Backyard Visitors

Drew and I started moving into our first home together in November 2015. Although it’s located in the city of Madison on the west side in a populated area, it is in a quiet neighborhood with many large, established trees. We knew right away that there would be tons of squirrels around, but as the months go by we are realizing how much more wildlife is right in our backyard. I’ll be using this blog post as a timeline of sorts, keeping track of the neat visitors we have in our neighborhood. (I’ll spare you my nostalgia for Ranger Rick.)

April 12, 2021

Tufted Titmouse is back!

January 11, 2021

Tufted Titmouse

January 4, 2021

Frost, Cardinals, and Chickadee

October 28, 2020


September 26, 2020


We found a hole near our deck this summer, and it didn’t take us long to figure out a woodchuck had tunneled underneath and was getting quite chunky. We haven’t seen it in awhile…so hopefully that’s because it left and hasn’t dug under our foundation…

September 18, 2020


After we had my parents over for an outdoor fish fry and fire, I stayed outside for another hour and discovered this small raccoon climbing down from our giant maple for a late night snack.

September 14, 2020

Downy Woodpecker

We’ve had several knocks at our front door lately, and this downy woodpecker seems to be the culprit.

May 10, 2020

Cooper’s hawk

We heard a big thud on our bedroom window and found this Cooper’s hawk on the ground holding an unknown bird below. We’re not sure if the bird flew into the window and the hawk got an easy meal, or if the hawk attacked the bird and they both went into the window. Circle of life I guess…

May 5, 2020


I didn’t get to my camera in time to get a better photo of this fox, but it was neat to see it running through our backyard in the morning.

March 31, 2020


March 30, 2020


Follow the story of The Hatches here:

October 29, 2019


June 10, 2019


June 7, 2019


May 27, 2019


May 23, 2019

Morning Doves

May 2, 2018


May 1, 2018


April 30, 2018

Raccoon and squirrel

April 29, 2018

Cardinal and worm

August 30, 2017

Red-bellied Woodpecker

August 16, 2017

Turkeys and Woodchuck

July 29, 2017


June 21, 2017


April 14, 2017

Nesting titmouse

Our tufted titmouse is back about a week earlier than last year, and this time I think it may take up residence in our birch tree.

April 9, 2017

Nuthatches are back

For a full report of this awesome news, check out the Hatches dedicated blog post:

January 7, 2017

Fly like a squirrel

It seems like the only critters I’ve seen or heard in the last few months have been crows and cardinals. And of course the squirrels are always around, but this foggy morning they were quite active chasing each other and jumping from tree to tree. Channel your inner squirrel and take a leap today.

October 10, 2016

Red-bellied woodpecker

Our giant maple is getting extra attention this fall, including from this red-bellied woodpecker.


September 9, 2016

Garden action

This summer has flown by, and we haven’t really been home to see our backyard visitors. But today everyone seemed to show up at our neighbor’s garden, which has drooping sunflowers and cherry tomatoes.

I saw an ovenbird, hummingbird and finches, as well as this Nashville warbler.

2016-09-09-backyard-nashvillewarbler2Running around the garden were chipmunks, who would scurry up the sturdy stalks of the sunflowers, hang from the flower and stuff their mouths with seeds. 2016-09-09-backyard-chipmunk4 2016-09-09-backyard-chipmunk5

July 18, 2016

The youngsters

It was a very loud morning outside of our porch door. Half a dozen wrens (including youngsters) and chickadees were singing in our pine trees.

When I looked out, I noticed one of the wrens was inspecting the new (well, it’s old) birdhouse we added to our big maple tree. Yay!

2016-07-18 backyard-wren

A fluffier juvenile wren inspected the rest of the yard.

2016-07-18 backyard-juvenilewren2 2016-07-18 backyard-juvenilewren1And this scrawny juvenile cardinal was also hanging around.

2016-07-18 backyard-juvenilecardinal

June 29, 2016

Nature’s flashlight

I was pulling weeds this evening and was greeted by dozens of flashing fireflies, which I then followed around the backyard. Even though the focus is off here, I still love the colors.


The light show paid off for this happy couple.


June 20, 2016

A hoppenin’ place

Norah notified me to quite the commotion from our patio door. A chipmunk and baby bunny were occupying the same foot of space near our fire pit.

2016-06-20-backyard-bunnychipmunkJune 1, 2016

Peonies and pests

I was happy to see my peonies finally in bloom, and they are coming in light pink. The ants are also loving them.

2016-06-01-backyard-peonies1But I just discovered that the “wild phlox” I thought were growing along are property line are actually invasive dame’s rocket, because they have four petals instead of five.


I wandered around the backyard and spotted this red velvet mite hanging out in the crevice of our magnolia tree.


May 29, 2016

What’s been growing

When I returned home from a short trip up north, I was pleasantly surprised to see more plants in bloom.2016-05-29-backyard-plants-white 2016-05-29-backyard-plants-yellow 2016-05-29-backyard-plants-bridalwreath

May 26, 2016

Bunny Hop

I was privy to the “bunny hop” mating display this evening. These frisky rabbits sure didn’t mind an audience.

I thought it was rather fitting that they jumped toward the bridal wreath spirea. Patiently awaiting little ones! 2016-05-26-backyard-rabbit-bridalwreath

May 16, 2016

Gray Catbird

It took me a little while to identify this bird, but thanks to Google I know it’s a gray catbird – my first sighting! 2016-05-16-backyard-birds-graycatbird

May 15, 2016

Sparrows take over

Two days after the wrens started building their nest inside our birdhouse, Norah once again alerted me to activity in the morning, but the song was different … house sparrows had taken over and kicked out the wrens.

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After I took these photos I emptied the birdhouse and left the bottom latch open for a few days to deter the sparrows from occupying it. That seems to have worked so far, but still no return of the wrens.

May 13, 2016

Wrens take up (temporary) residence

I think I delayed writing this post because I’m still upset that house sparrows kicked out a couple of house wrens from the birdhouse I put up in our pine tree. They were our first residents. I would have started a new post for Sven and Jen Wren, but I haven’t seen them since the “takeover.”

Much like the Hatches, Norah alerted me to the Wrens when she heard them sing outside our bedroom window. I was quick to grab my camera, stand on the bed and document the busy birds stuffing the birdhouse with pine branches, even if I annoyed my sleeping husband in the process. Enjoy these cute photos and videos – I hope the Wrens still return.

2016-05-13-backyard-wren22016-05-13-backyard-wren1 2016-05-13-backyard-wren6 2016-05-13-backyard-wren3

May 13, 2016

Helicopter snack

Our chipmunks and squirrels seem to enjoy snacking on the “helicopter” maple tree seeds. I also just like the funky color of this squirrel’s tail.


May 12, 2016

Munching on dandelions

Some spots on our lawn are just tough to cut, especially near our retaining wall and deck. The dandelions that continued to grow there seemed to be a tasty morning snack for this bunny. I also like how it appeared to stop and smell the flowers.

2016-05-12-backyard-rabbit-dandelion3 2016-05-12-backyard-rabbit-dandelion2 2016-05-12-backyard-rabbit-dandelion1

Normally the bunnies and other critters scatter when I come outside (probably because I’m not Snow White) so these photos were taken through our window.

This robin was looking for worms in the cracks of our patio blocks. 2016-05-12-backyard-bird-robin

And this squirrel was just happy to run and leap through our lawn.


May 5, 2016

More green things

Taking it easy after having two wisdom teeth removed earlier today. But that didn’t stop me from enjoying the beautiful sights and sounds in our backyard. Now we’ve got bleeding hearts, lilacs and a massive maple tree.

2016-05-05-backyard-leaves5 2016-05-05-backyard-bleedingheart 2016-05-05-backyard-lilac 2016-05-05-backyard-leaves6 2016-05-05-backyard-leaves4 2016-05-05-backyard-leaves3 2016-05-05-backyard-leaves1-maple 2016-05-05-backyard-bunny 2016-05-05-backyard-violet 2016-05-05-backyard-leaves2

April 21, 2016

Red and pink

Before I left work I looked out our dining room window and spotted this cardinal spending time in our magnolia tree at full bloom.


April 20, 2016

Tufted titmouse, cardinal and chipmunk

What an afternoon. Sun, clouds, sprinkles and plenty of birds made an appearance in our backyard – including my first sighting of a tufted titmouse. This was a big deal for me.


I definitely heard the titmouse before I saw it. It has a very loud call, but I didn’t realize what kind of bird I was hearing until it flew right past me. Here it follows a cardinals song.

It seems pretty dull and gray in that video, but it didn’t take long for the sun to return. The birds – especially the cardinals – were loving it. Here’s a couple in our magnolia tree.

2016-04-20_backyard-birds-cardinal-couple 2016-04-20_backyard-birds-cardinal1h
2016-04-20_backyard-tree-magnoliaAs I walked around our house following the cardinals I spotted the chipmunk that’s been digging holes under our concrete patio and hanging out by our front door and rock retaining wall.

2016-04-20_backyard-chipmunkAnd it seems like our nuthatches have relocated their nest to the other side of our tree in the front yard.

April 19, 2016

Forsythia plant

I was also happy to see a forsythia plant at the corner of our house. Our backyard is beautiful right now.


April 17, 2016

Magnolia tree and other green things

I woke up to the best surprise when I looked out my bedroom window. Our “mystery” tree is a magnolia, and its pinky/purply/creamy blossoms had popped overnight.2016-04-17_backyard-tree-magnolia1

2016-04-17_backyard-tree-magnolia3Bees seemed to have an early invitation to the backyard blooms.


And while I walked around the tree I discovered other plants and flowers popping up. Spring is a treat.


April 16, 2016

Another bunny

The rabbits are starting to creep onto our lawn, too. Norah loves to watch from our patio door.


April 14, 2106

Brown creeper

This morning before I left I saw this little brown bird creeping up our big tree in the backyard. What a fitting name for this camouflaged cutie.


April 3, 2016


The neighboring yard seems to attract all of the bunnies. Sometimes there are three hopping around at a time. The sun caught this one’s ears just right this evening.


April 2, 2016

New “neighbirds”

Today we met a new couple building their home in one of our trees in the front yard. They are white-breasted nuthatches, who I’m calling Harold and Valerie Hatch. Because why not. Harry and Val are cute and fierce, which they demonstrated today fending off a squirrel from their nest. Since I’m hoping there will be Hatch hatchlings in the near future, I’ve started a new thread that will be updated just for them:


March 25, 2016

Let it melt

As much as I resisted the thought of snow after being out on the bike trails a few times already in March, it was a pleasant surprise. Especially because it didn’t last long, and when it was here it was mostly ice. And ice + sun = something spectacular. The birds loved it, too. Almost everything has melted this afternoon since it hit 45, but I spent an hour or so outside taking in the awesome sights and sounds this morning. OK, spring, you can continue.

2016-03-25_backyard_icemelt-bud 2016-03-25_backyard_icemelt-cardinal 2016-03-25_backyard_icemelt-pussywillow

March 24, 2016

It’s rainin’ ice

While the northern part of the state got hit with snow today, Madison woke up to mostly sleet. Blobs of ice became extensions of branches, pine cones and buds, making it a beautiful (though slippery) drive into work. Spring officially started Sunday, and the warmth from the beginning of the week is slowly turning the grass green. But this morning our backyard looked like the top of mint ice cream that sustained freezer burn.

2016-03-24_backyard-ice-bud 2016-03-24_backyard-ice-pinecone

March 7, 2016

First plant

It hit 63 degrees today, and the pile of snow against the back of our house finally melted — revealing our first plant! This was an exciting moment for me, because I’ll have no idea what is planted around our house until it blooms. So, welcome, mystery plant.

2016-03-07_backyard-plantMarch 5, 2016

Black-capped Chickadee

A cardinal and blue jay caught my eye out my patio door window this morning, but when I went outside they flew away. But this cute-as-a-button black-capped chickadee made its debut minutes later, hanging upside down from the branch of a pine tree. I took the photos from inside the house. These are such happy birds, and they always make me smile.


March 4, 2016

Red fox

I saw a flash of orange dart across the white ground of our backyard while I was eating cereal at our dining room table this morning. A beautiful fox was out exploring, and it was my first sighting of one in our neighborhood. Very cool moment, but it passed quickly when the fox scurried away. The only photo I took of the fox is pretty blurry, so I’m hoping for another opportunity. Instead, here are its footprints in the snow (middle) alongside those of a bunny (right). I’m not sure about the prints on the left.


February 20, 2016

Asian Beetles

This Asian beetle is reflected in our bathroom mirror while I was getting ready for work. The temperature nearly hit 50 degrees that day and we found a few more, so it looks like the invasion is beginning.  At first I thought it was a ladybug, but its markings say otherwise. Since we shouldn’t judge a beetle by its color, I changed the photo (taken with my cell phone) to black and white.


February 11, 2016


I went outside in search of the first robin I heard this year, and chatty squirrels like this one showed up instead. It was in single digits, but the sky was clear blue.


January 20, 2016


2016-01-20_cardinal1 2016-01-20_cardinal2January 16. 2016 (heard hoots at 5 a.m.)

Pair of Great Horned Owls

December 18, 2015

Cooper’s Hawk

One Comment

  • To See, Or Not To See – Samantha Cora

    […] their tunnels, even if that means eroding the foundation of…buildings (Exhibit A: the Backyard Visitor on 9/26/2020 who dug under our deck). Needless to say, my dad wanted to let nature take its course […]

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