A Salute to Summer

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.

80 thoughts on “A Salute to Summer

  1. Dear Jet
    Thanks for text and pictures. It’s amazing how different the wildlife is at yours and at ours.
    Wishing you a happy weekend
    The Fab Four of Cley
    ๐Ÿ™‚ ๐Ÿ™‚ ๐Ÿ™‚ ๐Ÿ™‚

    • I agree, Klausbernd, it is amazing how much the wildlife can vary around the world. It’s fun to see the differences, and fun to share the experiences. Thank you, and cheers to the Fab Four.

  2. Loved starting my day with your wildlife sightings, Jet. Athena captured some terrific shots (brava on the quail) and your camera trap is so surprising. Davyโ€™s tail behavior is quite quirky! Thanks for this delightful nature moment. Hereโ€™s to cooler temps and hopefully some rain in our future. ๐Ÿ™‚

    • I love starting my day with the bats and birds as the sun rises, so I’m glad I could share some of it with you, Jane, and kickstart your day with the wildlife. Thanks so very much for stopping by, it’s always a delight to “see” you.

  3. What an amazing variety of animals and birds you’ve had in your yard! I love Davy!! He made me smile this morning. I agree with your thought that he’s probably using his tail as a hat. Your water tray is a brilliant place for the birds and animals to come.

  4. A wonderful array of summer wildlife you shared here! Tremendous photographs and written descriptions of some cute and quirky characters – hats off to Davy (hats on?) – and I loved the photograph of the Hermit Warbler in the sprinkler.
    Weโ€™re getting some long overdue rain to the north of you here, and weโ€™ve fingers crossed youโ€™ll be seeing some very soon.
    Thanks, Jet!

    • Always a great pleasure to have you stop by, pc. I, too, like that hermit warbler photo. We were so excited that one dropped by that day. They wait for the water to gather in a leaf, and then bathe on the limb beside the leaf. Many thanks for your rain wishes and visit today.

  5. Lively & lovely photos & reflections, through & through. Thanks for helping out the birds & animals with a water tray throughout the tougher hours of the season. I especially liked that Hermit Warbler & Western Screech Owl getting hydrated, and glad that you enjoyed a pleasant season.

    • It’s a great pleasure to keep the forest animals and birds hydrated, and great reward to see them come by. In this season when the young ones are still learning, it’s an honor to see the parents bringing their offspring here, teaching them where and how to find refreshment. My warmest thanks, Walt, for your delightful words and visit today. And thanks for the Costa Rica post this morning, I thoroughly enjoyed it.

  6. I’ll join you with a salute with a salute to Summer. I too, had many visitors to my backyard, more than the regular season in previous years. Not only had birds but some other creatures such as a fat groundhog, many squirrels, one of them pregnant, chipmunks, cats, bunnies, deers. I’m not counting the Amazon’s drivers. ( I made a lot of purchases!) As you can see, we had many visitors during Summer. As always, my friend, I enjoyed your post. ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Oh how I enjoyed your comment today, H.J. I liked the list of creatures you shared, and chuckled at the Amazon drivers being included on the list. I appreciate you bringing your eyes to my post today, H.J., I know they are fragile at this time. Sending smiles and thanks.

    • I really liked that the Critter Cam captured that photo of the screech owl, because otherwise I wouldn’t have believed it. Thanks for your visit, Mark. BTW, I visited your 72 Seasons post the other day and really liked it. I typed a comment about really liking the concept of many seasons, but WP didn’t let me leave it. Some temporary glitch, I guess, because I was able to leave a comment on the poetry post. So I’m glad you stopped by so I can tell you how much I enjoyed the seasons post. Thank you.

      • Hi Jet,
        Thanks for the kind words about the 72 Seasons post. I hear you the tech challenges that we sometimes run into on WP. I have had the same issue before. Thanks you for the support! And I may need to get a critter cam! The skunks and fox are pretty active around my house right now.

    • Yes, Jan, you’re right, the rains can’t come soon enough. I’m glad you’ve got water out too, our little friends are in a parched environment here in the Bay Area. Thank you so much.

    • Thanks Janet. Yes, it’s always exciting to see warbler, especially when they’re frolicking in the sprinkler. And I liked that owl shot as well. Many thanks for your visit today, always a pleasure.

    • It is really fun, Eliza, to see who comes by at night. The new cameras these days are a little too attentive in that they snap photos every time the wind blows. So we only have it on at night, and that helps. Bushnell is the leading brand, and that’s what we have, it is our second one. The older camera was better, didn’t record hundreds of grass-blowing photos. But still, we have so much fun when we bring in the camera chip and sit down at the computer, looking at the parade of critters. It’s always a surprise, and always a pleasant surprise. There’s a LOT of activity at night that we would never have the slightest knowledge of, if it wasn’t for the critter cam. Sending smiles to you and your beautiful garden.

  7. Hard to believe it’s almost fall. You really get a variety of creatures at your watering tray. The Owl seemed to realize that something was happening ie the camera. Nice of you to have that rock their – looks like it gets used.

    • I’m glad you noticed the rock at the water tray, Bill. Athena took quite some time to find the perfect height for a rock to help out the little creatures, and they love it, as you noticed. My warm thanks for your visit.

    • Yes, that hermit warbler made us smile, too, Simone. She was having a wonderful time shaking up the water in the leaves and bathing and getting a full shower, then preening. Many thanks for your visit, always a joy to see you.

  8. A great share of love and letters all involving the delightful living world around us.
    It is sad knowing there’s not enough rain for normal sustainability, but cheerful
    to witness those who think of solutions that might help our common neighbors.
    Thank you Jet and Athena for your caring heart, Eddie

    • Dear Eddie, your words and kindness are so endearing, thank you. We are happy we can provide a dish of water for all the thirsty critters around us, and it serves us too, because it is the most interesting and animated spot on the whole property. Thank you for your comment and visit, Eddie, and thank you for YOUR caring heart. Sending smiles and hugs your way….

  9. You’ve seen quite variety of wildlife. Although I don’t see them all, I am sure we have our share visiting the yard as we live next to a wildlife sanctuary and a mile from a mountain range. We hear coyotes in the late/early hours and have found bear sign in the yard. Squirrels are fun to watch, thus squirrely as a descriptor, and yours has quite a fun tail.

    • How lovely that your home is adjacent to a wildlife sanctuary and mountains, Steve, I’m sure you’ve got a grand show of critters. And what a thrill to have coyotes and bear prowling around. My warmest thanks for your lovely comment.

  10. Thank you for sharing your summer world with us. I loved the checkerspot butterfly. I have never seen those before. I made a birthday card for my sister today and did two Zentangle swallowtails, but these would be great to Zentangle. Iโ€™ll have to write a poem and do a tangle and post it one day.

    We have herons who build their nests in dead trees, probably because their wing spans are so wide, leaves would get in their way. We had a rookery near our neighborhood and weโ€™d take the kids out to watch the babies when it was time for them to learn to fly. They looked like something from a Dr. Seuss book.

    My husband bought an outdoor camera recently. You have inspired me to install it.

    You live in a lovely place, Jett and Athena. I so enjoy getting a glimpse of your world.

    • I liked hearing about your nature artistry, LuAnne, and your adventures with the heronry. And you are going to have so much fun once you install the outdoor camera, it opens up a new world right in front of you. Many thanks for your warm comment and visit.

    • I’m happy you enjoyed our western wildlife, Sherry, they’re really fun to share; and have differences and similarities, no doubt, to your eastern wildlife. Our migration season has already begun, mostly with warblers flying back to the south again, and soon the winter wildlife will be coming in, like the waterfowl migration in November. In our yard we’ll get loads of A. robins and other thrushes who stay for the winter. We don’t have the volume of warblers you do in Central Park, which is why always enjoy seeing your NYC birds. Sending a happy “pish” to you, Sherry.

      • Thanks Jet. I haven’t been up to Central Park as much as I would like to. The subways are badly maintained and unhealthy. I don’t feel safe riding them. If we go by car parking is a challenge.

  11. LOL at odd dude Davy – kinda squirrely! ๐Ÿ˜‰ Thank you for this beautiful summary of your summer visitors, complete with beautiful photos!

    • Yes, our goofy Davy, he keeps us entertained, so I’m really glad he has now entertained you, too, dear BS. I wish you could be here to see him. Thanks so much for dropping by today.

  12. What a lovely and lively summer you’ve had, indeed! What a blessing you are on your mountaintop… providing nesting, feeding and watering opportunities for your many and varied neighbors.

    • Thank you, dear Nan, for your kind and encouraging words. It’s close to sunset on a super hot day, as I write, and the backyard has been hopping. We’re all lucky. With my loving thanks….

  13. Awww… Eric won’t let me peek in the nest boxes until the birds depart! Those bluebird eggs are beautiful. Athena is managing to catch those twitchy little Warblers (or wobblers as I’m prone to say)! ๐Ÿ˜‰ Amazing!
    You have many of the same critters we do. (No surprise, really.)
    โ€‹But I may have to suggest that we try pointing the trail cam at our bird bath… but then there’s the creek just down the bank… Eric had me listening to a Great Horned and there’s been a Barred hooting in the night.
    May we wake up and do whatever it takes to keep these wonderful neighbors safe… โ€‹๐Ÿ™

    • Athena and I have a system when we peek inside the nest box. I stand guard. When the parent leaves, Athena quickly opens it while I watch where the parent went. Then when the parent starts the return visit, I let her know and she quickly closes it. I have so enjoyed seeing all the critters that visit your bird bath and creek, Gunta, and am delighted you have the two owl species. We four humans are lucky to have these wonders to look after. Many thanks, my friend, and cheers to you.

  14. I loved seeing all your local birds, and Davy the squirrel. ๐Ÿ™‚ Your water tray made me think of the documentary on PBS, “Life at the Waterhole.” It was filmed in Africa at a manmade waterhole rigged with cameras and an observation dugout. It was fascinating the different animals and birds that visited and the different times of day they chose to do so. A schedule of sorts developed. I love how your wildlife uses your water tray for various purposes. The portrait of the California Quail is amazing!

    • I like that you mention the waterholes of Africa, Barbara. Athena and I have spent many hours at various waterholes in Africa, and our water tray in the dry setting of our backyard is largely influenced by what we watched and learned at the African waterholes. And you’re right, a schedule of sorts does develop, as our waterhole fits into the daily and nightly routines of the wildlife. Thanks so very much for your astute and perceptive visit and comments, much enjoyed.

    • I was just thinking about you the other day, RH. I saw a winery called “RH” and I realized I hadn’t touched base with you in awhile, so thanks for stopping by. I’m headed your way now. Glad you enjoyed the Salute to Summer.

  15. A beautiful posting–such variety! I like looking back at photos of the season past. It’s such a good way to remember how beautiful and resilient nature is, in spite of our interference. It must be very difficult dealing with drought and smoke and unstable conditions on a daily basis. Wishing you a fine autumn filled with more wonderful creatures!
    Julie

    • Hi Julie, I enjoyed your lovely comment, thank you. I’m glad you enjoyed seeing the summertime critters, and I agree, it is fun to look back on the past season, recalling all the life and joy. And with the new season officially starting this week, I hope your autumn is beautiful. Many thanks.

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