Migratory Machinations

My garden enjoyed an extended fall bird migration as the the feathered travelers made their way southward for winter. I didn’t catch photos of most of the migrants I saw, either choosing to simply observe or (more often) lacking quickness in the utilizing of my camera. It’s gratifying to see so many birds resting–if only for a day–and that my garden serves as a respite along their long and dangerous journeys.

Typically, bird watching is more fulfilling during spring migration, as there are not only a reasonable number, but also a greater diversity of birds who temporarily visit my garden from early April, stretching to early June. Historically, fewer migratory birds have come through my garden during fall, though this year, that wasn’t the case. It’s hard to say why there were more migratory birds in September and October: perhaps it’s the drought we’re experiencing, making the urban garden scene a better bet for food and water sources than the open areas of rural Texas. Or maybe it was just the right weather or wind stream pattern that allowed for sufficient numbers on a path that brought them to my garden.

I was fortunate to host a female Black-throated Green Warbler, Setophaga virens, for the better part of a day.

Like most migratory birds (as well as the native birds), it’s the promise of a refreshing bath and cooling drink that lured this cutie in and allowed me to appreciate her beauty.

The first time I saw one of these birds I thought it was the endangered Golden-cheeked Warbler, Setophaga chrysoparia, who nests no where else in the world except here in Central Texas. If you click on that link, you’ll see that, at a quick glance and if you’re a novice bird watcher, the mistake is an easy one to make. I’ve never seen a Golden-cheeked, but I’m oh-so glad that the Black-throated greens have seen fit to visit my garden space, even if those visits are ever-so-brief.

I like this cheeky am I not adorable? pose!

I hope she has safely made her way to southern Mexico/Central America and that her winter is spent eating well and resting.

For the last few springs, I’ve seen Nashville Warblers, Leiothlypis ruficapilla, in my garden. They always come as a troop of 4 or 5, never as a single bird, like so many migratory bird species. Nashvilles are feathered friends who enjoy another’s company!

In mid October, I was entertained for most of a week by a group of 5, both males and females, until a strong cold front sent them on their way south.

They’re shy and skittish at first, perching in the trees above and alighting on the plants below and beside the pond before they’re comfortable getting into the pond.

This Firecracker plant, Russelia equisetiformis, well-placed by the pond, serves as both perch and protection, before and after a bath.

Usually, there’s some time sitting on top of the pond rocks, nervously surveying the surrounding area for safety’s sake.

This one is a female,

…and this one is male. How can I tell? Check out the dab of rust-colored feathers topping his little head–it’s guaranteed to charm the ladies, or at the very least, one special lady.

In time, relaxed and ready, they take the plunge! I like these two, canoodling in the bog area.

Isn’t that sweet? Bird love in the bog! Most of my bird visitors favor the bog: the water is shallow, perfect for fluffy, flitty bathing and plants grow for cover from predators.

That said, there’s always a character lurking around, ready to disturb the peace, like this not-a-bird!

This Eastern Fox Squirrel, Sciurus niger, skittered up the rocks and scattered the birds, taking its turn for a drink at the waterfall. When disturbed, the birds disappear for a time, but they come back when all is quiet and they can bathe and drink in comfort.

Migratory season is mostly over. I did see a Nashville Warbler at the pond twice in this past week. Was it a tardy migrant, winging as fast as possible toward its warm winter digs? Or will it stay here until spring fever hits, joining several Yellow-rumped Warblers, Orange-crowned Warblers, and at least one Ruby-crowned Kinglet for bog baths, pond parties, and insect/suet munchies? Whatever they decide to do, they’re all welcome, temporary or permanent: these seasonal birds, along with the year-round resident birds, add their particular beauty to the diversity that is a wildlife garden.

31 thoughts on “Migratory Machinations

    • Thanks. It helps to take many photos…:) Yes, the pond is a huge draw for all kinds of wildlife, though some aren’t quite as welcome as the warblers. Yes, we built the pond and it’s been in action about 11 years. There isn’t really a stream, but the waterfall is a tumble over limestone rocks, with places for the birds to hang out and fluff–which they love to do!

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      • When we decided to add a pond to the garden, we read and studied what kind of pond and mechanics we wanted. We figured out size, depth, and shape and how it should fit into the garden and then, dug. And dug. The waterfall comes from a spill pan, which is mostly dry-stacked with limestone rock. The grounded electric plug is in the same area, with the cord buried in a trench that I dug all the way across our back yard, to our outdoor fuse box; that was done before I built the adjacent garden. The pump is in a separate intake container, opposite the spill pan and also has two filters as part of the mechanism. We installed/ buried a thick PCV pipe around the edge of the pond to carry the water from the intake/pump to the spill pan. We opted for both mechanical (pump with filters) and biological (bog). The PCV piping has a T that brings some of the water through the bog, which is built at the side of the pond. The pond is roughly bean shaped, with limestone bordering. When we clean it out in early March, we almost always have to repair some of the rocks, replacing and fishing them out of the pond–some always fall in, mostly thanks to the raccoons who visit from time-to-time.

        It’s not much maintenance, except for that one day when we clean it out. That’s a long day!

        Liked by 1 person

      • Thanks for replying about how you build your pond. It was more than I thought and if I decide to put a pond in I will need to hire someone for the work. I was hoping a handyman could maybe install a semblance but I don’t think that is the case

        Liked by 2 people

    • Ha! It’s taken me awhile to learn the birds that are common here. I use the Merlin app (Cornell) and try to get photos, even if they’re not perfect–it helps with the id’s.

      Both my husband and I heard Screech owls in our tree last night! Woo-hoo! Though that probably doesn’t make the warblers too happy…

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  1. The genus name of the warbler drew my attention. I knew the phagos part meant ‘eating,’ but I didn’t recognize the first part. According to Wikipedia, “The genus name is from Ancient Greek ses, ‘moth’, and phagos, ‘eating’.” Have you ever seen any of these birds eat a moth?


    • They come to my garden for drinks and baths and once I put out the suet (whenever it gets cold) they’ll nibble on that, so no moths. They do hop along the branches and I’m sure they’re nibbling on something, but who knows what that might be. These last couple of days, I’ve had an Eastern Phoebe hanging out too. It’s definitely catching something in the air. Maybe it’s munching moths.


  2. Sounds like your garden has been a wonderful boon for these transitory visitors. I am always hoping to spot something rare too, but of course half the trick is to recognise and record it when appears. You seem pretty prepared though!! Your photos are lovely, especially the cute couple of Nashville warblers.


    • Yes, and as I’ve learned to observe what comes through, it’s been a great learning experience and I’ve really come to appreciate the wildlife of this area. I really don’t have to “go birding” as I enjoy so much diverse life in my own back garden.

      Those Nashvilles are real charmers!


  3. Thank you for your sweet fotoshuts , for this sweet birdys Eireen

    Am Do., 19. Nov. 2020 um 03:58 Uhr schrieb My Gardener Says… :

    > Tina posted: ” My garden enjoyed an extended fall bird migration as the > the feathered travelers made their way southward for winter. I didn’t catch > photos of most of the migrants I saw, either choosing to simply observe or > (more often) lacking quickness in the utilizi” >


  4. Tina the photos are magnificent, as always, although I am very glad that this year you have relaxed observing the migratory birds and not so pending to take photos. How good that this year more “travelers” have passed through your garden! The Black Throat Green Pippin is divine, I love it. The 5 Nashville Warblers are lovely, especially the kissing couple, I love them. The eastern fox squirrel is wonderful and the poor thing wanted to drink too. Tub your wildlife garden into an oasis for all animals both migratory and permanent – I love it. Tina take good care of you and your husband, and keep you safe. I remember a lot about you. Very affectionate greetings from Margarita.


  5. Wow, it is great that you are still getting migratory birds coming through. I would love to have a Screech Owl in my garden. Always hopeful. Did your happen to read about the Saw-whet owl that was found in the big tree mounted and decorated in Rockefellers Center, NY. An interesting story.

    Liked by 1 person

    • It is great, Lisa, and I’m so appreciative. It is the draw of the pond that brings the migrants and winter birds. I also grow lots of native plants and have some lovely native trees, so the birds are

      I did see the story about the Saw-whet owl–and saw the photos. Isn’t it amazing the something so adorable is so deadly? I hope we get an owl couple this year, I heard two of them early Friday morning, just outside my bedroom window where the owl house is located, but time will tell whether they deem this a good place to raise their babies.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. ‘d better take a second look at something that I assumed was a goldfinch last week — if it comes by again, that is. It could have been a warbler of some sort. I’m thinking that the black-throated green warbler’s a possibility. There were a lot of new small birds at the refuge yesterday, but they all were entirely too flitty for me to get photos.

    One of my readers came from Canada to Texas to see the golden-cheeked warbler. He spent three days searching around Balcones, and finally found one. That’s dedication! Yesterday was my day. I had a second sighting of both an American bittern and a Wilson’s snipe out at the Brazoria refuge. If I hadn’t made an impulsive decision to stop at the pond boardwalk on my way out, I would have missed both — as well as the young alligator who was cruising through the covered picnic area — a real cutie.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I usually take a photo of my unknowns then compare with Cornell’s or Audubon’s sites. Sometimes, it’s obvious, often it’s not.

      Those Golden-cheeks are cheeky that way. You can sign up for a group hike through Bright Leaf preserve, http://www.brightleaf.org/ , (though not right now, due to COVID). The last time I went was about two years ago (it’s actually fairly close to where we live in central Austin), one of the participants WOULD NOT SHUT UP!! Honestly, she talked the whole time! Birds aren’t fond of talkers, so any chance of hearing/seeing a Golden-cheek was kaput. Lucky Canadian and really, he deserves it as he has lots further to go than I would. 🙂

      Alligators as cuties–who woulda thunk!

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Good morning! I’d like to post photo #7 on my site as an easy jigsaw puzzle, with your permission, and full credit to you and your blog. All of your photos are beautiful, and I think this one would be a nice addition to my occasional puzzle postings. Will that be alright? Thank you! Seasons of Parenting.

    Liked by 1 person

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