My husband glanced out the kitchen window one day while I was away and saw an usual bird. He snagged his camera and tried to get a picture. The bird was a little nervous and shy and would fly off, only to return a few minutes later. Finally, my husband was able to get a shot. It's still not as close as he wanted, but it was good enough for me to make a pretty good identification. Here's the picture. The bird is on the right edge of the bird bath.
Using A Guide To Field Identification, Birds of North America, we determined this was a heron. Most probably an immature black-crowned night heron. While some people would think this is really an amazing discovery considering we live in the Southern California desert, our area is on a migratory bird path and we get a large number of birds fly through.
Shortly after the heron visited, a friend showed my husband a large raven's nest built in the garage of an abandoned house. The nest was huge and if you look carefully in the picture below, you'll see one chick. Look in the triangle formed by the three wood studs and you'll see the beak. The size of the nest is something I would equate with an eagle or hawk. The debris on the floor is fallout from the nest, or where the raven missed when building the nest.
If you are interested in identifying birds, the field guide I mentioned at the beginning of my post is a good start. It divides birds by category (i.e., waterfowl, raptors, song birds) and has colorful illustrations to assist with identification. I've used it for years and can generally identify a bird in under one minute. :) Yes, I am truly a nerd.