Carla Brennan's Blog

Reflections and Photos from The Big Trip and Beyond . .

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Backyard Birds – Part 2

Backyard Birds – Part 2
Santa Cruz, CA
December 2020-February 2021

Below are additional backyard bird photos from my new home in Santa Cruz. It’s given me some practice for the Annual Great Backyard Bird Count coming up from February 12-15 sponsored by the Cornell Lab, Audubon and Oiseaux Canada.

You too can participate in the count! Go to:

You can also join in a Facebook Livestream Webinar on Tuesday, Feb. 9, 12pm EST to learn more about the Great Backyard Bird Count. Share in the joy of birds!
Register: Click Here

Please do not use photographs without permission. To inquire about permission contact Carla at:

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The Happiness of Hummingbirds

The Happiness of Hummingbirds
Neary Lagoon, Santa Cruz, CA

Ahead of me on the cement pathway, was a woman excitedly gesticulating upwards. She was clearly trying to show the two women nearby something unique and interesting in the trees.

I scanned the bare branches intently as I walked closer but I saw nothing. Whatever was there was hidden and relatively stationary since most birds or other creatures would have fled immediately. Was it a roosting owl or a hawk? Very possibly, I thought.

When I reached the small group I asked what all the fuss was about. She simply exclaimed, “Hummingbird nest!” Even with a mask on I could tell she was smiling broadly, completely delighted by what she was witnessing and with the opportunity to share her joy. I was elated too, as I had never seen a hummer’s nest before.

Searching above, now with some idea of what I was looking for, I pretty quickly focused in on the tiny bird and nest. The nest was about five feet overhead in the fork of several branches. It was shaped like a small round sphere and had a tiny Anna’s hummingbird settled on top.

I would never have noticed it without someone showing me where to look. It was so small and well-camouflaged that it was nearly impossible to see. Around the top were soft fibers and fine hairs probably made of spider web threads. The outside was decorated with small bits of green and yellow lichen looking like confetti glued to a ball, allowing it to perfectly blend into the complicated pattern of branches, buds and shadows.

I was able to capture several photographs from a few different angles. When I came back by the nest on my way home, the wind was blowing hard and the branches swayed and shook in the breeze. But the hummingbird sat firm and resolute, calmly protecting her eggs.

Please do not reproduce without permission. To inquire about permission, contact Carla at:

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Backyard Birds – Part 1

Backyard Birds – Part 1

Our backyard – before the August fires – was the majestic redwood forest.

Now I live in town where the houses are modest, the lots small and the backyards even smaller. Yet here, even in the middle of winter, the earth is bursting with lush greenery. It is mild enough to support many non-native tropical plants; four tall willowy palm trees sway high above us across the street and other types of palms, even bananas, adorn many lawns. Our tiny backyard has two apples tree and a Meyer lemon tree weighted down by abundant golden fruit. The bottlebrush bush, calla lilies, and violets are currently blooming, while many others plants are forming buds.

We had birds in the redwood forest, including turkeys, woodpeckers, ravens and hawks, but few song birds. They prefer the varied landscape of this more urban ecosystem where they can they can find easy shelter in the shrubs and consume the berries, seeds and fruit that are abundant.

The leaves of the apples trees are long gone as well as most of the fruit but there are enough dried apples still clinging to the branches to attract a variety of hungry birds. I sometimes sit or stand patiently, like a cat at a mouse hole, waiting with my camera to see who comes to feast on apples.

Songbirds (also known as Passerines) are notoriously difficult to photograph. They are small, in constant motion and often obscured by foliage. Click through the photos below.

All photographs were taken from our yard. Please do not reproduce without permission. To inquire about permission contact Carla at: