My spring has been pretty great and it's not only because I've done so much traveling around the state.  I also have a sweet yard with its own set of flora and fauna that entertains me to no end.  Let me begin with a story.

I bought my house three and a half years ago, and the front yard was mostly grass with some border garden beds, a Japanese maple, and a sad dogwood tree.  My first trip to Portland Nursery as a homeowner was overwhelming but I stuck to the native section and came home with a nice little variety to add to the front.

 3.03.13  Serviceberry, osoberry, salal, ceanothus, red alder, and red osier dogwood.

I knew little about these plants, only that they were native.  The alder was maybe three feet tall, a skinny twig that cost me $7.99.

A few months later, the front yard still looking plain.

Dirt spot close to center of photo is the alder tree, three red osier dogwoods on left

It's been three years now since I planted these, and my skinny twig alder has shot up above the house with branches thick enough to climb.  This spring I did just that to hang a chickadee house.

 Alder on the right, birch on the left, ceanothus in the middle (lemon balm, cat mint, poppies, blanket flower, mint, lavender, daisies, lupine, etc. in front)

The chickadees found it almost immediately and began moving in.

The House Sparrows were not pleased with the new neighbors and were constantly bugging them, trying to get inside the house.  Thankfully I had put a metal protector around the hole so the sparrows could not fit.

Once there were audible young in the nest, the local scrub-jays also showed interest.

The chickadees were determined and never let the annoying neighbors get to them.  They made trips all day long from the suet or the compost bin (bug city!) back to their house.

Last week I noticed they weren't returning to the house anymore, but I wasn't sure if they had been successful.  On Friday when I came home from work I heard the fuzzy not-quite-right sounds of a young chickadee and I watched as one of the parents fed it some suet.  Yay!  The chickadee child tried to land on me at one point, but I ducked and it landed nearby on the fence instead.

This morning I decided to open up their house and check out their nest.

On the left is a cozy little cup of a nest, and on the right is one dead baby chickadee.  I removed the dead one and hung the house back up in case they want to go for another round.

I feel pretty good about these chickadees.  It's like watching hummingbirds visit the currant I planted, sparrows digging in the leaf litter I saved for them, or crows splashing in the bird bath I filled.  Of course with nature you can't always control who shows up for your offerings...

On Saturday I set my camera trap up facing my suet and caught this fella.  Finally!  I knew there was a rat thanks to tunnels and mounds, and the dogs certainly knew there was a rat, but I had yet to lay eyes on it.

He or she was quite comfortable up there in the cage, chowing down for over thirty minutes in the middle of the afternoon.  In addition to the rat were the more expected Bushtits, chickadees, and Downy Woodpeckers. 

Not from the camera trap

While I have a boring old rat, my parents have a far more interesting mammal visiting their yard in Massachusetts, an albino chipmunk!

Pretty cool!

Now let's talk bugs.  My yard is full of 'em and I never get tired of creeping around looking for new ones.  Here are a few of my favorites of late:

Agreeable tiger moth (Spilosoma congrua)

 Boxelder bug

Bold jumper with a dead fly

Crane fly

Ground spider

Ten-lined June beetle I think (Polyphylla sp.)

Same beetle, about to take flight 

That's it from the home front for now.  Good times!


  1. I have enjoyed all your Spring trips....MY jaw dropped 6 inches on the After shot of the Red Alder! Your flower garden is beautiful!! I had one blanket flower to live, I HOPE it can get established and spread of course its over at Mom's I have nada here maybe next yr the growing bug will bite me! Speaking of bugs, awesome bug portraits--worthy of a Nat Geo Cover!

    1. This blanket flower was from seed last year and definitely spread with no help from me. Hope yours does the same!

  2. It's so nice when those native plants hit their stride! Your yard looks great!

  3. Tiger moth not withstanding, that albino chipmunk sure is agreeable!

  4. Beautiful garden! Your local fauna have excellent taste

  5. Good job FJ. Impressive before/after yard scene.

  6. Great before and After! Great display of how natives can have the curb appeal and how it brings nature with it.


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