Wildlife encounters in the garden



Zoos just don’t do it for me – all those bars.  But in my garden I’m thrilled by the commonest critters.  Like the hummingbirds that have finally found my feeder. And the goldfinches that are all over the seed heads of my purple coneflowers.  To me, this is exciting stuff.

Then over the weekend I visited a somewhat larger garden (200 acres) and could NOT stop watching these horses, or touching them. 

Of course the most hated garden critter in suburbia nowadays is probably the common deer, and I too utter unprintable curses  when I see my chomped-on hostas.  And if they ever touch my oakleaf hydrangea I’ll be tempted to join the NRA. 


But still, if I happened upon this friendly deer while walking my dogs, I’d respond just like this guy.

If gardening were just about tending plants I might actually enjoy houseplants.  But it’s about growing plants outdoors in nature, where I can hear buzzing and humming and those cool sounds the cicadas are making, and where I can watch animals go about their daily lives.  Sure I love my indoor cats, pudgy little beggars that they are, but they’re not exactly creatures of nature.

So readers, what wildlife encounters make YOUR day?

Goldfinch photo


  1. The best this year was a male goldfinch landing on a brilliant ‘Orange Queen’ trollius right outside our kitchen window–he was balanced on it for about a minute, picking at the stamens. The contrast in color was stunning!

  2. Here in Napa, it’s not unusual to find ‘burbs next to vineyards, however, my neighborhood is next to a hilly wooded area for which the locals have fought hard to keep out development. I can look up on the hill to see the turkeys. The California quail come into my garden to eat & drink. This year they hid their newly hatched chicks underneath the low-hanging branches of my huge hydrangea, while papa quail sounded the alarm from the roof. Towhees nested in my back yard, and brought the newly fledged babes to the front garden where they hung out around the birdbath. A few nights ago a skunk made its presence pungently known, and sometimes I see them waddling around the garden. For years I’ve had opossums, which sometimes wake me at night during mating season running across the fence to the roof. One dark night a few years ago I saw what looked like a baby bear bounding away from the cat food. Then it stopped to look back at me; it was actually a very chubby raccoon which was missing its tail.
    One of the more exciting wildlife encounters involved a hawk which dove into my camphor tree talons first and scattered a small flock of birds hiding there.
    My cat, now retired from hunting (thank goodness) deposited his most ambitious kill under my dining room window: an American kestrel.
    Of course, I get numerous species of our native bees, and I’m happy to report that European honeybees are all over my salvias, catmints, agastaches, buckwheat, and teucrium. Some mornings I walk out into the garden to find sleeping bumblebees, fat & in a nectar coma from the previous evening, dangling from the lavender.
    Lately, the hummers have been in beak sword fights over the epilobium and agastache. They even try to shoo me away if I linger too long near their favorite nectar sources.

  3. This year it was:

    Actually capturing my resident hummingbird taking a bath in my bamboo spigot waterfeature and meeting Tuffy the cat as she sunbathed in her birdhouse kitty palace. (You can read about both of these at gardenhelp.org)

    Probably there were others, but those really come to mind. Seeing the rats eating my neighbors apples certainly bums me out and keeps me from filling bird feeders anymore. Blech!

  4. My dad’s nesting barn owls are pretty cool as were the kingfishers we sometimes saw and in Singapore ntohing beat going out into the garden after a heavy rain and enjoying the frog chorus but since moving to the caribbean its going to take a lot to top watching flamingos from my balcony.

    Most hated = peafowl, awesome to look at but I never see them just here them early in the am.

  5. The Great Blue Heron that landed on my pond this summer and calmly hung around for days. Spectacular bird.

  6. I love my backyard for the visitors it attracts. My personal favourite are the bunnies. We live in harmony: they leave my garden plants alone and I don’t use chemicals on the lawn so that they have lots of delicious and healthy dandelions all summer long. It’s a good day when a bunny visits.

    I also love the birds that swoop in and out of the feeder. The different species all have distinct personalities – Mr and Mrs Cardinal often dine together; the chickadees swoop in, take a seed, and leave; the goldfinches seem to lounge on the feeder, but go to town on the beet leaves (never enough damage to worry about).

    In the winter I participate in Project FeederWatch
    (http://www.birds.cornell.edu/pfw/) which is a great way to enjoy the yard when it is under multiple feet of snow.

  7. I live in the country so my wildlife watching is constant and too many mention. However, it could be the bluebirds in the birdbath and water flying everywhere – privacy is not an issue for them; the pileated woodpeckers who rock the suet feeder when they land on it and then scrap their beaks on the roof, after they have dined; momma doe and her twins at 5:30am as I leave for work; an amazing amount of bees all summer in the garden, we lived in harmony together; and the flitting hummingbird, unfortunately quite rare this summer. Maybe the wet cold spring kept them farther south. Or it could be, well I could go on forever about the amazing sights. One more was stopping along the road and watching the bald eagle in the dead tree, just hanging out. Awesome!

  8. I’m a sucker for the butterfly larvae. I get Monarchs and Black Swallowtails and my garden is much wilder than it should be in deference to them. Today I found a Black Swallowtail larvae on a carrot top and I carefully moved it to some parsley so I could bring the carrot inside. I may want that parsley tomorrow though.

  9. I’m the Operations Manager at a small botanic garden. I had so many wild life encounters this year and they all make my day. There was a beaver that needed relocating, mama skunk and her babies in our Native Garden, squirrels in our Cactus Garden, A blue heron fishing in the pond and deer enjoying the fruits of our International Garden. A turtle decided our pond was the perfect place to call home. Plus, all the dragon flies, bees and butterflies we have buzzing all around. The red wing black birds were great this year as were the hummingbirds. We even had a mama duck make a nest by our pond.

  10. You don’t get these in your yard every day, but they were fun to watch and they grew up quickly and disappeared. They had a great time chasing lizards and rolling in the lantana.


    Had a batch of six more last spring (08) but they seemed to disappear from the neighborhood as soon as they left the den.

    And you just haven’t gardened until you’re forced to protect your potted plants and vegetable garden from javelina. Hungry beasts with very large teeth and poor eyesight.

  11. Some of the visitors to my urban garden pose a continuing challenge as we all try to live together and respect each other. Every night raccoons tear up everything they can dig into or climb on — including the roof where they’ve done thousands of dollars of damage on the occasions they’ve broken in to have babies. Other daily visitors? Groundhogs, rabbits, opossums, squirrels, chipmunks (last year I planted sunflower seeds three times and they got ‘em every time), and — one Annus horribilis –- rats that came up from the nearby river and tried to make a home in the compost pile and then tried to get into the house -– so I can’t have bird feeders anymore because the sunflower debris attracted them.

    Garter snakes are welcome but sometimes need to be rescued from a cat that gets monitored time outside but thinks baby snakes are the world’s best cat toy. Despite shady conditions, I planted a bed for bees this year and had some success, but mostly they like the clover I’m encouraging in the lawn. There are still lots of birds and bats and worms and all kinds of insects, whose songs give every evening a wonderful symphony of sounds. It’s good here.

  12. On a daily basis it’s the hummers at the flowers and feeder, the birds at the other feeder, and the anoles hanging around my rock wall. This year one of the most exciting encounters was seeing an inmmature Cooper’s hawk swoop down and grab one of the juncos under the bird feeder and then eat it up in my trees (felt sorry for the bird but it was certainly interesting!).

  13. Here’s my funniest:
    One time my doorbell rang and I opened the front door. No one was there but I looked down and a praying mantis was on his hind legs on the door jam, waving his arms. It was cute, weird, and rather hilarious.

    We were accustomed to kids ringing the doorbell and running away but never before or again have I had such a lovely visitor to greet me.

  14. There is a common yellow throat…
    that appears in our garden each migrating season.
    I have followed it around the garden trying for a good picture to no avail. It never seems afraid and does not fly off but skitters under some plant just as I am about to take the picture. This bird enjoys messing with me.
    I have many poor pictures that you can make out the yellow and the black bandit-like mask on the male, so I know that it truely is a yellow throat.
    Crickets,fireflies,dragonflies, bees,spiders, the garden is always an interesting place to hang out.

  15. Not the !%*&-ing deer. I love the lizards, the fat bumblebees who pose so nicely, the birds singing for a mate in spring, even the blasted baby bunnies. Everything, but the deer. Cute post, Susan especially the part about possibly joining the NRA.~~Dee

  16. Gardening with and for wildlife is fabulous – deer (yup, we get along just fine)and wild turkeys are favorites. Once must-to’s calm, will post pics and how-to’s.

  17. It didn’t make my day. It just happened yesterday. Across the road a two month calve had died. On my way home from work I looked over at it and a coyote was staring back at me. A turkey vulture was flying over head unable to compete. My husband, the hunter hadn’t even noticed though he drove by it minutes before me.
    I knew I’d make his day and would never had told him when I was younger. It was an easy shot. Mama cow came running over stomping on the coyote. I couldn’t look. Dear one happily described everything to me. The owners of the calve, named Donkey Ears, said it had problems since birth. The neighbors are happy since there is one less coyote.
    They both got scooped up in a tractor bucket this morning.
    Life in the country. Someone said “Nature is red in tooth and claw”.

  18. Last year: a Great Egret stalking around my (high and dry) yard, eating lizards and hummingbirds.

    Last week: a fork-tailed flycatcher (Tyrannus savana), native to Central and South America and accidental in the U.S.

    Every day: hummingbird wars!

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