusty Blackbirds in swampy thicket

The Brown Creeper shows up early and again at mid-day. The Rusty Blackbirds come in small flocks of 4-12 birds, turning over leaves in the swampy wetland area. This habitat in our yard is the biggest draw for these birds, and where they forage for invertebrates. Their camouflage is perfect, wouldn't you agree?


2-22-23 First Winter Chipping Sparrow2-22-23 First Winter Chipping Sparrow

The rare first winter Chipping Sparrow is still being seen nearly every day. Its fellow migratory companions won't arrive until the first week of April. For the last ten years, more of this species has overwintered in Missouri, toughing it out here rather than moving to Southern states.


2-26-23 Eastern Bluebird female inspects box #22-26-23 Eastern Bluebird female inspects box #2

Dan put together another nesting box for the Eastern Bluebirds and it went up Sunday afternoon, February 26. Another pair of birds were investigating it within minutes of us getting back inside. Was this the young female that had fussed about the other pair getting the first one?


2-21-23 Eastern Bluebird female2-21-23 Eastern Bluebird female

While the bluebirds wait for the stars to align and nesting season to fully begin, the woodland flowers are waking up.


2-25-23 Celandine Poppy (Stylophorum diphyllum)2-25-23 Celandine Poppy (Stylophorum diphyllum) 2-25-23 Roundleaf Ragwort (Senecio obovatus)2-25-23 Roundleaf Ragwort (Senecio obovatus)

Celandine poppies, round-leaved ragwort and Virginia bluebells are coming up through the leaves, which protect their crowns on frosty nights.

Soon, it will be be Spring in earnest!




Mid-February 2-14-23

February 14, 2023  •  Leave a Comment

Do check out the link at the end of the post on the upcoming

Partners for Native Landscaping webinar series!


February is a month of contrasts, in temperature and in color.


1-29-23 Northern Cardinal1-29-23 Northern Cardinal

Northern Cardinals are getting brighter and singing more each day. It's time to get ready for Spring!


1-30-23 Song Sparrow1-30-23 Song Sparrow

A winter storm brought us a mix of ice and snow. The Song Sparrow comes in on days like that, otherwise it's singing now in yards to the west.


1-30-23 Rusty Blackbird1-30-23 Rusty Blackbird 1-30-23 FOY #36 Brown-headed Cowbird female1-30-23 FOY #36 Brown-headed Cowbird female 1-30-23 Red-winged Blackbird foraging1-30-23 Red-winged Blackbird foraging

Three different blackbirds foraged in the leaves and under the feeders. The second photo shows a new bird for the year. Can you name all three? 


And the answer:  Rusty Blackbird, Brown headed Cowbird (female) and Red-winged Blackbird.


2-1-23 American Goldfinch2-1-23 American Goldfinch

The icy-dicey weather makes the birds a bit testy. The American Goldfinches would come in and literally hang on the icicles to access the feeder. Newcomers were not always welcome!


2-1-23 Red-bellied Woodpecker female2-1-23 Red-bellied Woodpecker female

Cold dry air makes the birds thirsty. The female Red-bellied Woodpecker came for a good, long drink at the bubbler. 


2-3-23 American Crows2-3-23 American Crows 2-3-23 American Crow2-3-23 American Crow

American Crows visited the bubbler for the first time this year on Friday, 2-3-23. They are a bit wary and don't come down often. 


2-7-23 Brown Creeper2-7-23 Brown Creeper

A Brown Creeper has been here all winter. It always makes my day to see it.


2-8-23 Hairy Woodpecker2-8-23 Hairy Woodpecker

The Hairy Woodpecker thoroughly enjoyed a bath on Wednesday 2-8-23, as it was gently raining in the afternoon.


2-8-23 Northern Flicker #22-8-23 Northern Flicker #2

Northern Flickers do go after suet cakes, it's a fat that helps them make it through cold nights. 


1-31-23 First Winter Chipping Sparrow - rare  Day 81-31-23 First Winter Chipping Sparrow - rare Day 8

2-7-23 First Winter Chipping Sparrow - rare2-7-23 First Winter Chipping Sparrow - rare 2-7-23 First Winter Chipping Sparrow - rare2-7-23 First Winter Chipping Sparrow - rare 2-7-23 First Winter Chipping Sparrow - rare2-7-23 First Winter Chipping Sparrow - rare

Our little rarity, the Chipping Sparrow was seen 8 days straight in January, then not again until 2-6-23. It's still around, sometimes under the feeders but it has been harder to find in the leaves where it has been foraging for insects.


2-8-23 European Starling2-8-23 European Starling

Definitely not a native bird, the European Starling is smart and tenacious, as well as colorful. It is an opportunist, taking over feeders every chance it gets.


2-1-23 Eastern Bluebird2-1-23 Eastern Bluebird 2-4-23 Eastern Bluebird female2-4-23 Eastern Bluebird female

Our state bird, the Eastern Bluebird has become a mainstay here in our yard again this winter. The nest box will go up very soon, and we just may need a second one! 


2-9-23 Eastern Bluebirds

On Thursday, 2-9-23 it was windy, with southwest winds gusting up to 40 mph or more. Those conditions make all the birds jumpy and skittish. The bluebirds do come in as a flock and I caught them at this hanging feeder. I still don't know how many there were for sure! Some may be new arrivals, having come in on the winds as short distance migrants. As you can see, not all were able to figure out how to get to the mealworms!



Check out the upcoming Webinar Series March 7 - April 5, 2023

Registration Required

Partners for Native Landscaping

Hope to 'see you' there!






Sightings and a Snow Day!! 1-28-23

January 28, 2023  •  Leave a Comment

Rarities, a Snowstorm and Lots of Birds!


Varied Thrush documentation drawing 1/23/03 for 10th Missouri RecordVaried Thrush documentation drawing 1/23/03 for 10th Missouri Record


Twenty years ago this week, a Varied Thrush came to the Bubbler on a frigid morning after a 2.5" snowfall. To document this very rare bird, I had to draw it for the Records Committee. It was just the tenth time this species had been documented in Missouri. After the experience, I asked Dan to help me figure out a setup to use so I could photograph birds. Little did I know how that bird would change my life.


10-21-22 First fall Chipping Sparrow10-21-22 First fall Chipping Sparrow

Fast forward to 10-20-21, when a first fall Chipping Sparrow showed up. It was the first time I'd seen a bird of this age and I needed a little help from my friends to be sure of the identification. Typically, these birds move far south for the winter but some do pop up in Missouri after migration.


1-16-23 FOY First Winter Chipping Sparrow - rare1-16-23 FOY First Winter Chipping Sparrow - rare

About three months later, on 1-16-23 again, a first winter Chipping Sparrow was foraging under the feeders. Was it the same bird? It was here for one day.


1-19-23 Hairy Woodpecker1-19-23 Hairy Woodpecker 1-22-23 Hairy Woodpecker female on Black Oak stump1-22-23 Hairy Woodpecker female on Black Oak stump

Woodpeckers have been busy finding food in the woods. The Hairy Woodpecker visited the Bubbler and his mate foraged for beetle larvae on the black oak stump.


1-22-23 Downy Woodpecker1-22-23 Downy Woodpecker

The Downy Woodpecker poked around on sticks in the leaves for small insects.

1-19-23 One-footed American Robin1-19-23 One-footed American Robin

We've had days with American Robins around and this one was missing its right foot. 

  1-20-23 Red-breasted Nuthatch1-20-23 Red-breasted Nuthatch

Red-breasted Nuthatches continue to eat peanuts or bits of sunflower hearts and cache some away for that day when feeders are too busy!


1-22-23 American Goldfinch1-22-23 American Goldfinch 1-18-23 12 American Goldfinches1-18-23 12 American Goldfinches

Some male American Goldfinches are just beginning to get a bit brighter. Both mesh feeders have been busy.



Sunrise was gorgeous on Tuesday, 1-24-23. The forecast was for a Winter Storm with 3-9" of snow possible, beginning late that evening.


1-24-23 First Winter Chipping Sparrow - rare1-24-23 First Winter Chipping Sparrow - rare

Guess what I saw foraging under the feeders again? That first winter Chipping Sparrow had returned after eight days elsewhere.


The snow was heavy, a wet 3" that packed on top of the little tent we had put over the Grab-n-Go table. The snow-laden branches of the rough-leaf dogwood hung gracefully over the deck railing.

  1-25-23 Blue Jay1-25-23 Blue Jay 1-25-23 Blue Jay1-25-23 Blue Jay

Birds were a bit hesitant to enter the tent, but hunger overcame their fear of the contraption.

  1-25-23 Rusty Blackbird1-25-23 Rusty Blackbird

Rusty Blackbirds came to turn over leaves and drink at the basin.

  1-25-23 Eastern Bluebird female1-25-23 Eastern Bluebird female

Eastern Bluebirds knew the mealworms and peanut butter bits would be ready for them, and they rested in the dogwood during breaks in the snow.

  1-25-23 FOY Song Sparrow1-25-23 FOY Song Sparrow 1-25-23 First Winter Chipping Sparrow - rare Day 21-25-23 First Winter Chipping Sparrow - rare Day 2

The first Song Sparrow of the year joined the Chipping Sparrow under the feeders. Now, for about five minutes of fun...


Snow Day 1-25-23

Were you able to identify the four species in the last segment? How about Rusty Blackbirds, Mourning Dove, Red-winged Blackbirds and Common Grackles. 


1-26-23 36 Red-winged Blackbirds and others1-26-23 36 Red-winged Blackbirds and others

The following day, 1-26-23 a very large flock of mixed blackbirds came in. It was predominantly Red-winged with 40 of them in the photo above, Rusty Blackbirds and Common Grackles.


1-26-23 Ten Red-winged Blackbirds One Rusty Blackbird1-26-23 Ten Red-winged Blackbirds One Rusty Blackbird

More Red-winged Blackbirds and one Rusty which is walking out of the upper left area.


1-27-23 First Winter Chipping Sparrow - rare -4th day1-27-23 First Winter Chipping Sparrow - rare -4th day

Our little friend returned yesterday for the fourth consecutive day. I had just photographed it when the next beauty came in.


1-27-23 FOY #35 Purple Finch1-27-23 FOY #35 Purple Finch

Purple Finch!


What will the next storm bring in?


To look up the Varied Thrush or any bird:  All About Birds




1-15-23 Winter Birds

January 15, 2023  •  Leave a Comment

Winter Birds!


We're off to a good start this new year with 30 species recorded. Like many of you, we're on a daily feeder watch. Birds need consistent food sources to make it through cold nights. Our feeding stations attract many species and the Grab-n-Go Bar has had a real mix of birds coming to it. 


1-2-23 Northern Cardinal leucistic1-2-23 Northern Cardinal leucistic

One of the male Northern Cardinals is partially leucistic with pink feathering on its wings. Cardinals easily adapt to eating safflower along with black oil sunflower seed.


1-5-23 Red-winged Blackbird1-5-23 Red-winged Blackbird

Red-winged Blackbirds have been coming in and perching on the feeders as well.


1-13-23 Five Rusty Blackbirds1-13-23 Five Rusty Blackbirds 1-5-23 Rusty Blackbird1-5-23 Rusty Blackbird

Rusty Blackbirds are seen under the feeders, foraging in the leaves for bits of seed and insects.

1-2-23 Northern Flicker1-2-23 Northern Flicker

1-12-23 Hairy Woodpecker1-12-23 Hairy Woodpecker

Northern Flickers and Hairy Woodpeckers are often seen at this bark butter feeder and the suet feeder at the south feeding station. The ground peanut and lard in both of these provides fat in their diets.


1-12-23 American Goldfinches1-12-23 American Goldfinches

American Goldfinches go for fine sunflower hearts and thistle or niger seed when they are not eating seeds from the garden.


1-13-23 Mourning Doves1-13-23 Mourning Doves

One day, half the Mourning Doves decided to eat the leftovers at the Grab-n-Go bar!


1-4-23 American Robin1-4-23 American Robin

Again, this year we have a male American Robin which chows down on the bark butter bits and mealworms. It will often chase the Eastern Bluebirds from the table.


1-14-23 Blue Jays1-14-23 Blue Jays

This pair of Blue Jays seemed to be in sync in their approach to choosing mealworms.


1-14-23 Northern Flicker female1-14-23 Northern Flicker female

The female Northern Flicker is not shy about coming in and checking out the spread.


  1-14-23 White-throated Sparrow1-14-23 White-throated Sparrow

White-throated Sparrows and Dark-eyed Juncos are ground feeders but they've become very comfortable feeding on the table.


1-14-23 Red-bellied Woodpecker female1-14-23 Red-bellied Woodpecker female

The female Red-bellied Woodpecker also has no qualms about grabbing a quick tidbit.


1-14-23 Carolina Wren1-14-23 Carolina Wren

Carolina Wrens are often at the table before the sun comes up, and frequently come back through the day.


1-14-23 Northern Cardinal1-14-23 Northern Cardinal

Northern Cardinals take advantage of protein sources since they eat plenty of seeds.


1-14-23 Eastern Bluebird1-14-23 Eastern Bluebird

Eastern Bluebirds made it through last winter by coming in to get food here. They know a consistent food source is a good thing!


1-14-23 Carolina Chickadee leucistic1-14-23 Carolina Chickadee leucistic

A few days ago, I noticed this Carolina Chickadee with white feathering on its head, another leucistic bird. It is lacking melanin.

  1-14-23 Carolina Chickadee1-14-23 Carolina Chickadee

And, this Carolina Chickadee has a deformed mandible, the upper is too long and curved. It is managing to get food but has a hard time cracking seeds open.


1-14-23 Carolina Chickadee1-14-23 Carolina Chickadee

This bird looks like a normal Carolina Chickadee to me, with the nice clean edge to the black bib, slight grayish feathering on the nape and normal bill shape. 


1-9-23 Chickadee species1-9-23 Chickadee species

However, this particular bird looks different. The edge of the bib is very ragged looking. Our birdsong detector, the Haikubox has been picking up a Black-capped Chickadee, which will move south in the winter. There's a lot more to this story but that's a tale for another post.

1-14-23 Carolina Chickadee1-14-23 Carolina Chickadee

Birdwatching in Missouri is always interesting!


For the birds...



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