Nearly 25 years ago when I moved to this home, October 19 to be exact, I spent a good bit of time out in my yard in the quiet of late autumn, and suddenly, though I’d “heard” them all my life, I noticed the variety of bird song. Looking around, at first I didn’t see as many birds as I heard, but standing still and quiet in the new garden I was building I was able to focus on each sound, and here and there find the bird in tree or brush, but I had no idea what I was looking for. It was as if I’d stumbled into a foreign country and the citizens spoke a language that was somehow familiar, but which I simply cold not understand, and I felt very left out.
Suddenly, I needed to know each bird and I purchased my first guidebook and as the leaves fell from the trees I identified each bird I saw and heard, learned more about bird feeding than cheap bird seed and bread tossed out in the yard, and was soon attracting even more. I am still enchanted, and all those birds became my neighbors as well as subjects for art, photography and writing. And in the process of observing the birds as the most obvious resident, I got to know all the other creatures who visited and lived here.
October 4 is World Animal Day, founded by ecologists in 1931 to be celebrated on the traditional Feast Day of St. Francis, a non-denominational day to encourage the recognition of all the animals with whom we share our lives on this planet.
Of course, we adore our animal companions, those who share our homes and our lives and with whom we share that bond of unconditional love animals give. But these creatures are but a few of the thousands of species of animals who inhabit the Earth along with us, who have their day to day lives the same as we do even though they often never interact with us. Each species has its part in the ever-widening circles of ecosystems, from your back yard to your watershed, from your region to your continent.
Events in recognition of this day vary widely from spay and neuter events to letter-writing campaigns about animals used in research to clean-up events to provide animals with a habitat where they can live and thrive.
One thing anyone can do today is simply to go outdoors somewhere, your backyard, a park or simply a wooded ravine behind your house, and notice the animals who live there. You may need to keep still and quiet for a while, something we humans rarely have the opportunity to do, but in time you will hear rustlings in the leaves and twitterings in the branches. Follow the sounds with just your eyes and ears and you’ll find an incredible diversity of mammals, birds, amphibians and other creatures who have been sharing your space all along. Watch the birds in the trees and listen to their songs. You don’t need to do anything else—in fact, don’t do anything else, don’t look them up on your iPhone, don’t consider their role in the ecosystem, don’t get your camera, just quietly recognize their existence and realize a part of the world you may not have known was there, and enjoy it.
After you are done with that you can do a number of things such as following the initiative to find out more about the animals you noticed, learn more about the species that inhabit your area and consider providing a bit of habitat for them, find a local organization that is conserving habitat for native species, or join in one of the day’s activities listed on the website linked above.
I created the illustration I’ve included in this post, below, for the Allegheny Land Trust, one of my long-time customers for design and commercial art, depicting the gratitude of the major species whose habitat was forever protected by ALT’s conservation of Wingfield Pines in Upper St. Clair, just outside of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Not only did protecting the 80-acre flood plain ensure a viable home for a number of imperiled species, it also provided a buffer in a residential area for wildlife to live among humans as well as preserving a flood plain along Chartiers Creek, allowing the creek to overflow during flooding in an area where the wildlife can tolerate it instead of in an area where people and businesses exist, a good thing for everyone concerned.
That first autumn in my own home I decided that a portion of my yard would be devoted to native plants for these birds who had called my back yard home before I even lived here. This, of course, led me years later to discover the Backyard Wildlife Habitat program with the National Wildlife Federation. My experience with the birds was repeated with wildflowers that volunteered in my gardens and along the trail—like friendly faces but strangers nonetheless, I had to get to know each one. All the other flora and fauna of my region followed, and if you’ve been reading The Creative Cat for any length of time you are familiar with not only the Backyard Wildlife Habitat program but also with the joy of living in one. So get out there and get to know the other populations with whom you share the Earth. You may be surprised how much is happening!
Inspired by my habitat
Below is a gallery of birds and animal inspirations, photos and sketches, in no particular order, from my backyard wildlife habitat. Who knew there could be so much in one-sixth acre?
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All images used on this site are copyrighted to Bernadette E. Kazmarski unless otherwise noted and may not be used without my written permission. Please ask if you are interested in using one in a print or internet publication. If you are interested in purchasing a print of this image or a product including this image, check my Etsy shop or Fine Art America profile to see if I have it available already. If you don’t find it there, visit Ordering Custom Artwork for more information on a custom greeting card, print or other item.