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! 

6-6-23 Finally, out of the woods!

June 06, 2023  •  Leave a Comment

"Life is what happens when you've made other plans."

So many birds, my friends, and I'm still catching up. Finally, I can share the highlights from the first full week of May!


5-3-23 Orange-crowned Warbler5-3-23 Orange-crowned Warbler 5-4-23 Orange-crowned Warbler5-4-23 Orange-crowned Warbler

Both of the first two birds are Orange-crowned Warblers. A first spring female is duller blue-gray and the adult has more yellow plumage

  5-3-23 Yellow Warbler5-3-23 Yellow Warbler 5-6-23 Yellow Warbler female5-6-23 Yellow Warbler female

Yellow Warblers are next, male and female. 


5-4-23 Northern Parula grabbing insect off Virginia Bluebells5-4-23 Northern Parula grabbing insect off Virginia Bluebells 5-4-23 Northern Parula5-4-23 Northern Parula

A female Northern Parula found a tidbit on the waning bluebells.


5-4-23 Pine Warbler- First Spring female5-4-23 Pine Warbler- First Spring female 5-4-23 Pine Warbler- First Spring female5-4-23 Pine Warbler- First Spring female 4-30-22 Pine Warbler4-30-22 Pine Warbler

These photos are of Pine Warblers. The first two photos are of a female, still in late winter/first spring plumage. I had never seen this plumage before and the bird didn't sit still long! The last image is a male, taken last year.


5-4-23 Palm Warbler5-4-23 Palm Warbler 5-4-23 Northern Parula, Yellow-rumped and Palm Warblers5-4-23 Northern Parula, Yellow-rumped and Palm Warblers

The Palm Warbler in the first image was soon joined by the Northern Parula and a Yellow-rumped Warbler.

An interesting thing about this spring is that males have been heard, some seen but they have been in a hurry to get to the breeding grounds since they got a late start. As a result, I haven't photographed as many of the males as usual.

  5-6-23 Golden-winged Warbler female5-6-23 Golden-winged Warbler female 5-7-23 Blackpoll Warbler5-7-23 Blackpoll Warbler 5-7-23 Black-throated Green Warbler5-7-23 Black-throated Green Warbler

Next is a female Golden-winged Warbler followed by a Blackpoll in the swampy puddle, and a Black-throated Green Warbler near the bubbler.


5-7-23 Blue-winged Warbler female5-7-23 Blue-winged Warbler female 5-7-23 Wilson's Warbler5-7-23 Wilson's Warbler

5-7-23 Black-and-white Warbler female5-7-23 Black-and-white Warbler female

A female Blue-winged Warbler visited the bubbler often. A Wilson's Warbler and a female Black-and-white Warbler were also seen several days.


5-7-23 Common Yellowthroat5-7-23 Common Yellowthroat

A Common Yellowthroat spent quite a bit of time in hiding, but it got more comfortable the longer it stayed around. More images next time.


5-7-23 American Redstart5-7-23 American Redstart 5-7-23 American Redstart, Blue-winged and Tennessee Warblers5-7-23 American Redstart, Blue-winged and Tennessee Warblers

An American Redstart is often challenging to photograph because it's so dark. It was joined in a splash fest at the bubbler with the female Blue-winged and three Tennessee Warblers.


5-3-23 FOY Scarlet Tanager5-3-23 FOY Scarlet Tanager 5-6-23 Scarlet Tanager female5-6-23 Scarlet Tanager female

Scarlet Tanagers are so striking! The male is bright red, the female more yellow-green with darkish wings.

  5-6-23 Summer Tanager Red morph female5-6-23 Summer Tanager Red morph female

5-10-21 Summer Tanager female5-10-21 Summer Tanager female 5-7-23 Summer Tanager 1st spring male5-7-23 Summer Tanager 1st spring male

4-30-21 FOY 89 Summer Tanager4-30-21 FOY 89 Summer Tanager

Another plumage I had not seen before was this red morph female Summer Tanager in the first image, brownish with patches of red feathering. Typical females are orangey-yellow, like the female from 4-30-21. The young males remind me of Neapolitan sherbet! The plumage transitions to the deep orangey-red of the adult male in the last of this series.


5-4-23 Baltimore Oriole5-4-23 Baltimore Oriole 5-4-23 Baltimore Oriole female5-4-23 Baltimore Oriole female 5-7-23 Orchard Oriole female5-7-23 Orchard Oriole female

 Orioles! Baltimore male and female are in the first two images, then a female Orchard Oriole is in the third photo.


5-4-23 Wood Thrush5-4-23 Wood Thrush

This is the only image I managed to get of a Wood Thrush. I heard the lovely singer several days. More thrushes will be shown next time.

  5-3-23 E. Chipmunk5-3-23 E. Chipmunk

We all need a little cool relief on days like today!

Stay well in this heat, we wait for a significant front to move out the unhealthy air mass!

To see all the photos, begin here: 

Birds of May





Meet some of the migrants! 4-30-23

April 30, 2023  •  Leave a Comment

This is a screenshot from BirdCast showing the current migration status for St. Louis County, Missouri as of 4-30-23. 

It seems that birds have come in fits and starts, and we're seeing migrants, but not as many species as we've

typically recorded by now. Southerly winds later this week will be a welcome change and help bring in the birds.


4-15-23 Ruby-crowned Kinglet with insect4-15-23 Ruby-crowned Kinglet with insect 4-18-23 Ruby-crowned Kinglet4-18-23 Ruby-crowned Kinglet 4-18-23 Ruby-crowned Kinglet4-18-23 Ruby-crowned Kinglet

Ruby-crowned Kinglets have been regular visitors, note the insect leg poking out of the bird's mouth in the first photo! They love to get in the bubbler.


4-19-23 Eastern Towhee female4-19-23 Eastern Towhee female 4-27-23 E. Towhee female4-27-23 E. Towhee female

For the first time, we've seen a female Eastern Towhee get in and bathe, and it's been back on half a dozen days now.


4-15-23 Swamp Sparrow with larvae4-15-23 Swamp Sparrow with larvae 4-21-23 Chipping Sparrow4-21-23 Chipping Sparrow 4-24-23 White-throated Sparrow4-24-23 White-throated Sparrow

Sparrows include Swamp, Chipping and White-throated. It seems like everywhere I look I see the White-throated! They are the most numerous right now, singing their plaintive songs all day long.


4-21-23 Swainson's Thrush4-21-23 Swainson's Thrush

A Hermit Thrush is occasionally seen, but Swainson's Thrush now predominate. 

4-27-23 Purple Finch female4-27-23 Purple Finch female 4-24-23 Indigo Bunting4-24-23 Indigo Bunting 4-24-23 Rose-breasted Grosbeak foraging4-24-23 Rose-breasted Grosbeak foraging

Migrating finches are well-represented. Female Purple Finches, Indigo Buntings and Rose-breasted Grosbeaks have been here for days.


4-23-23 Red-breasted Nuthatch4-23-23 Red-breasted Nuthatch 4-26-23 Red-breasted Nuthatch4-26-23 Red-breasted Nuthatch

Red-breasted Nuthatches can be seen again through mid-May since it was a good irruption year for this species.


4-22-23 Ruby-throated Hummingbird4-22-23 Ruby-throated Hummingbird

They're back! Ruby-throated Hummingbirds have been seen at the feeders and checking out the coral trumpet honeysuckle. 

4-27-23 Warbling Vireo4-27-23 Warbling Vireo 4-27-23 Warbling Vireo splash-bathing in bubble4-27-23 Warbling Vireo splash-bathing in bubble

Vireos love to splash-bathe, but this is the first time we've seen a Warbling Vireo enjoy this behavior. This bird hit the pond, the bubble and even dive-bombed a Cardinal that was in the basin! 


NOW...for the warblers.


4-23-23 Yellow-rumped Warbler4-23-23 Yellow-rumped Warbler 4-29-23 Yellow-rumped Warbler pair4-29-23 Yellow-rumped Warbler pair

Yellow-rumped have been most numerous, male and female are in the second photo.


4-21-23 Northern Waterthrush4-21-23 Northern Waterthrush 4-21-23 Northern Waterthrush with larvae4-21-23 Northern Waterthrush with larvae 4-21-23 Northern Waterthrush4-21-23 Northern Waterthrush

A Northern Waterthrush found tiny larvae in the algae, as the Swamp Sparrow had done.


4-21-23 Tennessee Warbler4-21-23 Tennessee Warbler 4-23-23 Nashville Warbler4-23-23 Nashville Warbler 4-24-23 Nashville Warbler4-24-23 Nashville Warbler

Tennessee and Nashville Warblers typically show up about the same time. 


4-28-23 Orange-crowned Warbler4-28-23 Orange-crowned Warbler 4-28-23 Orange-crowned Warbler4-28-23 Orange-crowned Warbler   4-27-23 Orange-crowned Warbler4-27-23 Orange-crowned Warbler

Orange-crowned Warblers have been at the sump puddle and at the bubbler. It makes my day to see one show its crown!


4-28-23 Palm Warbler4-28-23 Palm Warbler 4-27-23 Palm Warbler4-27-23 Palm Warbler 4-27-23 Palm Warbler4-27-23 Palm Warbler 4-29-23 Palm Warbler4-29-23 Palm Warbler 4-29-23 Palm Warbler4-29-23 Palm Warbler

Palm Warblers are attracted to our cypress tree and to the swampy thicket. There have been a couple of them around. 


4-27-23 FOY Kentucky Warbler4-27-23 FOY Kentucky Warbler

My breath caught when I saw this yellow-throated bird climb onto the bubbler rock from the cover of the Virginia creeper and celandine poppies. It slipped back into cover and hopped out onto the little path between the violets! 

4-27-23 FOY Kentucky Warbler4-27-23 FOY Kentucky Warbler



That, my friends, is the promise of Spring migration!

We just never know what might have dropped in the night before

and will surprise us in the morning. 


To view all the images since the last post, begin here:

April Migrants



Mid-April, warm and windy. 4-14-23

April 14, 2023  •  Leave a Comment

April in Bloom!

So many beautiful natives are blooming now, here are a few.


4-5-23 Virginia Bluebells (Mertensia Virginia)4-5-23 Virginia Bluebells (Mertensia Virginia)

Virginia Bluebells (Mertensia virginica) have been feeding bumble bees and offer nectar to butterflies, moths and hummingbirds. Some blooms are decidedly pink, a natural variation in color determined by a higher pH in the soil.


4-11-23 Red Buckeye (Aesculus pavia)4-11-23 Red Buckeye (Aesculus pavia)

Red Buckeye blossoms (Aesculus pavia) are opening and beckon Ruby-throated Hummingbirds, due to arrive any day!


4-8-23 Redbud (Cercis canadensis)4-8-23 Redbud (Cercis canadensis)

Eastern Redbuds are at their peak, attracting tiny pollinators.


4-9-23 Poison Ivy (Toxicodendron radicans)4-9-23 Poison Ivy (Toxicodendron radicans)

This plant takes many forms, and though not blooming, it pays to be aware of it and give it a wide berth. Do you know it? Poison Ivy! (Toxicodendron radicans) "Leaves of three, let it be!" (Not good for us, however, it does attract insects and provides berries, both food for birds.)


4-2-23 Mining Bee (Andrena sp.)4-2-23 Mining Bee (Andrena sp.) 4-2-23 Mining Bee (Andrena sp.) on Violet (Viola sororia)4-2-23 Mining Bee (Andrena sp.) on Violet (Viola sororia)

Tiny native mining bees (Andrena spp.) are ground nesters and pollinators of Blue Violets. I finally took time to watch them go head first down into the flower to gather pollen, then back out quickly and fly to another. 


4-10-23 Black Swallowtail resting on Mayapple4-10-23 Black Swallowtail resting on Mayapple

One breezy day, I followed a small Black Swallowtail to where it landed and sheltered out of the wind, on a Mayapple (Podophyllum peltatum).


4-1-23 Sharp-shinned Hawk4-1-23 Sharp-shinned Hawk

An immature accipiter came into the woodland on 4/1/23 and stayed on this branch for just over an hour, likely digesting a meal. It gave me time to study it and identify it as a Sharp-shinned Hawk.


4-1-23 Sharp-shinned Hawk4-1-23 Sharp-shinned Hawk 4-1-23 Sharp-shinned Hawk4-1-23 Sharp-shinned Hawk 4-1-23 Cooper's Hawk and Sharp-shinned Hawk4-1-23 Cooper's Hawk and Sharp-shinned Hawk

It is in the same family as the Cooper's Hawk, and this composite photo shows how similar and confusing they can be. The Sharp-shinned are migrating through in April, whereas the Cooper's are year-round residents. A pair has begun a nest in a white pine in an adjacent yard. Birds will need to be on alert now.


4-4-23 Eastern Bluebird4-4-23 Eastern Bluebird 4-5-23 Eastern Bluebird female and House Finch4-5-23 Eastern Bluebird female and House Finch 4-10-23 Eastern Bluebird eggs4-10-23 Eastern Bluebird eggs

Eastern Bluebirds have been busy and now have five eggs in their nest. The female takes very quick breaks to come and get a drink while the male watches the nest box. 


4-10-23 Carolina Chickadee at nest box4-10-23 Carolina Chickadee at nest box

Carolina Chickadees also keep close to their nest box. Soon, they'll be bringing inchworms and tiny moths to feed their young. 


4-9-23 Eastern Bluebird checking out box #24-9-23 Eastern Bluebird checking out box #2

4-10-23 Downy Woodpecker checking out box #24-10-23 Downy Woodpecker checking out box #2

We moved box #2 to a different location. There has been interest by another pair of bluebirds and this Downy Woodpecker.


4-10-23 Downy Woodpeckers sparring4-10-23 Downy Woodpeckers sparring

This female Downy Woodpecker was not pleased with that male. "Mine!"  We have at least two pair of this species around, there's always competition for food and nesting sites.


4-10-23 Mourning Doves4-10-23 Mourning Doves
Mourning Doves display affection for each other throughout their courtship period, and they mate for life. They seem very comfortable here.

4-7-23 FOY Ruby-crowned Kinglet4-7-23 FOY Ruby-crowned Kinglet

The first Ruby-crowned Kinglet of the year popped in at the bubbler on 4/7/23. It was a quick look around.


4-13-23 FOY 58 Yellow-rumped Warbler4-13-23 FOY 58 Yellow-rumped Warbler

Just the other day on 4/13/23, our FOY #58 Yellow-rumped Warbler finally showed up at the sump puddle in the swampy thicket. It was not seen again. I've also heard Blue-gray Gnatcatchers and Northern Parula singing, but no photo opportunities as yet. Birds are in a big hurry right now! Here's a look at peak migration dates. Global Big Day is Saturday, May 13, 2023. Birds will be moving through for the next six weeks. 


April 2023 Cornell Lab Migration MapApril 2023 Cornell Lab Migration Map

Migration Map courtesy Cornell Lab



Our sanctuary is feeding residents and ready to welcome the migrating birds! Is yours?


Thanks to everyone who watched my program in the Partners for Native Landscaping Series.

There are a few in-person events yet on the schedule. 

Find a way to get more native plants into your landscapes, help regenerate diversity and get on the map!


I'm On the Map Social SharingI'm On the Map Social Sharing







March, out like a lion? 3-31-23

March 31, 2023  •  Leave a Comment

Tornadoes possible tonight - stay safe everyone!



Last time, you were all left hanging with a puzzle. How did you do?


3-6-23 Carolina Wren feather detail3-6-23 Carolina Wren feather detail


So, the little details I had noticed were the hearts in the undertail feathers! In the lower left is a new shoot of the Virginia creeper (Parthenocissus quinquefolia), which is also what the wren is perched on. does favor a snake in a way.


Night Visitors 3-31-23


The video above shows a few of the critters recorded by our cams during the night. 


3-26-23 Clove Currant (Ribes odoratum)3-26-23 Clove Currant (Ribes odoratum)


The lovely scent of the Clove Currant (Ribes odoratum) fills the air now. 


3-28-23 Virginia Bluebells (Mertensia virginica)3-28-23 Virginia Bluebells (Mertensia virginica)


Virginia Bluebells (Mertensia virginica) are in bud in several places in the garden and woodland.


3-30-23 Bloodroot3-30-23 Bloodroot


Bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis) is also in bloom and with winds like today, they won't last long.


3-22-23 Swamp Sparrow3-22-23 Swamp Sparrow 3-22-23 Fox Sparrow3-22-23 Fox Sparrow 3-22-23 Song Sparrow3-22-23 Song Sparrow


A Swamp Sparrow bathes, a Fox Sparrow scratches for seed and a Song Sparrow perches on Spicebush (Lindera benzoin).


3-23-23 Eastern Phoebe3-23-23 Eastern Phoebe 3-23-23 Eastern Phoebe3-23-23 Eastern Phoebe 3-23-23 Eastern Phoebe3-23-23 Eastern Phoebe 3-26-23 Eastern Phoebe3-26-23 Eastern Phoebe 3-30-23 Eastern Phoebe nest3-30-23 Eastern Phoebe nest


Eastern Phoebes have claimed their spot under the gazebo and the nest is near completion. This pair chased off another to keep the prime location. More habitat is really needed for birds.


3-29-23 Eastern Bluebird nest3-29-23 Eastern Bluebird nest


The Eastern Bluebird nest looked nearly ready the last time I checked. Both birds have been busy catching insects, and the female may soon be ready to lay eggs.


3-25-23 Carolina Chickadee with feathers for nest3-25-23 Carolina Chickadee with feathers for nest 3-25-23 Carolina Chickadee leaves nest3-25-23 Carolina Chickadee leaves nest


Carrying feathers is a sure sign that the Carolina Chickadee nest must be nearly ready, too. The joint is hopping with activity!


The last few weeks, I have been busy preparing a program entitled, "Our Garden is for the Birds", to share through the Partners for Native Landscaping Series, hosted by the St. Louis County Library. The webinar was recorded last Tuesday evening and it was very well received. It's heartening to know that so many people want to convert a portion of their yards to native plants. We are all needed to help the birds, bees, butterflies and more! All of these programs in the series are free and open to the public.


To register for remaining programs and more information about upcoming in-person events:


If you'd like to view my program as well as others in the series, check out this link:


Thanks for watching!






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!






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