Backyard Nature Hunt: Photographing the Beauty of Nature in Your Own Backyard
Backyward Nature Hunting with My Dog and My Camera
I love nothing more than being outdoors listening to the chatter of crows and taking in a breath of pine.
My arthritis prevents me from going on hikes in the mountains that I love. But that doesn't mean I have to do without nature. These days I do my nature hunting with my dog, Misha, in our backyard.
It seems the more I'm outside in the yard, the more interesting things I find. Or, perhaps, it's the more time I spend outside the more interesting things become. Nature is incredible. I can't help but be awed by the never ending cycle. I love the insects that meander my way. I love the blooming flowers, but I also like what is left behind like the star shape that lingers after a rose has died. It's all in the way you look at things and I choose to appreciate it all. Okay, I'm not so thrilled with the California Jumping Spiders that appeared this year or the millions of ants that seem to be everywhere, but those are the exceptions.
So, let me share some of the adventure that my dog and I have had in the yard. You never realized how much there is to explore until you go looking!
Sunrise Over the Back Fence
I'm rarely up early enough to catch a sunrise. One morning, my dog woke me up far too early. As we stepped into the backyard, the morning sky was breathtakingly gorgeous.I had the sense to go back to get my camera. This is one of the shots that I got.
A Young House Sparrow Falls Out of Its Nest
Exploring the Backyard
Do you check out the signs of nature in your own backyard?
One spring, a young house sparrow fell out of it's nest and took up residence in the tarps on the side of our house. Each day for two weeks this little guy ventured out for feeding time with Mama. They'd perch themselves on a ladder for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Each morning I scouted the yard to be sure that the baby bird had made it through the night.
My dog wasn't happy, but I kept her on leash whenever she was in the yard. I wasn't sure if I could trust her and I didn't want to take any chances.
Then a couple of weeks later, I saw our little friend roaming around the yard. He lifted off, flying over a small gate and up to a fence. And, then he was gone. I sure hope he made it!
Name that Bug!
You are sure to come across different insects while you are exploring your yard. This handy guide helps you identify them. It is beautifully illustrated to help you figure out what kind of bug you've got.
Not all of them will be creepy. Some will be pretty cool.
Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better. --Albert Einstein
Lovely Little Pine Cone
We've got a couple small pine trees in the yard. I love to get up close and smell the pine needles. It reminds me of camping in the Sierra-Nevadas.
The trees go through many phases. In late autumn, the pine cones begin to appear. In several weeks, the tree will be full of them.
A Praying Mantis Stops By
I had never seen a praying mantis before up close and personal--at least that I remember. Then one afternoon, this strange looking dude was standing up on the dog house. It was much larger than I expected and a rich green shade. It looked like a little space alien. Later in the day, it vanished without a trace.
A few months later, there was a brown one in the yard. I suspect people have bought them to control insects in their yards and they get away from their properties.
What humbugs we are, who pretend to live for Beauty, and never see the Dawn!--Logan Pearsall Smith
A Beautiful Rose
In mid-August, little buds began appearing at the end of branches on the rose bush against the fence. This bush can produce fifty or more buds at once. Then, this beautiful pinkish white rose bloomed.
Depending on the year, this bush can bloom well into November. In a warm drought year, the bush will be full of flowers into winter.
I find flowers amazing, don't you? Roses have their own beauty when they are blooming as as they fade away.
Butterfly or Moth?
I actually think this beautiful bug is a skipper, but I don't know what kind. It looks a little like an umber skipper, but I can't be sure. I believe it posed for this shot.
Do butterflies and skippers interest you? You should read about how I saved a skipper from being trampled by the dogs one day.
A Rainbow After An Autumn Storm
One afternoon the sun filtered through the front windows as a light rain tapped against the roof. I looked outside and caught this double rainbow over the back fence. I don't know what it is about rainbows, but they seem magical every time I see one. I haven't found my pot of gold yet.
Dragonhunter Rests on a Leaf
I found this dragonhunter, part of the gomphidae family, out back. It was there for over an hour. I wonder if it needed a rest after a long flight.
Nature surrounds us...
...we just have open our eyes to see it.
Hydrangea Flowers at the End of Summer
Some hydrangea flowers fell to the ground and mixed with the green leaves of another plant. I liked the contrast between the living leaves and the flowers that had seen better days.
We have three different types of hydrangeas growing in our yard. These dead flowers are from the Oakleaf Hydrangea.
What Do We Have Here?
To sit in the shade on a fine day and look upon verdure is the most perfect refreshment.--J. Austen
I live near a small nature park. There are skunks, raccoons, opossums, tiny snakes, lizards, and many varieties of birds around here. And, yes, squirrels. Lots of squirrels!
The squirrels are a riot especially during mating season. Several squirrels will go in hot pursuit of a lone female who is having none of it! They'll chase her everywhere until she's too worn out to flee.
The squirrels love to use our yard to hide their stash. My Mom lifted one of her ceramic garden ducks a while back only to find two peanuts underneath. Last week, we found a medium size fruit in our potted Azalea plant.
The funniest episode involving squirrels happened in September. We heard a bunch of rustling noise in the yard and went to the window to check it out. A poor squirrel had hidden its stash in our yard and couldn't find it. It was going from pot to planter digging up tan bark and rocks. I think it left empty handed.
Tree with Late Autumn leaves
Early in December the maple tree in the backyard is looking a bit bedraggled. But aren't those autumn colors amazing? It's a good thing I took this shot when I did. A week later every single leaf had blown off in a storm leaving behind a pathetic looking tree.
What Am I?
I almost stepped on this little guy one night while taking the dog out for her last potty stop. He stuck around for his photo and then disappeared into the rocks. I haven't seen him since. I have no idea what "he" is.
As of Autumn 2012, we now have several of these in the yard. Just this weekend I found three laying out on the patio in the pouring rain. They were within 6 inches of each other. Evidently, we've got something in the yard that they like. I don't know where they go during the day time. They sure are cute.
What Is This Mysterious Stranger?
Whose That Knocking At My Door?
One day I heard a disturbing sound which I thought was coming from the heater. Oh brother! Something else breaking down.
It continued so I decided to look out the front window. To my surprise, there was a mallard standing on the sidewalk. I went outside to snap some shots. His mate was up on the roof and they were quaking at each other. After 15-20 minutes they flew off.
Every Spring mating ducks make their way around the neighborhood. I imagine they are looking for prime nesting grounds. I wonder if they were checking out our roof?
I got one really good shot. The head coloring is a trick of the light. The head feathers were really green.
Adopt the pace of nature: her secret is patience.--Ralph Waldo Emerson
...And Here's the Happy Couple the Next Day
A beautiful hardbound book for noting your nature observations.
Do You Keep a Wildlife Diary?
In 2005, I started keeping a wildlife diary on the enature.com website. You can set up a personal wildlife list for keeping track of your sightings. The diary is linked to a database of many different species. You search for the creature you've seen, then you can add notes about your experience. My wildlife list now contains 30 different creatures that I've found in my neighborhood.
If you'd like to start your own diary and wildlife, check out the eNature Personal Wildlife Lists.
Or, you might like to have a journal handy while you're out and about. One of the things I like to do is keep notes about the critters and plants I've found. A nature journal is a great place to keep your observations. It's fun to look back over the things you have seen...and you have seen many!
A Winter Sunset On A Cool Sunny Day
Throughout most of December we were besieged with one rainstorm after another. Since the sky turned dark by 5:15 pm, I had very few options to see the sunset. One afternoon was clear but chilly. This was the sight over the front gate just before dinner.
I've told you about some of the creatures and sights I've encountered in my backyard. Tell me about some of the natural sights you've found in yours.