• Encouraging wildlife with a ‘habitat’

    by  • July 12, 2011 • How to, Projects, Sierra Foothills, Wildlife • 7 Comments

    butterfly on the buddleia bush

    Swallowtail swooping down, see how it matches the blue of the buddleia?

    A Backyard Habitat is a transformation of your garden into a place that provides the things wildlife need to live there. You also ‘reduce the civilization’ there to make it more welcome and safe for small, beautiful creatures. My mother did this in 1970 in the suburbs of LA and I have established a wildlife habitat now that we live here in the country.

    It’s a bit presumptuous, I think, to say you have done anything having to do with wildlife here next to the forest considering the wildlife and plants have done very well without you all this time.  What I mean by applying for a Certified Wildlife Habitat, I guess, is that I will vow to be a steward of this land while I’m living here on our land in the Sierra foothills.

    Birdbath

    Make an easy birdbath

    The National Wildlife Federation certification program can easily be followed to make a sustainable habitat for the wildlife in your area.  But why?

    Why create a backyard habitat?
    Whether it’s an apartment balcony or a 20 acre property, it’s fascinating, and joyful, to be able to watch the birds and insects thrive in your garden. Provide food, water and shelter as well as reduce the amount of chemicals you use in the garden, then just wait and watch!

    Western Scrub-Jay Aphelocoma californica

    These are the things to provide in your new backyard habitat:

    Food

    Preserve and plant more California natives. They have the pollen, berries and foliage the birds and insects like. Some plants for a habitat are oaks, crabapple, pines and cedars. Shrubs that do well in a backyard habitat are Dogwood, Elderberry, Honeysuckle, and Viburnum, Currants  and blackberry and grape vines. Other plants that can be included are sunflowers, Black-eyed Susans, asters, marigolds, zinnias, and native grasses. You can add hummingbird and seed feeders if you want, but birds may only need the right plants to feed on.

    Water
    Another important element for a habitat garden is a water feature. This can be as complex as a re-circulating stream, or as simple as a birdbath made of a flowerpot saucer that you clean and fill daily. Locating your birdbath near a sprinkler can ‘automatically’ refill it often.

    Shelter and space to raise young
    Animals need brush piles and natural areas to hide from predators and make nests. A large branch or dead trunk can be placed in a flower bed or at the edge of the garden to slowly decompose and provide places to lay eggs and find worms. A small thicket can encourage quail to come to your garden.

    Safety
    Restrict your use of chemicals in the garden and start a compost pile to use for a natural fertilizer. Mulching, and reducing the size of your lawn are other ways to avoid having weed killers and insect sprays and make your garden safe for the wildlife you want to attract.

    California mule deer Odocoileus hemionus californicus

    And you’re done!
    Finally, spend relaxing time in your garden. You are wildlife, too. Make a comfortable spot to sit and you will find yourself  ‘out there’ much more often. Keep watch as beautiful birds, butterflies and other small, interesting visitors appear in your wildlife-friendly haven. Whenever you hear bad news on the news, step into your garden and realize that you have made a welcoming habitat for yourself as well!

     

    Things To Do:
    Certify your Backyard Habitat
    Teachers, you can start a Schoolyard Habitat

    About

    Sue Langley, a passionate gardener and photographer lives and gardens with her husband and Corgi, Maggie on 7 acres just south of Yosemite, Zone 7 at 3000 feet. She also manages the Flea Market Gardening Facebook page and website.

    7 Responses to Encouraging wildlife with a ‘habitat’

    1. July 12, 2011 at 8:22 pm

      Love the butterfly! Swallowtails are among my favs. I saw three kinds of butterflies in my garden on Sunday (none of them swallowtails) but didn’t have the patience to follow them around with the camera and they weren’t interested in coming to me. I like how you’ve shown how making a habitat can be a simple process. I hope to do better with future plant choices.

    2. July 12, 2011 at 8:22 pm

      Love the butterfly! Swallowtails are among my favs. I saw three kinds of butterflies in my garden on Sunday (none of them swallowtails) but didn’t have the patience to follow them around with the camera and they weren’t interested in coming to me. I like how you’ve shown how making a habitat can be a simple process. I hope to do better with future plant choices.

      • July 13, 2011 at 12:16 pm

        Thanks, James…this buddleia is right off the patio, so I could easily wait for this one to land. I have gotten in the habit of taking the camera out in my pocket when I go out…therefore taking hundreds more photos than last year. My brother, ‘the knower of all things camera’, despairs for me, only using the mini camera, not my SLR. Well, I’m not taking it out slung around my neck every day.

        Thanks, Mouse, I have noticed a definite trend to replace lawns with native plants. I hope so. I *knew* there were native plants when I gardened in town, but was not really *aware* of good reasons to use them or desired to know more about them until I got out here amongst ’em. I guess when you know better, you do better. But I do think it’s very possible to have an all native garden in the suburbs. It must be a marketing thing. Big box store availability, too.

    3. July 13, 2011 at 7:24 am

      I completely agree, and of course it’s even more important in the towns and suburbs that we pick habitat plants and supply much needed water. Amazing photos!

    4. July 13, 2011 at 7:24 am

      I completely agree, and of course it’s even more important in the towns and suburbs that we pick habitat plants and supply much needed water. Amazing photos!

    5. July 14, 2011 at 10:26 am

      I love your birdbath! The Swallowtail is just too gorgeous. Another great post, Sue, with such doable suggestions 🙂

    6. July 14, 2011 at 10:26 am

      I love your birdbath! The Swallowtail is just too gorgeous. Another great post, Sue, with such doable suggestions 🙂

    Leave a Reply

    Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *