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Annie in Austin
Welcome! As "Annie in Austin" I blog about gardening in Austin, TX with occasional looks back at our former gardens in Illinois. My husband Philo & I also make videos - some use garden images as background for my original songs, some capture Austin events & sometimes we share videos of birds in our garden. Come talk about gardens, movies, music, genealogy and Austin at the Transplantable Rose and listen to my original songs on YouTube. For an overview read Three Gardens, Twenty Years. Unless noted, these words and photos are my copyrighted work.
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Saturday, September 20, 2008

A Garden Blogger's Bird Day

This post, "A Garden Blogger's Bird Day", was written for my blogspot blog called The Transplantable Rose by Annie in Austin.

kay, it's not really one day... it took a couple of weeks.
And there aren't that many birds, but if I wait any longer to add photos the leaves will be falling.

In the middle of July a very striking rusty orange & black bird began appearing at the fountain - but I had no camera. He kept appearing while we borrowed a camera, purchased one, returned it and bought another and I kept trying to catch my pretty bird visitor with no success. Then a couple of weeks ago our son was standing at the window with the new camera, experimenting with the settings, when the small bird appeared and posed. Showing us not only the rusty orange front but the striped feathers, too. Using links from local blogger Mikael at Birding on Broadmeade, I've tentatively identified the bird as an Orchard Oriole. The photos of the female at the link resembled a bird I'd been seeing, but thought was a female Lesser Goldfinch. I'm still not sure, but this bird has a beak more like an oriole than a goldfinch, so I think it's the female Orchard Oriole. I delayed posting the photos my son took, hoping for a chance to show the pair. Both male and female appear off and on and I finally took a couple of not-so-hot photos of what might be his missus through the window. Unfortunately that window is double pane glass and it's got moisture trapped between the panes. - replacing the windows is on our "must be done" list!

Both birds have been around this week, too. Since these sightings were spread out over three months, I think there must be some source of the fruit and pollens that they need nearby. The hummingbirds remain elusive - instantly leaving the yard if I so much as peek out any door. So I'm trying to entice them closer to the window. A month ago I used twine to make an arch from the crook of a shepherd hook near the fountain up to a large 'S'-shaped hanger attached under the eaves outside the breakfast room window. Then I trained the cypress vine along it - knowing how much those hummingbirds like the little red trumpets. Maybe some day I'll get lucky. And yes... I do know there will be a million cypress vine seedlings next spring. These were some of the million seedlings from this spring!
The Blue Jays pose so often that they're on my blog banner and in this photo from May. But most of the birds I see all day long - sparrows, wrens, housefinches and White-Winged Doves - are so common, and at the same time so jumpy - that I seldom attempt to photograph them.

Iris at Society Garlic once mentioned that she wasn't even sure what a White-winged dove looked like so yesterday I stalked them. They're Baby Huey birds - nervous and clumsy when landing
next to each other and scattering if a leaf falls off a tree. This dove landed on the old bird bath, far enough away from the back door that it let me take a photo. I've read that twenty years ago these White Winged Doves were rather rare birds in the Austin area, found mainly in the Rio Grande Valley. We never saw them around our previous Austin house, less than 2 miles from here, but our present neighborhood is thick with these birds and their cooing call of "Who cooks for you?" Another common bird soars high overhead, too far away for good photographs - My new camera takes such large photos that I can clip that tiny dot and enlarge it into something that's at least recognizable as a vulture.

Cooing is one way that birds talk to each other...twittering is another. Look in the left sidebar and you'll see that I'm trying out Twitter as a way to communicate. It took Hurricane Ike to convince me to join after wavering for months. With Houston area friends in danger, I could read Twitter updates to follow the storm and then felt enormously relieved when bloggers sent messages via Twitter. There was a comfort in that connection! And tweets are faster than making posts if you have a quick thing to say.

The Moonflower vine in the last post got so many compliments that I may have to include a different photo of it every post! FaireFrances has been having fun photographing her moonflowers, too.

This picture is a genuine "point and shoot"... the point of the metal obelisk is 7 and 1/2 feet tall, and I'm about 5' 6". So I couldn't focus and aim...all I could do was hold the camera way over my head and point it at the flower while pressing the shutter button.

Before leaving bird day let's look at this close-up of a Stapelia flower. My collection
comes from one plant given to me by my aunt Phyll long ago. A small descendant of that first plant bloomed in the laundry room this week, pressing its flower against the window as it developed, deforming the edges. I'd hoped the heart of the Starfish Flower would resemble one of the flower Mandalas that Healing Magic Hands finds everywhere. But I'm not sure this heart qualifies as a Mandala ... it looks as if belongs to zoology rather than botany. Am I the only one who instead of feeling centered, had a sudden mental image of Robin Williams?

This post, "A Garden Blogger's Bird Day", was written for my blogspot blog called The Transplantable Rose by Annie in Austin.


  1. Husband Kurt reminds me that we never actually SEE/pay attention to our area's birds, meaning that they'd have to be pretty darned obnoxious for us to really VISUALLY notice them. But we hear many of them.

    So I still don't think I know what Annie's white-winged doves look like in real life.

    I'm just not yet a bird person. I'll try to start paying more attention!

  2. Great bird photos and, yes, they are hard to get with the camera! you seem to have a lovely assortment. I had never seen the white winged dove when I lived in Texas...of course I was raising two small children so I missed a lot.

  3. Hi Annie, nanu nanu? Thanks for the link. Our moonflower is dangling off the deck as the new railing is being built and installed by Gardoctor and The Financier. Slow going when it's family doing the work. They have been warned about harming the moonflower though. Your bird visitors are so lovely, love the halloween colors on the male. I am envious of your new camera, being able to crop to see the vulture is a great feature. I spent lots of time snapping the birds in winter, not now, I guess the flowers grab my attention. The birds are the flowers of the winter.


  4. Gorgeous oriole! I saw a Baltimore oriole for the first time a couple of years ago - the colors are so striking.

    We're nearing the end of hummingbird season here and I still haven't taken a good photo of one. Absolutely, positively must work harder on that next year. At least we can admire Mary's and Robin's photos (and others I'm sure).

    The Stapelia flower looks to me like something constructed from Japanese unryu paper.

  5. Annie, those are two very special visitors you've had in your garden! Thanks for sharing them with us ... I wish a couple of those would make a stop here. Your post reminded me that I need to put the rest of my feeders back up.

  6. I love the bird photos. Your birds entrance me every time I'm sitting at your kitchen table talking.

    But my heart is still with the flowers. Those last two flower photos just blew me away.

  7. I wish I had a place to sit inside and watch birds outside like that. It's fun to see birds you've not seen before!

    And you seem to be having a lot of fun with your new camera. Great moon vine flower shot, and that close up of the Stapelia, I don't know quite what to say about that!

    Carol, May Dreams Gardens

  8. Such a pretty oriole! And great photo! I would love to even see them here but haven't had luck attracting them.

  9. Nice photos! The first bird is a Baltimore Oriole. Notice how the orange is much brighter than the Orchard Oriole. There have been many Baltimore Orioles migrating south through Austin in the past few weeks. I counted 41 in my neighborhood last Sunday. But this weekend I have not seen a single one. You may have seen an Orchard Oriole as well -- they also migrate through Austin and a few spend the summer here.

    I believe the second bird is a female Lesser Goldfinch. From what I can see, the bill does look shorter than an oriole bill. And since both birds were perched in the same spot, you can see how much smaller the goldfinch is.

    If you or anyone is interested in learning birds in the Austin area, my NASWC Top 20 Bird List might be a good place to start.

  10. Happy Bird Day to you,
    Happy Bird Day to you... :)

    Your bird photos are all lovely! You've got some very nice shots. And that photo of the flower at the very bottom...I'd have to frame that one! How unique!

  11. I've never seen an oriole quite like this one before; perfect for Halloween! Good luck on getting a hummingbird photo--Frances called this finding the Holy Grail:) I've managed to get a couple photos, but they weren't that great.
    The Starfish Flower is certainly intriguing; Robin Williams didn't come to mind, but falling into some vortex did:)

  12. Annie it looks as though you have been inspired by your new camera. You have some great shots here. I about cracked up when I read your last statement about Robin Williams. tee hee...

  13. Great shot of a Baltimore oriole, Annie! That fountain was surely worth the cost and effort in order to bring such birds to your window.

    The only time I've seen this bird in the wild was in New Mexico. It was so beautiful with those orange feathers. I can hardly believe, as your commenter Mikael wrote, that Austin was full of them this past week.

  14. Great birds shots and your fountain seems the perfect draw for the birds. I love your moonflower and I think I owe you for the lovely blooms I have on mine. I would not have planted it but for the bloggers!

  15. I also thought that the second bird was a female goldfinch although I would have said American Goldfinch rather than lesser, due to the stripes on her wings. It also could be a juvenile. Typically orioles do not nest as far south as Austin, so I would not think that the later summer visitor to your birdbath was any type of oriole.

    Your stapelia is a mandala. The definition of what a mandala is can be rather nebulous, but in my book anything that is showing circular symmetry is a mandala. In the eastern religions, it is supposed to be a symbolic representation of the Universe. Anyway, your photo is a beautiful mandala showing five sided symmetry and I love it. I love stapelias in general.

  16. That picture does look a bit hairy...LOL

    Great post birds and blooms!

  17. Oh, Annie! I have missed your garden blog. Not only have I not been blogging, I've barely been in the garden this summer. I'm looking forward to spending some time out there this fall. Your photos are wonderful...I especially love the Starfish Flower.

  18. The Baltimore Oriole is gorgeous Even your jays are more colorful than the ones in our garden, I call them scrub jays because they have more grey.

  19. Annie,

    I like your clever way to bring your illusive hummingbird in for a closer look. Sometimes we can outsmart nature. Wow, the inside of your flower looks like some exotic hairy jellyfish or other undersea creature. Is this a shot from the new camera?

    I have been watching the birds at the watering 'hole'...wonderfully entertaining creatures.


  20. Hi Iris - if you notice obnoxious birds, you must have grackles! Learning basic birds was part of the 6th grade curriculum when I was a kid.

    Thanks, Tabor - your flood story made me realize that you once lived in Texas.

    Ha! Frances, a flower named Mork! I even remember Robin on Fernwood Tonight. Robin? Guess he does belong on the bird post ;-]
    May your moonflower vine bloom for many moons!

    Hi Entangled - it's not a bird I expected to see here, so having one visit the fountain more than a dozen times was pretty exciting.
    Mary & Robin are phenomenal bird photographers! But I had to look up unryu paper.

    It's a thrill to be able to share, Cindy. I leave seed heads and berries on and give them water, but don't have any feeders.

    The dining room has been neglected since we put that fountain a few feet from the kitchen... the birds are the magnet, MSS of Zanthan.
    Thank you for liking the flower photos, too.

    The Stapelia is almost PG13, isn't it, Carol?
    For nearsighted people, something that gets the birds close is wonderful.

    Thanks, Tina - sure wish I knew what they like here so we can make sure to keep doing it!

    Thank you for coming over, Mikael Behrens - and for the ID. We've been seeing similar birds off and on for over 3 months... wonder what they're eating? I'll keep hoping for more photo chances.

    Very cute, Nancy Bond - hope you see lots of interesting birds where you live, too.

    It does look like a Halloween decoration, Prairie Rose - and I'll keep searching for the grail!

    I'm glad you got my joke, Lisa of Greenbow - it's such a hairy flower! It's not a big-bucks camera, but I am having fun.

    We'd like it even without the birds, Pam from Digging, but they were part of the reason we put it in front of the window.

    Mikael's part of Austin has a combination of deep forest, open areas and water - sounds like a birder's paradise, doesn't it?

    Layanee, our simple bird bath got a lot of bird action so we weren't too surprised. I'm glad your moon flower vine is blooming, too ;-]

    We've seen both kind of Male goldfinches here, Healing Magic Hands, so females and young ones seem possible.
    Austin birding sites report orioles off and on. There are a lot of fruit trees in the backyards of my neighborhoods - we've seen figs, peaches and pineapple guavas peeking over the tops of privacy fences. These little fruit-eaters may have noticed them too.
    Thanks for the positive statement on the mandala.

    Did you think of Popeye arms,Gloria?

    It sure has been a long time, Gardenmomma Chris! I hope we'll see some posts and that you're doing okay.

    A friend in Dripping Springs sees different days from these Blue Jays, Lancashire Jenny - think she sees both Scrub jays and the uncrested Stellar Jays... but are they all noisy?

    So far the hummingbirds come to it, Gail, but when the sun shines at the window so I still can't get the dang photo! But I'm having fun with the new camera - it took the stapelia, too.

    Thanks for all the comments - hope you see beautiful birds wherever you live!


  21. Annie, the first bird is one I've been yearning for but I'm not on its migration path! My home town Baltimore Oriole! The second bird looks like a finch to me, but without getting my guide, it might be a Lesser GF.

    "They're Baby Huey birds - nervous and clumsy when landing next to each other and scattering if a leaf falls off a tree." LOL! You made me cackle on that one...I have Mourning Doves that behave in the same manner. Clumsy and scare easily :o)

    Your camera is doing a fantastic job. Birds in flight are still very difficult for me but you did great!

    Your gardens are bird and butterfly magnets. I hope the hummers get more acquainted with you next season!


  22. Hi Annie,
    I am jealous of you finding a Baltimore Oriole in your yard. We have a cardinal couple who come around lately, but the rest are whitewings and grackles. Not bad, but not very exciting. We get blue jays, too sometimes.
    Love your photos, and your writings about the photos.
    Best regards,
    Mike Z
    PS In My Photographic Memories I have some images of a mural in Midland TX. Let me know what you think.

  23. Wonderful bird shots. And the moonflower is great- but you must have shot it early in the morning to have it be so open in daylight.

  24. All of your photos are lovely, Annie, but that shot of the Starfish flower, Wow! According to Carl Jung, the mandala is a symbol of self-reunification. I would say it's representative of your integrity.

  25. Great pictures of the Oriole Annie. It reminded me that I bought my first house because of an Oriole. While looking at the old house with the realtor an Oriole landed in a bush next to me and followed us all around the yard, not afraid in the least bit. Although we liked the house any way I took it as a good sign and closed the next day. I never saw the Oriole again.

  26. That Orchard Oriole! What a treat. I've never seen one 'in the flesh'. And that's a wonderful image of the Stapelia flower - how intricate. I would have never guessed what it is, so what an interesting surprise it was!

  27. Those white winged doves look a lot like the turtle doves we have over here. Very sweet and gentle creatures. Love those Blue Jays, they may be common but they are really pretty. Vutures we don't have, well, not the bird kind anyway. ;-)

    I hope your cunning plan to photograph the hummingbirds will work!

  28. Lucky you, Annie, to have a Baltimore Oriole for a month! Did you hear that wonderful loud song? Our visitor in the spring stayed for about a month, then nested over by the river I think. We heard one in a tree while walking over there. The female is a lighter shade of orange.
    Love those blue jays :)
    Our hummingbirds have left but we heard the distinct buzz of one last night while we were putting the containers under cover in the garage. One passing through probably.
    We had a hard frost last night and frosty pumkins this morning!
    Love that moonflower shot! And the one of the Stapelia flower is amazing.
    Your cypress vine looks pretty climbing above the path. Hope you're enjoying the cooler fall weather.

  29. Mary - hope you get an Oriole in your viewfinder- that will be a wonderful photo!

    The hummingbirds started showing up within weeks after I moved in with pots of salvias and cypress vine - so even if I can't photograph them, they like me!

    Hi Michael Ziegler - a lot of my plants are food & nectar sources and it seems to pull in quite a few birds - but the majority are whitewings and jays.
    Your photos are great - and take me to places I might never see in person.

    Thank you Bonnie - actually - it I took that moonflower photo in very late afternoon - just opening.

    The whole mandala thing is new to me Walk2Write - thank you for liking the photo and expanding on what it means.

    Hi Bob at Draco - what a fun story! I've heard chickadees on moving day at three of our houses, and like you - took it as a good sign. Well, it was at least a sign that there were chickadees!

    Pam in SC, seeing the bird over and over with no ID or way to photograph it really bugged me. If I were really centered like the Starfish flower, maybe I could have rejoiced in its presence without the need to quantify or capture!

    Some parts of Austin have native Mourning Doves, too, Yolanda Elizabet, and they're more like Turtle Doves, I think.
    I've seen hummingbirds on the cypress vine, but they come when the sun shines directly in the window where I hide - still no photos!

    Kerri, if I heard it, I didn't recognize it. Maybe he couldn't be heard over the Blue Jays, Whitewings, wrens, grackles and mockingbird!

    We cooled off into the fifties last night, with 80's predicted for today- much cooler!

    Thank you all!


  30. what fabulous bird photos! looks like you have lots of ways to give them water, which they clearly love.


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