Gardening for wildlife

This week, we’ve watched several creatures enjoy the oasis we’ve created for them in the island bed in front of our house. I’m so glad we decided to move our computers to the living room so we could enjoy the big window and view of our front yard. We’ve sure missed out on a lot of free entertainment the last couple years! Since we both use notebook PC’s with wi-fi cards, there really wasn’t any reason to stay tethered to the office. There’s a little bit of everything outside these windows.

Living beneath our front patio, a family of chipmunks has easy access to the feast. The parents have been busy this week, shimmying up the pole of our shepherds hook to the wire cage containing an irresistable block of seeds and corn. These critters are so funny to watch as they stuff their cheeks to overflowing, then scurry back to their dens. No chipmunks have a larder as well-stocked as ours, I’d bet. As’s article on eastern chipmunks points out, they are quite the little foodies:

This species is single-minded in its food gathering, making trips from tree to storage burrow almost continuously. It was estimated that over three days one chipmunk stored a bushel of chestnuts, hickory nuts, and corn kernels.

The dogs and cats station themselves at the window to watch all the activity, so our pleasure is twofold as we watch our animals watch the animals outside.

Also this week, I witnessed a baby rabbit kicking around and rolling in the dry, dusty soil beneath the treeline. They take these dust baths rather than bathing in water. The fine dust serves to cut back on the insects in their fur (think fleas!) and to cool them. It was pretty entertaining seeing this immature bunny flop down and wriggle in the dust. This person created a special bunny habitat in the yard, complete with dust bath and salt lick. No thanks — they’re cute, but I don’t want to attract them! Since our neighbors are moved (along with their cats), the bunnies are coming back around.

In early spring, the robins were extremely territorial, fighting their reflections in even our car’s chrome. The feeders and birdbath in the front bed enjoy a constant stream of avian visitors. I made a platform feeder by stretching old window screening across the top of a 10-gallon fishtank stand. The screening I recycled from our old window screens. There’s also a tube feeder full of niger thistle, a hummingbird feeder, and the aforementioned wire cage containing the seed cake.

Between the feeders in the front and back yards, we’ve seen sparrows, robins, a rose-breasted grosbeak, starlings, cardinals, house finches, titmice, chickadees and goldfinches. Some of the baby birds are as big as their parents, but they still follow mom around, rapidly flapping their wings. Hmmm, sounds like some adult children, doesn’t it? At least the birds finally get it through their heads that they can fend for themselves. 😉

The pond by our patio has its share of bathers, too. Nothing draws birds like the sound and sight of trickling water. Our waterfall is a bird magnet! Some birds jump right into the pond and flap around before exiting the other side, while less adventurous ones just dip in the shallow water surrounding the rocks I have entering the water at a slope. It’s the funniest thing to see a line of young starlings waiting their turn at the bath house. The robins, grackles and starlings are the main visitors to the pond. The pictures of the birds at the pond are from last year; we’ve changed the pond, replacing the liner with a flexible rubber one and adding a waterfall.

Creating a backyard habitat for the local wildlife’s one of the best things we’ve done as gardeners here. We benefit from free entertainment, and the wildlife benefits from shelter, food and water. It’s really hard to say who gets the better end of the bargain!

Update 6/9/2006: The chipmunks finished off that big block of seed in just over a week, 8 days of diligence. Today I saw one begin its ascent, only to turn back when it saw there was nothing left. Sheesh, rodent, go under our porch, for there’s plenty to eat there!

2 thoughts on “Gardening for wildlife

  1. Those chipmunks are cute and I bet they are fun to watch. I wonder if the pets were always watching them out the window or if they just started because you guys are at the window now. I know that my animals follow me from room to room and sleep next to me, so I?m sure they miss out on a lot!

    The only downfall about the birds around here is the poop. There is some sort of berry bush next door. The birds love eating off that bush, but we see the purple evidence all over everything.

  2. Your have really created a beautiful garden. as I can see how the wild life really enjoy it.

    thanks for sharing

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