Thursday, September 4, 2014

Backyard Wildlife Certification

My sign that I received 10 years ago
for my backyard! I love it!
So much has transpired since I first looked into certifying my “yard” over a decade ago.  The program was new to me at the time and I was so excited to think that everything I had been doing for my farm to bring us enjoyment, was actually helping balance things in “the big picture” and the farm could be certified!
I’m going to go through the simple requirements that you must meet and give some examples of what we’ve done, and then I’ll link you to their website to begin your steps toward certifying your backyard, garden, business, farm, classroom, etc.

It doesn’t matter how large or small your space (even a balcony or small porch can achieve a wildlife habitat), what matters is what you provide.

All animals need:

Food Sources

Holly provides FOOD and COVER!
Their spiky leaves are a bonus!
 This can be offered in two extremely different ways- bird feeders offering seeds, nuts, suet, etc., or plants that provide it naturally.  We do a combination of both and I love it. I do enjoy knowing that if ever the feeders get empty and I’m too busy to fill them, they can eat “a la carte” from around my yard and farm.  I have safflower seeds, thistle, and sunflower seeds in various feeders.  I also grow, crabapple trees, holly, sunflowers, fruit trees -cherry, plum, apple, peach, nectarine, and pear.

We also have strawberries, blackberries, currants, grapes. Whether or not all animals are enticed to eat the fruit, they are attracted to other things, such as bugs, that are present because of the fruit. 
Thistle for Goldfinch
Not all the fruit was planted for us.  Some I chose to plant just for the animals.

Tubular Flowers
By having tubular flowers, such as some honeysuckle (be careful what kind you get and where you plant), hosta, canna, weigela, etc., will attract hummingbirds even if you never get around to filling the sugar-water.

I have had different plants (annuals and perennials) throughout the years; however, I need to also be careful not to have poisonous plants for the “tame” animals. Animals usually have a sense to “know better”, but occasionally when the horses, sheep, or llamas are in the backyard, they get into mischief.

Water Sources       
Celtic Knot Birdbath

Again these can be offered by nature or by you.  We have two bird baths and one pond with a waterfall.  Moving water is known to attract animals. We see a large variety of wildlife enjoying the pond throughout the different seasons.  In the winter, I heat the pond so that the wildlife has a water source. We see birds, bunnies, frogs, butterflies, and dragonflies at the pond regularly.  I’m sure other things enjoy it, too….I just haven’t seen them!  

Pond is alive with so much wildlife

A small seasonal creek runs half the length of the property north to south along the perimeter fenceline when it rains.  It catches up with the river that runs through our county.  We do not use pesticides, herbicides, or fertilizers on our fields, so I don’t worry about that. And we do muck the fields often enough to ensure manure is not draining into the river.

Don't be afraid of having a brush
pile. Choose a secluded place
or non-visible spot for the
neighbors, if you live in town.


Don’t have your yard so manicured that there is no place for animals to take refuge. As was said by Dickon Sowerby, in The Secret Garden, “you don’t want a gardener’s garden”.  Animals that come to visit need to feel safe.  So, leave some spots to grow naturally.  Create a “thicket” of brambles, collect a brush pile, stack a wood pile, lay a rock pile, nurture mature trees, and even rake a pile of leaves. All creatures of all sizes will be appreciative. 

The down of the thistle is what
some birds use to line their nests!!

If you only have a patio or a balcony, you could have a spruce or holly tree in a large container.  I know people who only have a balcony and they put peanuts on the railing for the Blue Jays.  If you provide it, “they will come!”

Place to Raise Young          
Nesting box with
sides protected.

This is my favorite.  There is so much “life” on my farm.  I have 13 nesting boxes. As I had mentioned before, we planted all the trees that are on my property except for the very back tree line on a back field. Because my trees were so small those first years, I put tall posts in the ground with Bluebird boxes on them all. Some summers I get 3 broods out of one box!! We have fledglings everywhere! They are as big as their parents, but still demanding food! One thing I didn’t enjoy was stray cats or something, killing the birds (beheading) in the nesting boxes.  So I put carpeting nail strips on the outside sides of the boxes, pointy sides out! (Sorry if that’s graphic!)  That way “no thing” could hold on to the box and reach a paw inside.  I couldn’t think of any other way that was safe and semi-humane for all species.  This way the stray cats (I know it was them) would learn not to climb and the bluebirds would be safe.

Nest in one of the trees that
are finally big enough!

The pond is a great place for fish and frogs to continue their life cycle. I usually see frog eggs floating in clusters every summer.  The fish in my pond must have babies because there are so many “little” ones.
Vegetation and dense shrubs are great places for rabbits and other types of birds to have nests.  I even have Kill Deer (a Plover) lay eggs in a nest ON the gravel driveway. It’s their adaptation, dumb I might add, but theirs non-the-less.  The babies hatch looking miniature of their parents, all feathers grown in.  They all run the driveway; we rarely see them fly. I have so many species of birds and I attribute it to all the various habitats that I try to provide.

Bird nest in top of tall Austrian Pine

Once you’ve certified your yard, please let me know!  I’d love to hear what you’ve done to achieve it.

Click on the following link to start you on your way!!

No comments:

Post a Comment