Wednesday, April 22, 2015

A Healthy Habitat Starts at Home...

The following is from my exhibit at the Carlisle Nature Center in the Lorain County Metroparks. When thinking of Earth Day, people get overwhelmed with the problems of the world. If we all start simply in our own gardens and homes, things can and will change for the better.

"Birds, Bugs and Your Backyard"
It's amazing what you have in your gardens! All you have to do is look closely. Our place is definitely for the birds!
With a little work over the years, we've changed our home from a desolate island of lawn, to an Eden of shrubs, trees, native wildflowers and water features to attract a wide variety of creatures, great and small. From 93 species of birds, to frogs, toads, snakes and mammals from mink to the common eastern chipmunks,  to untold numbers of beneficial insects, being friendly towards nature and being chemical free can make a house a healthy home for many.

Our cozy home and the crazy gardens that supply us with a never ending rainbow of colors and creatures.

Clean water is a necessity for life for all of us. In the city, it is sometimes difficult for wildlife to find. In our garden, in addition to a few small bird baths, we have a large pond in the back garden and a small pond in the front garden. The sound of moving water will attract birds to get a drink or a leisurely bath.
In time, with adding a few plants and oxygenators, you will find frogs and more critters sharing those little oases.

This is the small pond I put in our back garden. 
It's only about 4 foot by 8 foot and it has attracted everything from frogs to Bay-breasted Warblers in need of a bath.

Our Blue Jay family loves bath time!

Our Green Frogs seem to like our fountain too!

You never know what your feeders will bring to your gardens! There will be more than songbirds visiting if you supply food sources for everyone. This Eastern Screech Owl was hunting mice at midnight under the feeders. Seeds for birds, plants and flowers for bees and other insects, which in turn will attract more birds and other creatures.
It's a circle, that with time, will fill your home with amazing sights.

I woke up in the middle of the night and saw this guy perched on the feeder.
I held my camera in one hand and a flashlight in the other.

Baltimore Orioles LOVE jelly feeders!

This female Black-throated Blue Warbler stopped by for a few wild cherries.
This tree attracts many unusual migrants.

Our nut feeder is always busy with woodpeckers like this Red-bellied and Downy, Hairy and other birds too!

Don't forget, insects need to eat too!
Bumble Bees go crazy for Purple Coneflower.

Whether they are birds, mammals or insects, cover is very important in your garden. A place to hide from predators or just have a rest is a necessity.
We have a number of evergreen and deciduous trees and shrubs, as well as rock mounds and low cover plants for our guests to use. Birds will feel more comfortable at your feeders when there are trees close by to flit in and out of.

Those wacky little Eastern Chipmunks love our small pond. 
They dug holes under the rocks and pop out to spy on me!

Places To Raise Young
The wildlife in your gardens need a sheltered place to raise their offspring. Many places for cover can double as locations where they can raise young, from wildflower gardens and bushes where many butterflies and moths lay their eggs, to trees and shrubs for birds and even under your gardens for chipmunks!

This sleepy little American Robin is in a nest right next to our side door. There's a new nest this year and I'll post pics soon!
We also have Northern Cardinals, Gray Catbirds, Baltimore Orioles, Mourning Doves, Black-capped Chickadees and Red-eyed Vireos nesting on our property...and I'm sure there's more!

As well as nesting places for the birds, don't forget the proper host plants for the bugs!
We've had Black Swallowtail Butterflies get to the fennel and dill before The Doodles for the past few years!

To have a healthy garden, you need healthy insects. Many such as this sweat bee, butterflies, flower flies and more will pollinate your flowers and trees, while others such as the native ladybugs consume pests like aphids.
One of the best things you can do for your garden and your wild guests? Don't use pesticides! They kill beneficial insects as well as harmful ones. 
This is an angry Black Swallowtail can tell when their horns pop out.

This is a young Black Swallowtail caterpillar.

I need to start a list of the species of butterflies that zoom through.
This is an Eastern Tiger Swallowtail.

Not much bigger than a pin head, this is a Monarch butterfly egg.

If you look at the upper right, next to this Monarch caterpillar is another egg.

This is a Red Admiral on Purple Coneflower, or Echinacea.

We get both Summer Azure(like this one) and Spring Azures in our garden.
Some say Queen Anne's Lace is a

This Peck's Skipper is loving his lunch!

This flower fly, of the Eristalis transversa species mimics a bee so he gets left alone.
Look closely at your flowers and you'll see many of these tiny flies pollinating your gardens.

Sweat Bees like this Halictus ligatus are also very common pollinators.
I wonder if he has enough yet?

Every day brings a surprise visitor! We've been lucky to have Minks raise a family behind our garage and mulch pile.
We've also had skunks(which eat grubs!), opossums, rabbits(eating dandelions and clover), eastern fox squirrels, moles, mice and much to the delight of the mink, eastern chipmunks(yummy!)

The Minks raised a family last year behind our mulch pile.

Sometimes he's a bad bunny and The Doodles has to tell him to leave the flowers alone.
Eastern Cottontails has big ears, but they don't always listen...

Not everyone likes Racoons in their gardens, but the young ones are so cute.
This little guy was so tired, he curled up on a warm rock on our pond as we sat in the garden.

Reptiles and Amphibians
There's more to every garden than plants and the birds and the bees...every Eden has its snake! Unfortunately for our many frogs and toads, we have eastern garter snakes living in the gardens.
When you have a healthy habitat with small ponds, a diversity of plantings and no chemicals, the variety of species can explode.

 We had to have a serious talk about eating my frogs and tadpoles.
She has since cut back on her diet.

Froggy is cozy on the moss that we put on the rocks of our pond.
I'm surprised how easy it was to transplant.

Now It's Your Turn!
Start by becoming fertilizer and pesticide free! Next, find a corner of your yard and remove the grass(it's too much work to mow anyway!) Go to your local garden center and find a few native plants such as Black-eyed Susan and Purple Cone Flower. Last, go home and dig a hole and plant your new wildflower garden and watch what happens!

I thank you on behalf of all of our wildlife!


  1. That must have been quite a surprise to see the owl at midnight...and, to get a pretty darn good photo doing a balancing act too ....
    It's definitely a wildlife refuge ... I suppose some of the neighbours aren't all that thrilled with some of it..... But, I'm glad you do it ...for the critters....

    1. Thanks! Not everyone can be pleased, but saving a corner for the wild ones is more important.

  2. What a wonderful oasis you've created, Dave! Having fresh water available really makes all the difference! Great collections of photos and information - enjoyed visiting here today!

    1. Thanks June! Our oasis is good for us as well.

  3. What an incredible post! One can learn so much from your amazing gardens! I loved seeing each section described for its benefits. Yes, starting fertilizer and pesticide free is so important!!! So many people just don't give it a thought, and the Roundup flies off the shelves. It's such a tragedy, especially since the toxins are hurting us as well. Beautiful photos! Just the perfect Earth Day post!

    1. Thanks Marie.
      I hope someone will happen upon this and get started in their own gardens.

  4. Very nice blog demonstrating how one can set up their backyard! I do this in Arizona and it's amazing to discover the critters in our urban neighborhood. Pretty nice surprises!

    1. Thank you's good to know there's more natural gardeners out there.

  5. Congratulations on achieving such a diverse habitat for your many residents.