In the Garden

Morning Glory and Scarlet Runner BeanIt wasn’t long after we bought our first house that I  started birding, so when I decided to plant a garden in our backyard I immediately decided to grow flowers that would attract different species of birds to my garden. Since my main visitors were finches and sparrows, I planted Cosmos and Bachelor’s Buttons for the seeds they produced in the fall. The following year I spotted a hummingbird feeding on my Cosmos plants in October, so I began adding flowers which would provide nectar for both hummingbirds and butterflies, many of which I started from seed.  These include Scarlet Sage (Salvia sp.), Scarlet Runner Beans, Lantana, Verbena, Morning Glories, Four O’Clocks, and even parsley, a host plant for the Black Swallowtail.

As our backyard is quite small, it’s hard to create a real wildlife garden; however, we’ve had some interesting creatures visit our yard since we moved in in 2003.


I count all birds seen in or from my yard on my yard list. The species listed below have been seen in my yard unless otherwise noted as fly-overs or in a neighbour’s tree. I have made special note of the birds seen in the tree in my front yard as these are all species I have only seen once, usually through the window while I am working on my computer! The diversity of species can be accounted for by the fact that there is a crabapple tree across the street, which attracts Pine Grosbeaks and Bohemian Waxwings in years when they irrupt south; cornfields about five minutes away to the south of our subdivision (the one south of our street was destroyed in the of summer 2012 to make room for more townhouses – construction is still ongoing as of 2017); a series of storm water management ponds to the west of us; and forest to the east of us. However, the subdivision itself is very open, with only a few large, mature trees, which is why I see woodpeckers and nuthatches in or near my yard very infrequently.

  1. Canada Goose (flying over)
  2. Mallard (flying over)
  3. Double-crested Cormorant (flying over)
  4. Great Blue Heron (flying over)
  5. Black-crowned Night Heron (2 flying over)
  6. Turkey Vulture (flying over)
  7. Osprey (flying over)
  8. Cooper’s Hawk
  9. Red-tailed Hawk (flying over)
  10. Killdeer (flying over)
  11. Ring-billed Gull (flying over)
  12. Herring Gull (flying over)
  13. Rock Pigeon
  14. Mourning Dove
  15. Common Nighthawk (flying over)
  16. Ruby-throated Hummingbird
  17. Downy Woodpecker (front tree)
  18. Northern Flicker (neighbour’s tree)
  19. American Kestrel (neighbour’s antenna)
  20. Merlin (on roof)
  21. Eastern Phoebe
  22. Northern Shrike (neighbour’s tree)
  23. Blue-headed Vireo (neighbour’s yard)
  24. Red-eyed Vireo (front tree)
  25. Blue Jay
  26. American Crow
  27. Common Raven (flying over)
  28. Tree Swallow (flying over)
  29. Black-capped Chickadee
  30. Red-breasted Nuthatch (neighbour’s tree)
  31. White-breasted Nuthatch
  32. Golden-crowned Kinglet (neighbour’s tree)
  33. Ruby-crowned Kinglet
  34. American Robin
35. European Starling
36. American Pipit (flying over)
37. Bohemian Waxwing (neighbour’s tree)
38. Cedar Waxwing (neighbour’s tree)
39. Pine Grosbeak (neighbour’s tree)
40. House Finch
41. Purple Finch
42. Common Redpoll
43. White-winged Crossbill (neighbour’s tree)
44. Pine Siskin
45. American Goldfinch
46. Snow Bunting (flying over)
47. Chipping Sparrow
48. American Tree Sparrow
49. Field Sparrow
50. Dark-eyed Junco
51. White-crowned Sparrow
52. White-throated Sparrow
53. Song Sparrow
54. Baltimore Oriole (front tree)
55. Red-winged Blackbird
56. Brown-headed Cowbird
57. Common Grackle
58. Nashville Warbler
59. Yellow Warbler (front tree)
60. Blackpoll Warbler (neighbour’s tree)
61. Pine Warbler (front tree)
62. Yellow-rumped Warbler (front tree)
63. Black-throated Green Warbler (neighbour’s yard)
64. Wilson’s Warbler (front tree)
65. Black-throated Blue Warbler (singing out back)
66. Tennessee Warbler (singing out back)
67. Northern Cardinal
68. Rose-breasted Grosbeak
69. House Sparrow


Striped Skunks

Having feeders, of course, attracts wildlife of the four-legged variety. Two years in a row (in 2008 and 2009) I had a shrew visit my yard in the fall. He would emerge from the grass, steal a seed from the patio stones beneath the feeder, then disappear back into the grass, only to come back a minute or two later. As he never stayed out in the open for very long, it took a while until I got a decent enough photo of him to identify him.

Raccoons visit me from time to time, knocking my feeder onto the ground and then cleaning out the seeds. These brazen thieves don’t even flinch when we open the back door and shine a flashlight on them. Our best raccoon experience was when three babies came up onto the back deck one night and peered in at us through the glass! Skunks are also attracted to the seed beneath our feeder, although I’ve only seen one in our backyard the entire time we’ve lived here. Our best skunk encounter occurred when a skunk gave birth to a litter of six or seven babies beneath our front step one summer. The kits would play in my garden after dark before going hunting with mom; often they would turn their backs on one another and raise their tail, as if threatening to spray each other! One morning while leaving for work I saw the whole group returning to the hole beneath my step.

Fragile Forktail


  • Eastern Grey Squirrel
  • American Red Squirrel
  • Eastern Chipmunk
  • White-footed/Deer Mouse
  • Eastern Cottontail rabbit
  • Striped Skunk
  • Raccoon
  • Northern Short-tailed Shrew


  • Black Swallowtail (evidenced by a caterpillar found on some parsley)
  • Giant Swallowtail (a fly-through across my front yard)
  • Cabbage White
  • Clouded Sulphur
  • Spring Azure
  • Eastern Tailed Blue
  • Eastern Comma
  • Grey Comma
  • White Admiral
  • Red Admiral
  • Common Ringlet
  • Monarch

Dragonflies and Damselflies

  • Fragile Forktail
  • Eastern Forktail
  • Black-tipped Darner
  • Ebony Boghaunter
  • White-faced Meadowhawk
  • Band-winged Meadowhawk
  • Autumn Meadowhawk
  • Common Whitetail

Reptiles and Amphibians

  • American Toad

My garden also gets a pretty good variety of arachnids, moths, bees and other insects; I haven’t created any formal lists, but if you’re interested, please check out my photo gallery on Pbase to see some of the more interesting creatures that have stopped by!


9 thoughts on “In the Garden

  1. Pingback: Painted Ladies! | The Pathless Wood

  2. You have an impressive list of visitors here. Thank you for following my blog, I look forward to following you and learning more about the wildlife in your area. By the way, your photos are beautiful! ~ Marsha

    • Thanks Marsha! My dream is to own a home with at least an acre of land, preferably backing onto a forest or other green space; in the meantime, I plan to keep recording what I see in my postage stamp-sized yard and reading about other bloggers’ gardens for inspiration!

  3. you might consider keeping lists on “ebird” from cornell university. you can maintain a life list, year lists, and ‘patch’ lists-for your own backyard. it’s handy, and the info you post is used for research.

    • I already do use eBird, Doug; I think it’s fantastic! I enter checklists almost every day and keep my “formal” yard, life and year lists on eBird; this is a more informal list, mostly for non-avian species such as the butterflies and odes that visit my yard. I have written about eBird in the past; here are a few blog posts exploring eBird’s features and how it can be used by birders. eBird is actually the reason I stopped maintaining a year list on my blog – it’s just so much easier!

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