Monday, May 14, 2007

The Backyard Habitat

In 1998, we received Backyard Wildlife Habitat certification number 23839 from the National Wildlife Federation. Some day I will post the pictures of where we are today from what we started with in 1988. It's truly amazing, even to me, because a person tends to forget what something looked like when you see it every day (like I've forgotten how thin I used to be.....)

Anyway, I never stop looking for ways to improve the backyard habitat and here are a couple things I've added recently. You can get lots of good idea from the National Wildlife Federation's website ( and also from the National Audubon Society's website ( (click on the "Audubon at Home" link).

Last summer I had an overgrown shrub that I decided to remove, but it had become so overgrown that the grass around it had died too. While driving around one evening, we found a big boulder that would be perfect for my plan.....after reading on the Audubon At Home link that birds (and sometimes butterflies) like to sit on large rocks. Fortunately, Rick was able to supply the muscle to hoist this boulder into the back of my Blazer and we drove home with. I set it up in the middle of my new little butterfly garden, then planted my butterfly flowers, put down the landscape fabric, the mulch and voila--a new bird and butterfly habitat was created to replace the ugly old shrub.

This really isn't a huge rock--it sits maybe 2 feet high, but it really does attract birds--in summer and winter (as evidenced by the whitewash showing up on the top of the rock). Robins especially like it this time of year, but the juncos used it quite a bit during the winter also. Last summer I did also see butterflies sitting on it in the afternoons and basking in the warmth of the rock and the sun.

Outside the kitchen window is our septic tank. We added an underground extension to the top of it a few years ago so we didn't have to dig such a deep hole when it's time to pump it out. Consequently, there's only about 3 inches of soil there and the grass just doesn't grow anymore. This is a really unsightly spot and I've been thinking about putting something there for the last couple years. Yesterday when we were walking I mentioned to Rick that we should keep our eyes open for another big rock or a tree stump or something to put on this dead spot that I could put a flowerpot or birdbath on.

We were almost home and there it was! A really nice chunk of box elder that's been laying in the ditch right by our street from some boulevard trees that were removed last summer because they had grown into the power lines. We walked home and got the wheelbarrow. Then Rick's superior strength was again called upon to hoist this huge chunk of wood into the wheelbarrow. And here's the result.... I had this brilliant blue ceramic birdbath in the shed and it looks just perfect here. I think in the winter it will be a perfect spot to put some peanuts for the bluejays.

The really cool thing about both of these habitat features is that they cost me almost no money, plus the tree stump has been recycled into something useful.

The third habitat feature that has been really successful for me in attracting birds is the birdbath. Half of my birdbaths are the large saucers and setting low to the ground. The birdbath on my deck has a little bubbler in it. I kept this bubbler going all winter because the birdbath is also heated. The bubbler has been a really fabulous addition to the birdbath as far as attracting birds goes (they're especially attracted to moving water). The cardinals even go to this birdbath, in spite of the fact that it's about 3 feet away from the living room patio door. The other low birdbaths are out in the yard and I don't know whether the birds prefer them because they're lower to the ground or just the fact that the size is much bigger. Every day I carry my buckets of water around the yard and fill the baths with clean water. I usually scrub them out once a week, but replacing the water every day helps keep the sludge from building up so fast (also prevents mosquitos from reproducing).

And last, just a couple pictures of the female hummingbird who showed up for some nectar on this chilly afternoon.


Body Soul Spirit said...

Some great ideas. My husband has wanted to haul some rocks into our yard. I never thought that they would attract birds and butterflies

RuthieJ said...

Ruth, I'll try to find the article about rocks in the landscape and when I do, I'll be sure to send you the link.

Larry said...

Inteesting-I too try to improve habitat but you have given me some new ideas.-thanks