As we say farewell to summer, here is a small sample of the wildlife who entertained us these past few months. Summer provided us with a celebrated array of birds, insects, mammals and reptiles.
At the beginning of the season in May, we watched dozens of birds nesting around our property.
We found these bluebird eggs inside one of our nest boxes.
In addition to the usual resident nesters–swallows, bluebirds, juncos, chickadees, titmice, jays, towhees, wrens, and more–we hosted numerous migrant species.
Flycatchers, an often-overlooked migrant bird, were in abundance.
This Pacific-slope flycatcher mother (below, in center) vigilantly protected her nest and brood for many weeks. She chose a completely burned tree in which to nest, probably for uninterrupted visibility of predators.
This flycatcher, like the other migrant birds, had an industrious summer routine. They arrived in May, prepared a nest and filled it with eggs; then assisted their fledglings to become strong and independent. In August they all headed back home.
On cue with the summer routine, black-headed Grosbeaks arrived, and produced young ones.
The violet-green swallows arrived in April, vying with the bluebirds for nest box real estate. By July the sky was filled with soaring, acrobatic juveniles.
We welcomed several warbler species as well. Although we don’t have the same volume of spring migrating warblers on the west coast as the east coast or Midwest, every year we have several species who migrate through in the shoulder seasons, like this hermit warbler and orange-crowned warbler.
They come in when we turn on the yard sprinkler, a favorite summer pastime for all of us.
Throughout the summer a pair of sibling Cooper’s hawks, born here in spring, were prevalent in our backyard. I wrote about them in a previous post: Cooper’s Hawks, The Next Generation.
Their new prowess started out clumsy, but quickly became skilled, intimidating the wise and wary California quail from nesting on our property. Fortunately we saw large quail coveys with chicks all over our mountain.
We didn’t see as many snakes this year, but we had an abundance of Western fence lizards. Now, in early September, we have lots of little pinky-sized baby lizards skittering across the dust and rocks.
Living in drought here in Northern California, we have had our difficulties with fire and smoke lately. So far, the worst fires are a couple hundred miles north of us. It is a tense and smoky situation for us, but disastrous for our friends in the north.
During this current drought, water is a precious commodity. Our humble water tray offerings attract an animated parade of wildlife, day and night.
A bobcat comes through several nights a week.
Other regular night creatures include great horned owls, who frequently serenade us with duets, and deafening cicada choruses throughout every night. Dark dawns bring us individual bats silently zig-zagging the sky.
For comical daytime entertainment, we have a quirky gray squirrel who has taken to covering his back and head with his tail. He does it all the time.
Maybe he’s just an odd dude, or maybe he’s decided to use his tail as an umbrella to shield from the blazing sun. Whatever his story, we love him. We call him Davy, for his resemblance to a Davy Crockett hat.
Brush rabbits appreciate the water tray too.
It’s been so hot and dry lately that birds we don’t ordinarily see at the water tray came in this summer for drinks and baths. The outdoor camera captures this screech owl at the water tray regularly.
Yesterday I noticed this Cooper’s hawk at the water tray for an hour. We have also watched him vigorously bathing here. On sizzling hot days, he stands right in the water, probably regulating his body temperature.
I do love summer for the plethora of wildlife and their activities, but I am looking forward to the fall, too. Cooler temperatures and some rain to douse the earth would be dreamy.
But what a lively and lovely summer it has been.
Written by Jet Eliot.
Photos by Athena Alexander.