Turn Your Back Yard Into Wildlife Refuge

By Suzanne Sproul

YOUR BACKYARD is for the birds, butterflies and whatever form of wildlife you like.

To ensure they are attracted to your yard, set out the welcome mat. Create a habitat or environment that combines sources of food, water, shelter and space. With the proper landscaping, nature’s creatures will want to stop and stay a spell.

“I’m a gardener, so all this comes naturally to me. Creating the habitat is part of my life’s mission, really. My husband and I are involved with the local humane society and we try to help where we can. With our population growing so quickly, the land is falling to development all the time. We still need space for wildlife. I believe that one individual can make a difference, that one back yard can make all the difference,” said Nancy Alexander of Redlands, CA.

Alexander isn’t alone in her beliefs. She and her husband, Cliff, bought their present home eight years ago. The former owner of the house told them that the yard was certified as a backyard habitat.

“That intrigued me, so I found out more about the program. I liked what I found out, and we decided to do something ourselves. We wanted to create our own habitat and get the yard recertified,” she said. So the Alexanders relandscaped their back yard.

“We chose to go native, and it’s been wonderful. Choosing native plants works because birds and wildlife already are accustomed to it and the plants are so easy to work with. There’s very little maintenance. The yard basically takes care of itself.”

Local wildlife love it, especially a family of California Thrashers that used to live next door in what was once a 40-acre field. The field is gone, replaced by development, but the thrashers apparently have jumped the fence and now enjoy the confines of the Alexander yard. They have joined the birds that stop by daily and lizards that scamper at will.

“You don’t have to relandscape like we did. All you need to do is carve out a small piece of your back yard. Plant some natives. If they provide berries, all the better. Then you’ll have shelter and a food source all in one place. Add a birdbath. It doesn’t have to take over your life and you can give back a little of the joy that nature gives us.”

Susan Campos also feels a special kinship with nature.

“I was raised with the citrus industry. I love agriculture and animals. I love to garden. I love birds and flowers. Creating a backyard habitat for me is just plain natural,” said the Pomona resident.

Her yard is filled with fragrant roses, vibrant salvias and countless other plants as well as water fountains and feeders. She’s particularly fond of hummingbirds and finches, both frequent and welcome visitors.

“I love to just watch my yard. I discover things every day. One day there was this little green bird that kept coming around my hummer feeder. I watched and loved it and I wanted to learn more. So I asked a friend who knows all about birds and gardening. She said it probably was a finch,” Campos said. So she put in another bird feeder. That one features finch food. Now Campos has aerial ballets every day.

“Hummers are comical characters, and finches are charming. The more I’m out in the yard and the more noise I make, the more the birds get friendly. I saw the most beautiful butterfly the other day. I love it. The more you plant, the more you bring in to your yard.” she said.

Plant your landscape with everything you enjoy, but keep in mind that animals and birds require some basics. Water sources are essential in any backyard habitat. If left unattended, however, they can become stagnant and dirty, providing an ideal climate for mosquitoes. Remember to keep everything clean. –Los Angeles Daily News