Your Backyard Wildlife Habitat: What Else is In Your Backyard, The Fauna That Fill It

bunny profile in spring garden

Bunny in the spring yard.

This is the third in a series of four articles about considering your backyard wildlife habitat.

One lovely August morning I was harvesting tomatoes in my vegetable garden. The air was pleasantly warm and the garden was still dewy as I crept along, crouching between the tall beefsteaks, picking the newly-ripened tomatoes at the bottom of each plant.

I reached around the base of one plant to get to a tomato in the back and felt a tickly spiderweb on the back of my hand, pulled my hand back and saw A HUGE BLACK AND YELLOW SPIDER RUNNING UP MY ARM!

I jumped up and shrieked, tossing the spider off my right arm into the air, and holding tightly to the basket of precious tomatoes I vaulted a row of Romas in 30” cages from a standstill and ran out into the middle of the yard where nothing could get me, slapping at my arm and shaking myself.

Most of what lives in your backyard you will never see, or never notice, unless you go poking around into their protected little habitats, and it’s there for a reason. Even though I pictured something that had legs as long as railroad crossing bars, it was just a common garden spider, and perfectly harmless to me—but deadly to most of the tiny flying insect pests that might decide to munch on my tomatoes. I hope it didn’t mind being relocated in such an ingracious way.

bee on leek flower

Bee on leek flower.

Finding your residents

Birds are obvious, and are often the reason people consider backyard wildlife habitats, and butterflies have become very popular now that people have realized they can actually attract them with specific plants.

Wild rabbits are generally welcome, squirrels can’t be avoided, and the most dedicated even put up with groundhogs, raccoons, opossums, deer and plenty of other species depending on where you live (you can tell I’m in the northeast) as long as they aren’t predators and don’t pose danger to humans or other animals.
The story continues, keep reading…


Your Backyard Wildlife Habitat: What’s in Your Backyard?

This is the second in a series of articles about considering your backyard wildlife habitat.

photo of pink phlox

Tall Phlox © 2010 B.E. Kazmarski

You think planning your garden is fun? Wait until you start an inventory of what’s currently available for wildlife in your yard. You will be shocked at what you have already, and if you’re not too clear on native species now just the process of identification will show you at least your most common native plants and animals and you’ll feel like an expert.

Where and how you garden

If you are reading about a backyard wildlife habitat, then it’s probably safe to assume that you are already gardening, even if you live in an apartment or just have a patio.

I gardened for a while with a flower box on my apartment balcony railing, a half-barrel with tomatoes, peppers and basil, a bird feeder and a deep-dish pie pan for a birdbath. I also had a garden behind an apartment building where I wasn’t supposed to garden, and I don’t suggest you do that, but it just illustrates that gardening can be done anywhere there is soil, light and water—and determination—and birds, bees and butterflies will come.

Likewise, the habitat doesn’t need to be in your backyard, nor be confined to your backyard. Community gardens, parks and other public places are also habitats—native flora and fauna don’t recognize our boundaries. The public area may also have most or all of the requirements for a habitat, or with permission of the authority for the public area you may enhance it. Whatever your space, consider it your habitat for the purposes of inventory.

Read the rest of this entry »


What Else is In Your Backyard: The Fauna That Fill It

This is the third in a series of four articles about considering your backyard wildlife habitat.

photo of bee on leek flower

Bee on Leek © B.E. Kazmarski

One lovely August morning I was harvesting tomatoes in my vegetable garden. The air was pleasantly warm and the garden was still dewy as I crept along, crouching between the tall beefsteaks, picking the newly-ripened tomatoes at the bottom of each plant.

I reached around the base of one plant to get to a tomato in the back and felt a tickly spiderweb on the back of my hand, pulled my hand back and saw A HUGE BLACK AND YELLOW SPIDER RUNNING UP MY ARM!

I jumped up and shrieked, tossing the spider off my right arm into the air, and holding tightly to the basket of precious tomatoes I vaulted a row of Romas in 30” cages from a standstill and ran out into the middle of the yard where nothing could get me, slapping at my arm and shaking myself.

Most of what lives in your backyard you will never see, or never notice, unless you go poking around into their protected little habitats. Even though I pictured something that had legs as long as railroad crossing bars, it was just a common garden spider, and perfectly harmless to me—but deadly to most of the tiny flying insect pests that might decide to munch on my tomatoes. I hope it didn’t mind being relocated in such an ingracious way.

Finding your residents

photo of wild rabbit

Bunny Profile © B.E. Kazmarski

Birds are obvious, and are often the reason people consider backyard wildlife habitats, and butterflies have become very popular now that people have realized they can actually attract them with specific plants.

Wild rabbits are generally welcome, squirrels can’t be avoided, and the most dedicated even put up with groundhogs, raccoons, opossums, deer and plenty of other species depending on where you live (you can tell I’m in the northeast) as long as they aren’t predators and don’t pose danger to humans or other animals.
The story continues, keep reading…


What’s in Your Backyard? The First Step in Planning Your Backyard Wildlife Habitat

This is the second in a series of four articles about considering your backyard wildlife habitat.

photo of pink phlox

Tall Phlox © 2010 B.E. Kazmarski

You think planning your garden is fun? Wait until you start an inventory of what’s currently available for wildlife in your yard. You will be shocked at what you have already, and if you’re not too clear on native species now just the process of identification will show you at least your most common native plants and animals and you’ll feel like an expert.

Where and how you garden

If you are reading about a backyard wildlife habitat, then it’s probably safe to assume that you are already gardening, even if you live in an apartment or just have a patio.

I gardened for a while with a flower box on my apartment balcony railing, a half-barrel with tomatoes, peppers and basil, a bird feeder and a deep-dish pie pan for a birdbath. I also had a garden behind an apartment building where I wasn’t supposed to garden, and I don’t suggest you do that, but it just illustrates that gardening can be done anywhere there is soil, light and water—and determination—and birds, bees and butterflies will come.

Likewise, the habitat doesn’t need to be in your backyard, nor be confined to your backyard. Community gardens, parks and other public places are also habitats—native flora and fauna don’t recognize our boundaries. The public area may also have most or all of the requirements for a habitat, or with permission of the authority for the public area you may enhance it. Whatever your space, consider it your habitat for the purposes of inventory.
The story continues, keep reading…


An Introduction to Backyard Wildlife Habitats

This is the first in a series of articles on building your backyard wildlife habitat.

male cardinal in snowy forsythia

Cardinal in Forsythia © 2010 B.E. Kazmarski

At dusk a male cardinal, always the last to feed, sat on a branch in the bare lilac outside the north window, bobbing slightly in the wind, sounding his loud, hard “chip! chip!”, his color slowly fading to gray as the light faded from the day and light flurries softened the landscape. I don’t know if he’s saying “good night” or “thank you” or “can’t you turn up the heat” or if he’s not saying anything to me at all, but if I’m at my desk when dusk falls on a winter evening, the cardinal is outside, looking right at me, speaking his piece.

After dark I was in the back yard when the cloud cover parted and the moon, a little past full, shone on the light dusting of snow. The stillness of a bitter cold winter night can be unnerving, the sudden, slight rustle of dry shriveled leaves still hanging on your phlox can seem like a whispered conversation right at your elbow, and the sound of my rubber clogs crunching the snow was so loud I caught myself on tiptoe trying to minimize my disturbance to the night.

It was 11 degrees with a dusting of snow. I’ve no doubt I’ll see the thermometer drop a few more degrees before I decide I’m done for the day.

painting of junco on snowy branch

Snow Bird © 2010 B.E. Kazmarski

I think of the birds and bunnies and squirrels and the others who are supposed to be hibernating but I see their prints and sometimes see them, at this time of day nestled in their preferred night cover, keeping warm with a good day’s food and water in their bellies. I’ve inventoried the winter residents of my little back yard and taken care to provide winter cover and a good varied diet and water for them to drink.

I was outside gathering the plastic dishes, now full of frozen water, to be refilled and replaced outdoors in the morning. It’s part of the years-long habit of maintaining my backyard wildlife habitat.

And enjoying the experience of a cold winter night is as much a pleasure as a warm summer morning as I share the awareness of life in this little piece of wilderness, here in Backyard Wildlife Habitat No. 35393.
The story continues, keep reading…