Backyard Adventures

Courtyard Chickadees


We moved into our new home in July 2013 and our courtyard remained a sand pit til the late fall. Susannah Davis of Davis Land Design in Marion designed the courtyard and it was worth waiting for. We had definite ideas of what we wanted including a small pond, a fireplace, and butterfly and bird attracting plants and shrubs. Susannah and her team were able to achieve them all. We took one of our bird houses from our Lakeville backyard and placed it in the courtyard. It was like one of those “build it and they will come” miracles. The chickadees appeared around May 10th and together, Dick and I watched them make their new home, just as we had.


In Dick’s last weeks of life I tried to get him out in the courtyard as much as possible so he could observe the birds, each new bud and flower and hear the trickle of the waterfall. When he couldn’t go out he  still enjoyed it’s beauty from inside.




Susannah surprised us with many flowering bulbs which greeted us with glorious colors each morning. Dick thoroughly enjoyed watching me do some planting and taking photographs in the garden.


The chickadee babies were born about 6 weeks after Dick died. The adult female must have laid her eggs around June 21st. They incubate their eggs for about 2 weeks and I noticed the adult birds flying into and out of the birdhouse on a frequent basis starting on July 5th. They usually carried an assortment of goodies for the nestlings which you can see below


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During this time I fell and broke a bone in my right foot which meant no driving and wearing an air boot for 6 weeks. So I settled in to photograph the birds and I enjoyed every minute. The first photo shows where the birdhouse is situated. You can see the entrance and pathway to the courtyard. The birds regular routine included landing on the tree outside the arbor(where our other birdhouse hangs) , then hanging out on the tree right next to the birdhouse before flying into the house. They were very loud with their regular rendition of  ” dee dee dee dee”.


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The dowel that stood out below the entrance to the bird house must have fallen out in transit when we moved. Our friend Larry Lynch whittled a pencil down to size which was the perfect addition and gave me a much better opportunity to photograph the birds as they alighted on the perch before entering the birdhouse.


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The babies should have been ready to fledge about 2 weeks after hatching which would have been July 20th. I was not able to spend much time out in the courtyard around that time. On July 18th I found one of the babies dead on the ground of the courtyard and another by the fence a few days later. The last day I saw any activity at the birdhouse was on July 20th. I read that the male, female and juveniles all look pretty much the same but I believe these photos taken on that day are of the fledglings.



I started photographing the birds by using my camera hand held. I hadn’t used my tripod in so long that I could not locate it in the new house. I wasn’t getting very good results and I remembered how Dick always set up the tripod in our Lakeville backyard to capture the birds. So I set up his tripod, used his Sony A77 camera, and used a special lens which he got from our daughter and son-in-law on Father’s Day after he became ill. It is a Minolta AF 500 mm Reflex lens. Dick had researched this lens which is no longer made and had requested it. It is the only production mirror lens designed to auto focus with an SLR camera. The aperture is fixed at f8. It uses a mirror design similar to a telescope. I think Dick must have anticipated that I would be needing it to photograph the birds! I know he would be proud of me for using his lens.



My daughter Samantha and the grandchildren were visiting while the chickadees were feeding their young. The next day they surprised me with this birdhouse which mounts on the window and is clear on the inside! So next year I will hopefully be able to share the inside story as well!

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