A Few Birds

There are more than a few birds in my garden this summer, but plenty of projects, hellish heat, and a decent dose of seasonal laziness has slowed my interest in photographing avian acquaintances.

Also, birds frequently fly away when I step outside to take their photos.

Sometimes though, I’m lucky and the birds cooperate. One hot July evening, sitting in my front garden, I observed with amusement three female hummingbirds chasing one another around the garden, each, no doubt, claiming the territory as her own. I captured this lovely as she rested and surveyed her territory, keen eyes watchful for invaders. She didn’t perch for long, zooming off on her mad dash to protect her home from The Others.

Female Black-chinned Hummingbird, Archilochus alexandri

A significant crew of Lesser Goldfinches, Spinus psaltria have hung around all summer, noshing on a variety of seeds in the garden. They’ve favored seeds of the American Basket flower, Zexmenia, Henry Duelberg sage, Rock Rose, and Sunflower. They’ve also been skittish, taking flight at the least movement, and capturing shots of these cuties has proved challenging. I spied this female through my front window, alerted to its snacking by my cat, Lena, who watched. I’m sure she wished she was out with the bird.

I like the way the finch’s feathers splay as she perches on the branch of the sunflower.

Mostly, it’s the usual suspects in the garden, though this year, the European Starlings, Sturnus vulgaris have over-stayed from their typical late spring visits and in their bullying ways, made themselves unwelcome. In normal years, they’re here in May and June, and once the fledglings are independent, take off for parts unknown. I guess with the drought, there’s not much ‘out there’ to draw them away, so Starlings are a constant in this urban paradise of water and food. They favor the peanuts and if I leave the two peanut feeders up, they’ll go through the supply within a few hours. For now and until the Starlings vamoose, I’m only hanging the peanut feeders during early mornings and late evenings to prevent them from eating a the peanuts supply. To their credit, their plumage is beautiful and they are masters of murmurations, but as backyard visitors, they are pests. I don’t have photos of the Starlings because I’m annoyed with them.

Another bird spending summer in our neighborhood are some of Austin’s Monk Parakeets. I can’t help but admire their beauty and chuckle at their personalities.

There are always a few Monks who come to my garden in late spring, checking out the bird feeders and perching on the utility wires along the back of my property. This year, they’re still around in August, cawing loudly and flashing green and blue as they streak across the sky. The Austin Monk Parakeet population descend from pets let free in the 70s and 80s; these striking birds are successful colonizers of urban areas. Fond of nesting atop electric towers (which have caused fires), apparently they have no negative impact native bird species.

Gosh, they’re pretty birds!

I appreciate that the Monks are the only birds who push back at the Starlings’ bad manners at the feeders; the Starlings always give way when there’s a Monk around.

I wouldn’t mess with that beak and those claws could cause some damage!

As I admired this handsome bird, another flit into the background–a male Red-bellied Woodpecker, Melanerpes carolinus. Last year, I observed a Dad Red-bellied stuffing peanuts and seeds in a hole in this oak tree. He then worked with his young offspring, presumably teaching how to cache food and retrieve it. I haven’t seen a ‘junior’ this year, but it doesn’t mean there isn’t one around, ready to leave the nest and learn the woodpecker ways.

Dad looks satisfied with his efforts!

With hopes that the heat abates sometime soon so that I can more comfortably spend time with my garden companions, bird watching will become more compelling. The hummingbirds will ramp up for their migration southward and other migrating birds will appear in my garden on the way to their winter digs.

23 thoughts on “A Few Birds

  1. Wonderful photos and post! Your yard must be an oasis of food and water for the birds, with all the native plants you grow. I love that our yards can help the wildlife out, especially during such stressful conditions. And then we get rewarded with extra visitors – win/win!


  2. I can’t imagine the relentless heat you are experiencing, Tina. We had a week of it back in July and that was plenty for me, although we’re back to over 90 today and tomorrow. No rain, either, but I have high hopes for a cool front to change that tomorrow night. 🤞🏼
    Those Monk parakeets are lovely, their plumage so soft-looking. I’m in agreement with you about starlings, hogs that they are. Bullies like blue jays, but at least jays are native and don’t dominate the feeders but for a short while a couple times a day.
    Hope you get some weather relief soon. It’s been a tough summer for you.


    • It’s been a tough summer, that’s for sure. July was the second hottest month on record. Sigh–I’m tired of the heat!

      The Parakeets are pretty, aren’t they? I love that blue underneath the green–well designed! Blue Jays can be bullies too, but they’re not as bad as the starlings. Maybe I just like blue birds more. 🙂

      I’m hoping for some rain, but there isn’t any in the forecast, so hope will remain…hope.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Lots of good bird friends in your garden! The monk parakeets are fun! I used to see them a lot in south Florida. I didn’t know they had taken hold in Austin.


    • I’ve occasionally seen the goldfinches in summer, but this year, they’ve been constant. Again, like the starlings and the parakeets, I suspect there’s more food and water in urban areas, so they’re hanging around. I don’t mind, but I feel for the critters in the rural parts of the Hill Country–it’s dry, dry, dry.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Hot here today and for the next few before we get relief. I don’t imagine it is as bad as you are experiencing but for us mid to upper 90’s is hellish enough.
    We had parakeets as pets when I was a child and I always thought it would be cool to see them in the wild much less in our backyard. Lucky you. ❤ Nice shot of the Red-bellied too. We have them here also.


  5. I envy your close association with the Monk parakeets. I smile at them every day. Despite their high-tension lines being right next to some noisy, dusty, and generally intrusive road and bridge construction, they keep right on building their communal nests in the ends of the towers. For a while, they were taking up residence in our palm trees, but recently there was some serious tree-trimming done, and that was the end of that. No matter. There are plenty of places for them.

    At the marina this week, I heard a strange pounding, and when I looked, there were two large woodpeckers and a little black and white one working away on the trunk of a tree. I think the small one was a Downy, but I don’t know what the others were. It was great fun to see them, I’ll say that. by the time I stopped the car and dug out my phone, they were gone: poof!


    • I’ve enjoyed having the monks around, noisy as they are. This past week, my SIL was out of town, so her feeders were empty. The monks were at my place each day, all day–it was fun to watch them!

      Downy woodpeckers are a favorite bird of mine! I love their calls, plus they’re just about the cutest bird. Do you have Red-bellied woodpeckers? I don’t quite know their range, but they’re good sized and might have been the two big ones you saw.

      Liked by 1 person

      • That’s what I thought — that they were Red-bellied — but I didn’t get a close enough look to know for sure. I forgot to mention something else to you. I started putting out a big handful of dried mealworms every day, and the starlings eat those and leave the rest of the treats alone. The mockingbirds like them, too, and nothing else seems to eat them, so the starlings and mockingbirds have their own special food.

        Liked by 1 person

  6. Such great shots!

    “Pics or it didn’t happen!”. That mantra from the early days of social media accurately describes my approach to bird watching . If I don’t catch a good enough photo to help me ID the new (to me) birds I’m seeing, it is as if the encounter was all in my imagination.

    Between filling feeders, leaving the seeds on native plants and offering reliable water sources, we are trying to provide our own “My Gardener Says” style bird haven here in the fried Hill Country. Thanks for the inspiration!


    • I’m just like you in that if I can’t get a good shot, I don’t lament that I “didn’t” see that bird. That’s actually why I started taking photos; I just can’t flip through the bird book (or now, my phone) quickly enough to id birds and a photo, even a not-so-great one, helps with that.

      It is a chore this year, keeping the beasties in water and food and probably even more where you live. I feel for the critters that are in the boonies of the Hill Country–they’re probably suffering from the lack of water and food sources.


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