You don’t have to travel to some exotic destination to observe interesting wildlife. Odds are good you can find a ton without ever leaving your backyard! Squirrels, chipmunks, birds, opossum, and turtles are just a few of the many species of wildlife known to frequent our yard, and while our suburban landscape is far from metropolitan, it certainly couldn’t be mistaken as rural! Interested in attracting some critters to your yard? Here’s some ways to encourage some furry friends to take up residence…
FINE DINING SELECTIONS - For birds, offer a wide variety of seed and feeder options. Our family likes to use a combination of (squirrel-proof) store-bought feeders, and home made ones. The store-bought ones provide the bulk of the seed so that we don’t break our budget feeding greedy furry friends that chase away all the feathered ones (not to mention annihilate our feeders!) The home made ones offer fun crafting options for rainy days, and allow us to enjoy a side of squirrel-y antics! (for home made bird feeder ideas, check here and here.) For butterflies and other insects, plant native plants that ideally provide nourishment for every stage in the life cycle (for butterfly garden resources, check here.)
SEEKING SHELTER – Having animals that actually take up residence in your yard rather than simply passing through can be very exciting to observe! Bird houses, toad abodes, wood piles, and ground cover can provide protection from weather and predators.
UNWANTED VISITORS – Every now and then a backyard critter wears out their welcome (or perhaps was never invited to the party to begin with!) Fresh veggie lovers such as deer and rabbits can destroy your hard work in the garden. Scavengers such as opossum and raccoons can wreak havoc with your trash cans. And your child’s sandbox is certainly no place to house a family of copperheads! In addition to planning for WANTED guests, also take steps to deter the UNWANTED ones. Fences, mesh and other barriers can save your summer harvest, as well as planting certain “natural deterrents” for mammals with the munchies. (And maybe keep the wood pile far away from kid zones…)
OBSERVATION STATIONS - Put your bird feeders/houses by a window, and don’t forget to add some strategically placed benches in the garden. Keep in mind that if you’ve got young kids that are
never quiet enthusiastic learners, your best chances at up-close observation might come from the inside looking out. For example, “breakfast birding” has turned into a favorite past time at our house!
FIELD GUIDES – It’s no secret that our family goes nuts about field guides. We’ve got about a million – small pocket guides, home made flash card guides, bird song apps, and even large reference books. In addition to local guides, don’t forget to brush up on the new flora and fauna you might encounter on family vacations – and don’t forget, you can always make your own as a keepsake souvenir!
Whether you’re operating out of a large, sprawling landscape or a container garden atop a 20 story apartment, a little time and money can go a long way in creating a more wildlife-friendly space in your surroundings. Does anyone else landscape with backyard critters in mind? What wildlife encounters has your family enjoyed from the comforts of your own home?