Watching Wildlife

By Paul R. Huard

July 3, 2008 4 min read

WATCHING WILDLIFE

Many discover a backyard habitat is where it's at

By Paul R. Huard

Copley News Service

There is a way that you can create a more beautiful yard and display your commitment to wildlife conservation and the environment

You can turn your backyard into a wildlife habitat. It's easy to do, says the National Wildlife Federation, and well worth the time.

Watching wildlife in action can be fun and relaxing for everyone. Creating habitat in your backyard may attract beautiful songbirds, butterflies, frogs and other interesting wildlife for viewing from your very own window.

In addition, replacing grass lawns with native wildflowers, shrubs and trees will increase the beauty of your property and provide a nurturing refuge for wildlife.

Consider the following tips from the NWF. You can find their full program at www.nwf.org/backyard. The organization even offers a certification program for homeowners who follow the federation's guidelines.

- Leave at least a small portion of your garden undisturbed, free of major raking of stems, leaf litter and dried stalks during the dormant seasons. This will give beneficial insects a safe place to survive winter's chill. What's more, insects such as fireflies, bees and ladybugs will give you healthier gardens and interesting sights if they have a backyard home.

- Provide shelter. An old clay pot propped on a rock, a group of loose rocks or a crannied stone wall all provide a safe, cool, moist place for lizards, frogs and toads. Certain reptiles and amphibians will pay you back by consuming many plant-damaging insects. Also, provide nesting boxes appropriate for the bird species you hope to attract. Thickets, shrubs or dense evergreens can provide small birds and mammals with safe cover from hawks or predators. Old trees can provide nesting cavities and a storehouse of food for woodpeckers.

- Plant food sources. Shrubs and trees that produce berries and fruit are a great food source for birds and offer attractive blossoms in the spring. Nurseries and state extension service officers can tell you which varieties attract and support wildlife. In addition, certain plants attract butterflies - think of the connection between milkweed and the monarch butterfly.

- Provide water. Whether it is a simple birdbath or pond dug in back, a source of clean, fresh water to drink makes a big difference for wildlife. Consider a ground-level basin for small animals, a pedestal birdbath for winged friends. Water also attracts butterflies and dragonflies; amphibians also require clean bodies of standing water for their aquatic young.

- Plant some native plants. Native plants are part of the natural ecosystem, and are the food and shelter for a variety of wildlife. They also require less care and tend to be hardier than non-natives, which saves both time and money. Again, contact a state extension service, master gardener program, or a nursery specializing in native plants for suggestions.

? Copley News Service

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