A couple of years ago we started a hummingbird garden in memory of my mother-in-law. Many of the plants were chosen specifically to attract hummingbirds, while others were selected to expand it into a wildflower garden, plus we added a young dogwood to round things out. We also picked up a pretty little bird bath since we hadn’t had one for years, not since I accidentally knocked over our cheap one and broke it. A number of birds, such as this American robin, have been enjoying the bath ever since.
Purple coneflower is one of my favorites in our garden and we have a vigorous patch at the edge of our back patio. I deadhead them during the summer to encourage new flowers but at the end of the season I leave them be as I knew birds were eating the seeds in the dried-up cones during the winter — I just didn’t know which ones, as I had never seen any birds on the dead flowers. I had assumed my seed-eaters were finches but just discovered their true identity: dark-eyed juncos.
Junco plumages vary across populations, this is a female of the Oregon race which we commonly see in our backyard, she’s perched on one of the coneflower stems.
I can’t see a bushtit without thinking of Templeton, who died five years ago this month. I used to give him supervised time in our fenced backyard and trained him not to chase the birds that came in to feed. Most birds he didn’t have any trouble resisting but when the diminutive bushtits would descend en masse and attack our suet feeder, he’d start murmuring, his face would twitch, his body would tense, his tail would whip back-and-forth, and I could see in his eyes that he wanted nothing more than to have a go at one of the snack-sized birds.
But the old man loved his outdoor time and knew I’d send him inside if he did, and to his credit he resisted the temptation. Eventually even the bushtits didn’t tempt him much, he was content just to lie in the grass with his white belly to the sun, white paws in the air, and sleep the peace of the just.