One mile over. It wasn’t a far move by any means. We simply wanted to see trees when we looked through our windows in lieu of the backs of other people’s homes that had always been our norm. I wanted to be able to sit on my back patio in all of my ratty pajama glory on weekend mornings without fear of potentially needing to execute that embarrassing and not-so-subtle arms across the chest wave at a neighbor standing by the fence ten feet over. So we relocated our nerdy crew with these lofty goals in mind. Although we moved with the expectations of a little more privacy and a lot more greenery, we had no clue that this short hop down the road would be like entering a new country altogether. Over a year has passed, yet our family life continues to be shaped dramatically by that small change of scenery.
We have always had an affinity for wildlife, and birds have landed solidly at the top of our critter love list for as long as I can remember. Nevertheless, in the past, I never would have referred to myself as a birder. I didn’t have any beef with the term. I simply didn’t know that it was even a thing. Now I find myself up to my neck in this dorky feathered rabbit hole, and I claim the title with blush-worthy pride. However pre-move, my bird knowledge was razor thin (not that I knew that this was the case).
I had always placed feeders in our yards at various previous homes in vain attempts to try to allure them us, but our results were craptastic over and over again. We did land a few random grackles, scores of other blackbirds, a mockingbird here and there, and a pair of ducks that I still maintain were just messing with me based on their penchant for standing precariously on the undersized feeder. Try as I might, I just couldn’t get any other cool feathered visitors to the yard. In hindsight, I had solid intentions, but I was going about it the wrong way.
Now this may floor you, but apparently birds actually have a major Jones for patches of trees. Shocker. I mean who could have known this, right??? But seriously – they do. As a further stunning reveal to this tale, they dig a variety of trees and not just the ridiculous cookie-cutter pair of live oak tree sticks that continue to be planted by all builders in every frickin’ yard in a two hundred mile radius around us. Diversity is a legit tact to take. It’s nature’s approach for a reason.
Right out of the gate we noticed more bird activity in our yard than wehad ever seen before. The real kicker was when we also noticed several types of animal tracks in the mud in a small patch of mud in our yard, too. Given that we had paid a fat premium to have our entire fence lined with chicken wire to prevent such unexpected visitors, we had mixed feelings about those finds. Regardless the paw prints we abundant so there was only one logical step to take next.
Game cam central baby.
Yes, we purchased a Cheapie McCheaperson game camera from Amazon and set up that bad boy in our yard. After only two days into the stakeout, we were able to confirm that our yard after dark could be deemed a viable contender for any random backyard National Geographic series. There were multiple species of foxes, families of raccoons, innumerable possums, skunks (no thank you!), and a sketchy beast that I still claim was either a nutria rat or chupacabra (despite extensive eyerolls and strong denials from the rest of my house people whom I will also sometimes refer to as “my family”).
We were stunned. We had no clue that we were smack dab in the middle of Wild Kingdom nor did we know that some of these animals were even around our area of Texas. And if that was what was happening at night, we couldn’t help but wander what interesting wildlife we might be missing during the day. We started to pay more attention to those beautiful trees and the ground around them. We opened our eyes further to try to look deeper into this mysterious natural world that we were just starting to see in earnest for the first time.
Within days we were treated to a sighting of the coolest impossible bird one would never expect to see anywhere outside of a children’s book. We didn’t even know that they existed, and we had no idea that such beauty could be found in our area. We saw the impossibly lovely painted bunting, and it was akin to receiving a heaping dose of glorious magic right into our hearts.
Seeing that one little bird was like taking the red pill in “The Matrix.” The reality that we had known up to that moment looked one way, but seeing that rainbow-colored miracle revealed a completely different world to us.
Since that time about a year ago, my middle-school aged daughter and I have documented more than a hundred species of birds in our yard alone. We have become serious birdnerds in training, photography fanatics, nature educators, and bird food connoisseurs. Few things bring us embarrassingly nerdy joy quite like seeing a new species visiting our feeders, but we also adore traveling whenever possible so we can learn about alternate birds found anywhere else we can visit
Our goal is to help others to see the hidden beauty that is always waiting to be found in this incredible natural world that surrounds us all. We believe that small individual changes for the positive can gain tremendous momentum, and we know without question that hope holds immeasurable power. We may not be able to convert everyone to fully-fledged birdnerds, but if we can inspire a few small steps that give nature a helping hand or even just bring a smile to someone’s face, that’s enough for us.
Best wishes to you and good birding to all.
Jo Price ❤️
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