Surrounded by beauty

Published 9:13 pm Thursday, October 16, 2008

NEWSOMS—Tucked away behind a modest ranch home on more than an acre of land here is a nature lover’s paradise.

Colorful birds, butterflies, bees and other wildlife flock to the bloomy sanctuary for a bite to eat or a dip in the bird baths while plump koi swim in the pond below.

And Melanie Johnson is there to catch all the action.

Johnson takes photographs of the tiny creatures — sometimes while strolling outside, other times while sitting in her sunroom.

“I’m always out here chasing things with the camera,” she said with a laugh. “I have always liked to take pictures.”

Johnson invested in a Canon Rebel camera with a 300mm zoom lens and says the photos practically take themselves. She also uses a Canon Powershot for up-close shots.

To attract butterflies, she has planted butterfly bushes, yarrow, fennel, dill, parsley, purple cone flowers, zinnias, lilacs and verbena together.

Her lens catches birds and bees flitting around the black-eyed susans, gaillardia, among others and she also enjoys the scenery the gardens create.

“I like to touch them, smell them, look at them and take pictures of them,” she said, as she sniffed the leaf from a Glorybower bush in her front yard.

She’s an amateur photographer, but you wouldn’t know it by the quality of the results.

Johnson posts many of her photos at where they’ve garnered plenty of attention.

Skinks, butterflies, hummingbirds, flowers and insects are captured in time, but the birds — titmice, chickadees, doves, cardinals, blue jays, to name a few — seem to be the stars of the show.

Johnson has noted more than 60 species of birds in her yard and notes each one in an Audubon Society notebook.

“Blue birds are my favorites,” Johnson said, adding that she maintains two box houses for the blue bird families. “I’ve had 129 babies born in these two boxes in my yard. They always come back.”

Her back yard is even registered with the National Wildlife Federation.

“The most excited I have gotten about birds showing up in my yard was seeing a crossbill and rose-breasted grosbeak,” Johnson said. “It’s exciting to catch a butterfly or bird when it’s still,” she said. “I do a lot of stalking.”