National Wildlife Magazine photo contest

Yep, I entered some of my photos in the National Wildlife Contest.

I was allowed 10 entries. The magazine will judge all the photos in various categories but there is also a People’s Choice Award (aka popularity contest) and if you have been enjoying my wildlife photos, I hope you will go take a look and vote for some of my photos. You can vote for all or some. Please check them out here.

You can vote every day (and I hope you will)

Thank you!

Greeting cards now available

If you’ve been enjoying the nature photographs I’ve been posting you might be interested in the fact that I now have custom made greeting cards available featuring many of my popular photographs.

Check out the gallery and see if some of your favorites are available. I also added a link to the top menu bar on the site.

March logs were skipped, alas, but it showed the garden waking up from the mild winter we had.

Now, everything is fully leafed out and I can see what needs to be trimmed, some plants to be moved.

Bulbs are coming up.

We’ve had a week of rain here in mid-April and it has beaten up a great many of the blooms.

Carpenter bees, male and female and busy at the Golden abundance in the front yard and the Ray Hartman ceanothus in the backyard.

Honey bees are there too.

Ladybugs have found the wooly aphids in the lupine patch. There’s a couple of batches of tiny yellow eggs. Since the aphids on the lupines are wooly aphids

and I “think” wooly aphids lay gray eggs, I’m hoping these are more ladybugs. Will check soon to see if I have larve.

Soldier beetles in the lupines and on the verbena.

A few flies or bees I can’t identify.

Sparrows, possibly gold crowned sparrows, in the backyard.

Chickadees and Juncos are still around, as are the doves.

Biggest wildlife news is that an Anna’s hummingbird has built a nest in a toyon bush in the backyard. She will have her own blog series.

Lily FAQ


I’ll try to put answers to the questions I get most often here. If you have a question, please feel free to leave a comment and I’ll add it to the master list.


Where is the nest?

The nest is in my backyard, in San Jose, California. It is nestled in a small Toyon bush against the back fence. The bush is about 6 feet tall and the nest is at about 5 feet, which makes it just about eye level for me.


What kind of camera do you use?

I’m a new photographer. I use a Nikon P500 with a 36X zoom. Most of the time I shoot hand-held though I am learning to use a tripod too.


How do you get so many great shots?

A couple of things. One, I work at home so I can go in and out of the yard several times a day. That gives me a lot of chances to get lucky. I’ve been observing Lily for a while that I know a few of her habits. I know how close I can go with the camera or with the tripod. I know not to cross in front of the nest or she flies off so instead I back away, very slowly. When I go out and she is off the nest, I know I can then squeeze between the bus and the fence and get a closer look at the nest. I know her sound when she is coming back and I can move out of the way. I know what tree she goes to first when she leaves the nest and that she will groom for a while there before taking off.

Most of the time I shoot in continuous mode so I have a better chance of getting a couple of good shots.

I NEVER take things up close for a comparison when Lily is on the nest. I have things in my hand when I go outside and wait a distance away until she leaves the nest. When she leaves, I go in and get as many shots as I can. She starts making sounds as she is approaching the yard which gives me enough time to get back on the path and leave her lots of room.

I NEVER shoo her out of the nest so I can take pictures. I have lots of time to just hangout and watch my yard until she leaves. If she doesn’t leave when I’m there, I just go back in the house and try again later.

She and I figured out the first day how close she was willing to let me go when she was in the nest and I respect that and don’t go any closer. The zoom on the camera helps a lot.


Do you touch the nest?

I never touch the nest with my hand, the camera, or anything else.


What do you feed her?

I do not have any hummingbird feeders in the yard, nor any seed feeders for seed eating birds. I normally have 4 or 5 hummingbirds visiting the yard a few times a day, early morning and dusk. They come for the native flowers and they came to take a bath on the bubbling water rocks.


Some of those leaves are in the way or making the pictures ugly, why don’t you cut them?

I have not altered any of the bushes in my yard in order to get these pictures. It makes photographing things a bit more difficult and yes, sometimes the photos have ugly yellow leaves in them, but it means Lily picked a good hiding place for her nest. We have crows and the occasional hawk visit our yard and they would love to get her eggs or babies.


Can I use your photos for my own hummingbird project or book report?

Please contact me for any requests to use my photographs in any way.


Will you be writing a book about Lily?

I will be doing some kind of a creative project about Lily. I’m still figuring out what at the moment.


Please leave any further questions in the comments and I’ll add them to this list as I answer them.

Redbud is blooming.

The lupine patch is full and purple.

Golden Abundance is full of yellow flowers.

A few blue dicks (bulbs) are blooming.

Poppiness – Because Poppies Always Make Me Smile

Those of you who follow my writing life have heard me talk about my garden of California native plants and maybe you’ve seen some photos of the critters who have come to visit after we ripped out the lawn and installed a native garden devoted, mostly, to encouraging wildlife to visit our yard. I love to talk to people about how they can make a difference, even if all they have is a small plot of sterile land in the middle of the city. You’d be surprised at what a difference you can make.

I decided to put all my gardening thoughts and photos in one place and the result is what you see here, Poppiness, because poppies always make me smile.

I’ve tried to post about the basic steps we went through but please feel free to ask me any questions or for more details. I can promise I’ll be adding more photos along the way. It’s almost spring and the garden should be fabulous in bloom!

Please, poke around the nooks and crannies. I’m still getting settled so let me know if something doesn’t work the way you expect it to.


Noticed today that the hazelnut is budding up.

The milkweeds planted this fall are not doing well and I’m not sure why. Will have to try again next fall.

Spicebush is starting to bud.

Redbud is swelling.

Many bulbs are coming up.

Japanese maple is just starting to bud where it hits the sun.

The Sambucus is completely leafed out.

The redtwig dogwoods are just starting to swell.

In the wetlands, the lobelia and potentilla are up.

So is the bleeding heart.

The scraps of pennywort I tossed in the water features and bird bath are doing well.


Ray Hartmen ceanothus is blooming nicely now.

Twinberry is blooming.

Oregon grape, golden abundance, is awash in yellow blossom.

Ribes sanguineum glutinosum ‘Claremont’ is filled with pink flowers.

A single viola is blooming in the backyard.

Pipevine is blooming on one arbor and on the Japanese maple.


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Unless otherwise stated, all text and photos have been created by and are the sole copyright of Susan Taylor Brown.