|visitors to our back yard|
We are Just a Family of Four
In 1992 our family of four moved to a farmhouse in a small town in the Puget Sound area.
Directly east and south of us is the Army base Fort Lewis, to the north is a natural pond, and to the west there is a wetlands area--10 acres which will never be developed.
But, we have many visitors
Our bird feeders are a swirl of activity all day. Squirrels and chipmunks pick up the fallen seeds from the ground, and chase each other back and forth in the hazelnut trees. Rabbits munch on the clover in our lawn. Possums and raccoons live in brush piles and waddle through the side yard every day. Deer graze on the native shrubs, nestle down and chew their cud in the early afternoon in our backyard, and at night slumber in the cedar grove.
Coyotes certainly announce their presence. I want to hate them but I can't--I know they are part of the circle of life that keeps everything in balance (and their babies are soooo cute!).
And occasionally, in the wee hours of the morning, a brown bear ambles through.
We live in paradise (and the animals agree).
|male pileated woodpecker|
But (you say), I Don't Live in the 100 Acre Woods!
You don't need to have acres of property to invite and enjoy wildlife. Even if you live in an apartment, you can enjoy a bit of Creation if you have access to a balcony or window from which you can hang a bird feeder, hummingbird feeder, or plant a flower to attract butterflies.
Here's What to Do
According to the National Wildlife Federation, there are four basic elements that need to be provided to invite wildlife:
I will give you two different plans--one for small house or apartment dwellers who have limited space, and one for those who have a large(r) outdoor area.
If you have a small space
Everyone needs to eat! Even birds. (It's not just about the worms). Hummingbirds and butterflies can be enjoyed in small places too--even from a space as small as an apartment balcony. Here's how:
BIRD FEEDING TIPS
- Place bird feeders in locations where cats and other predators can not reach them.
- Place feeders ten to twelve feet from low shrubs.
- Clean your feeders regularly with hot water, and let them air dry completely. Also keep areas under and around the feeders clean.
- Keep seed clean and dry, and watch for mold.
- Use a seed blend designed for your feeder and the types of birds you feed. Avoid blends that contain filler seeds and grains (sorghum and red or golden millet)--birds usually do not eat these, so they end up on the ground and are wasted.
- Black oil sunflower seed is a favorite of just about every seed-eating species.
HUMMINGBIRD FEEDING TIPS
- Hummingbird feeders can be purchased an your local hardware store for as little at $10.00
- Special nectar is not needed--simply mix 1 part sugar with 4 parts hot water. DON'T add red food dye and don't use honey. White sugar only!
- Empty and refill the feeder every 2 or 3 days to insure that the sugar water is pure.
BUTTERFLY FEEDING TIPS
Butterflies have three basic needs:
- a source of water (a saucer of water, damp puddles, or damp sand)
- native flowers for nectar (they are attracted to red, orange, yellow, pink, purple)
- Butterflies are not shade lovers--they need full sun to warm their wings and to help them navigate; they need feeding flowers that receive full sun from mid-morning to mid-afternoon. Also when planting for butterflies, choose flowers that are native to your area.
If you have a large space
If you live in a larger space, you have even more options for wildlife habitat. Have you thought about creating a space, not only for birds, hummingbirds, and butterflies, but also for:
I love the sound of the frogs singing in the pond next to our property. As soon as the sun goes down their chorus begins. At first a low melodic tone, that crescendos--and then amazingly comes to a complete stop! "Why?" I wondered. And then I realized.....they need to stop to turn the page of sheet music.
What are amphibians? Frogs, toads, and salamanders fall into that category. So what differentiates an amphibian from a lizard? Amphibians hatch from eggs laid in or near water. They begin their hatched life with gills, and then as adults live mostly on land, returning to the water to breed.
The only thing they need is a pond--natural or created.
- If there is a natural pond or stream in your area, keep it healthy.
- Create a pond if none exists.
The National Wildlife Federation has resources to provide further information. (See "Garden for Wildlife") below.
Bats need a house.
Yes, I'm suggesting that you construct a house for bats (but not in your attic).
No, they are not evil vampires nor will they nest in your hair.
What they will do is consume insects. Large, copious amounts of insects (would you believe up to 1,000 mosquitoes in one hour?!)
You might be surprised to learn that bats don't always live in caves. Some bats winter in caves, but most spend the summer in trees or under bridges. Unlike bird nests, bat nests are very narrow--they prefer tight spaces (which keep their babies warm).
So, why would a bat need a house (from you) rather than a tree (from nature)? Well, as more forests are clear-cut and housing developments are established where groves of trees used to grow, bats are losing their natural habitat.
Bats need us--and we certainly need them!
The ideal location for a bat house would include:
- lots of sun;
- be at least 15 feet off the ground (to protect against predators)
- have a water source nearby (so the mother bat doesn't have to leave her babies for too long).
Here's a link on how to build a bat house:
Why is that important? Bees are needed for pollination. But it is not just honeybees that are in trouble. Many "wild" bees, butterflies, and moths are also threatened, and without them you and I will not be able to enjoy the fruits and flowers in our local neighborhoods.
Bee houses can provide nesting and protection for the bees species native to your area.
This is where the action is!
The National Wildlife Federation has a wealth of information on creating habitat (little or large), and how to attract, encourage, and support the fauna in your part of the country.
By providing food, water, cover and places for wildlife to raise their young--as well as incorporating sustainable gardening practices--your garden can join the more than 136,000 Certified Wildlife Habitats™ across the country.
I hope you can find ways to discover the wildlife in your corner of the world.