Grit Blogs > Gardening with Vickie

Creating a Backyard Wildlife Refuge

A photo of Vickie MorganGardening season is over in Michigan – all the produce is out of the vegetable garden and herb garden is winding down. Which is good because, October first greeted us with our first hard frost. It's kind of a let down this transition from working at break neck speed in the garden, to a slower time of year. Oh I love fall, with its beautiful leaves and cooler weather, but it hit me a little more this year, what's a gardner to do when winter sets in?

One morning I was up early trying to fix my sewing machine (without much success), when I noticed how quiet everything was and wondered when time birds wake up. Then it dawned on me, birds! Why not watch and take pictures of birds that come to my backyard.

I found through research one way to attract more birds to your backyard it to make it into a backyard wildlife refuge. The National Wildlife Federation offers a list of requirements in order to be recognized as a certified backyard refuge. I already had many things that were listed and the ones I lack are inexpensive to obtain.

The lists includes:

  • What food you have for the birds or wildlife? It can be a mixture of natural vegetation or feeders
  • Water supply – including ponds, lakes, birdbaths etc.
  • Cover for wildlife – like shrubs, brush piles
  • A place for wildlife to raise their young – like nesting boxes, plants that moths or butterfly's can lay their eggs in. etc.
  • Let your garden grow green – by going green you can conserve natural resources and by planting native plants you stop using as much fertilizer.

I do have a bird house – I see evidence that birds have used it, but they haven't stayed too long. I think it sits too close to the house (the other side of the post has our house number) and they probably don't like the activity. So I'll be looking for more birdhouses in the future.

Log cabin bird house.

We already have many trees with fruit and bushes for wildlife to find shelter, but I think it would be neat to have a butterfly bush, so I'll be staking out a place in our backyard to plant one next spring.

One more inexpensive easy way to provide shelter is a brush pile – maybe in the far corner of our backyard there is room. I'll get started tomorrow with leftover grape vines. Hope Bat won't mind too much.

It hasn't been easy waiting on the return of the birds – everyday I think, this will be the day. The day the birds come back to the feeder, the day I finally get my first picture, and the day I hopefully identify it correctly. Well, I did get a beautiful picture one day of ... an empty bush – birds do fly fast you now.

Some other lessons I've learned are:

1. Cleaning and putting fresh quality seed in the feeder is essential.

2. Flip-flops are not a good thing to wear while sneaking up on birds. They hear every sound around them.

3. In order to get a picture of a bird you need to go outside – and do something or else you'll never see a bird. Suggestions for something to do, well, fill up a bird feeder, put more water in their bowl, or plant 100 tulip bulbs (sorry the gardener in me always emerges).

4. When you go outside – DON'T forget the camera. I know I had to have created quite a scene the other day, running back in the house for my camera. Now, it hangs around my wrist or in my pocket.

Yesterday I did go out and buy suet and a holder to put it in. I found a website with a easy to make suet recipe at Organic Garden Buzz, so next time I need to replace the suet it will be homemade.

If you're also interested in making your backyard a wildlife refuge, most of these things are easy and inexpensive to obtain to get your on your way.

Success! Here's my first blurry picture of a Black-capped Chickadee:

Black-capped Chickadee