IT’S SUMMERTIME IN the northern hemisphere and the living in your backyard wildlife habitat has been turned up to “high”—birds, bees, flowers, groundhogs and more are reproducing, training, fledging, eating, drinking and just plain living it up all hours of the day and night. You have a lot of work to do to keep up with it, but at this time of the year you can best see the fruits of your labors. Your native plants are blooming one after another and butterflies and bees are all over them. Tree and shrub fruits are maturing as birds mature and young birds and other animals are learning to eat them as they learn to crawl, climb, hop and fly. You find a tomato hornworm in your vegetable garden but it’s covered with white parasitic wasp larva that will take care of that hornworm for you, and you know you’ve created the right balance for your little ecosystem. Here are a few articles about what to work on and look for in the summer for fleas, poison ivy, what to do if you find a baby animal, rabies awareness, summer flora and fauna, butterfly gardens, bird feeding, and the essential nature of dandelions.
FLEAS, LIKE MOST OTHER INSECTS, live everywhere around us and it’s how we manage our surroundings that helps to control their populations. Like managing mosquitoes, for instance, by eliminating still pools of water where they can breed, you can also manage the flea population around your yard without the use of toxic chemicals so that fleas can’t set up a happy colony where they are ready and waiting when your pet comes outside—or even when you come outside and carry them back in.
Itch. Itch. Scratch scratch. Scratch scratch scratch scratch scratch DIG DIG—aaaggghhh!
No, it’s not your cat or dog, it’s you! And what’s the culprit? Poison ivy! But you’ve been wearing work clothes in an office all week, where the heck did it come from?
WHETHER YOU MAINTAIN a habitat or not, even in a city setting, you stand a chance of finding nests of young birds or mammals or obviously immature animals who appear to be orphaned. Unless they are visibly injured or in the path of traffic or predators, the first thing to do is observe from a distance, and the second is to get in touch with a wildlife rehabilitator who can answer questions unless you have received some training. They are usually not abandoned, their parents may be near but out of sight for safety, and you would be disturbing the natural course of nurturing a young animal if you were to intervene. In fact, taking wild animals out of their habitat is illegal. Young animals are always best with their parents if at all possible, and should never be taken away unless you have confirmed they are abandoned or injured.
The photo above is from autumn. While I’ve always been aware that we shared our little habitat with raccoons they’d always been on the night shift, partying in the back yard while digging up grubs, turning my compost pile looking for goodies, and playing hide and seek in the hollow maple trees. Seeing one in the daytime, in the early morning or at dusk, is not at all unusual unless you know your population and that’s out of the ordinary for them. Here, it was, and so I consulted one of the wildlife biologists I know to discuss the situation. More on this, below.
THINGS ARE SPROUTING every minute out there in your yard, so it’s time to get out there and get to know your friends! Yes, everything that grows out there is your friend in one way or another, even the dandelions, and maybe even the poison ivy.
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!
WHILE LATE SUMMER is not the best time to plant, it is the best time to plan changes in your habitat for next year while all your foliage is at its height, literally and figuratively, and you can see what type of space you have to work with and how the light falls to meet the sunlight requirements of new plants.
EVEN THOUGH YOU have a yard full of native plants that will bloom and produce seeds in succession, trees and shrubs for nesting, and care for it all in a way that welcomes birds, butterflies and lots native animals, it’s still a good idea to put out a little bird seed and a few watering holes for all those who come to visit.
FOR MANY OF US feeding the birds is somewhat of a luxury, and purchasing new or more expensive feeders is not always in the budget. I’m a miser with bird seed and to see all I’ve put out for birds spilled all over the ground where many birds won’t eat it, or to watch the birds sit in the trees and watch the squirrels empty out the feeder makes me say bad words my innocent cats probably shouldn’t hear.
Help! Everything is sprouting and they aren’t necessarily plants you want growing in your yard! Time to pull and cut and chop and even spray chemicals to kill those things? Stop for a moment and consider—some of those things you really don’t want, some you do and don’t know it, and some don’t really matter, but there is one species that needs all those suddenly-sprouting native wild plants, especially the detested dandelion. Note that I said “needs”, not “likes” or “prefers”, and read on.
Backyard Wildlife Habitats
My backyard wildlife habitat was certified through National Wildlife Federation’s program in 2003, and their site is still one of my favorite references for information. Visit and read about it, and begin planning your own and be certified!
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Read the entire series of introductory articles:
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Also read about my art, photography, poetry and prose inspired by my backyard wildlife habitat:
Or just read other articles in the category of Your Backyard Wildlife Habitat
Art and Gifts featuring cats you know! Visit Portraits of Animals
Wildlife Photos from Portraits of Animals!
Little bunnies acting like they are big bunnies are just adorable. If that sounds corny, it’s true. This little one lives in a nest along the edge of my garden. It’s the only one I see and I don’t know the status of the bunny’s siblings, so she may really be the center of her own little universe. Read more, and purchase.
All images and text used on this site are copyrighted to Bernadette E. Kazmarski unless otherwise noted and may not be used without my written permission, although links to your site are more than welcome and are shared. Please ask if you are interested in using and image or story in a print or internet publication. If you are interested in purchasing a print of an image or a product including it, check my animal and nature website Portraits of Animals 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.
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Weekly schedule of features:
Sunday: Essays, Pet Loss, Poetry, The Artist’s Life Monday: Adoptable Cats, TNR & Shelters Tuesday: Rescue Stories Wednesday: Commissioned Portrait or Featured Artwork Thursday: New Merchandise Friday: Book Review, Health and Welfare, Advocacy Saturday: Your Backyard Wildlife Habitat, Living Green With Pets, Creating With Cats And sometimes, I just throw my hands in the air and have fun!