This Instructable will show how to develop and maintain a habitat for Wildlife in your own backyard.
In today's development of new suburban neighborhoods the practice and philosophy seems to be...
- Clear-cut all trees and vegetation.
- Build large homes on postage stamp sized lots.
- Plant a few ornamental trees, shrubs, grasses, and flowers.
- Travel long distances to State and National Parks to see wildlife.
Vote: Animals in the Wild Contest!
Essentially what is happening is the taking away of the natural habitat for the wildlife that was present before housing development by humans.
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Step 1: Need a Yard With Key Resources
Maximize your space with natural cover and places to raise young while still leaving space to allow yourself to enjoy the outdoors and observe the wildlife.
Our home is located on what some people call a "bowling alley lot". Lot dimensions are 85'x485', which is approximately .85 acres. The orginal ranch style home was built in 1955, when lot sizes were still valued by many. Today in our neighborhood, much larger homes are being built on less than .25 acre lots.
- Green Check: Shows our lot with lots of natural vegetation and foliage.
- Red X: Shows three lots adjacent to our backyard propertly line where the homes were built about 30 years later.
Note the major different in coverage with natural vegetation.
Basic Needs Include
- Places to Raise Young
Step 2: Keep Yard As Natural As Possible
Many friends and family have likened our yard as our own personal park.
Shrubs, thickets, brush piles, and log piles provide hiding places for wildlife. Keep your yard habitable for both wildlife and your family.
Along one property line we have a very thick and dense shrubs allowing for wildlife to be protected from predators and harsh weather. Log piles (annual firewood rotation) allow for natural habit for insects. Our firewood stock is probably o a 3 year rotation.
The other property line is a small wooded area providing bedding area for deer and nesting for squirrels and birds.
While I would love a lush lawn one of these days, our clover lush lawn provides food for rabbits and deer.
Overall, our yard provides the following...
- Wooded Area
- Bramble patch
- Ground Cover
- Roosting Boxes
- Dense Shrubs
- Brush and Log Piles
- Bird Bath (we let all the surrounding neighbors provide water when they frequently water their sod laid lawns) :-)
Step 3: Unexpected Safe Haven
Unexpectedly, a log pile became a favorite spot for a Mama Doe to hide her young fawn. We found this fawn by chance one evening when gathering some some 4x4's I had nearby, stored for stacking firewood. The next morning the fawn was gone but reappeared a couple days later in the same spot. Obviously Mama Doe felt this was a safe space for her baby.
Step 4: Food
Food in most abundance in our yard are...
- Mulberry Tree: When I bought the house 18 years ago I had no idea the bush in our backyard was a mulberry tree. Every year for the first 5 years I would trim it back trying to keep it under control. Then one year I did not get to the trimming and voila! Berries appeared. Did some research and discovered it was a mulberry tree. What was at one time kept to about 6 foot tall is not towering to about 25 ft. tall. When the berries are ripe, birds come miles around to feed.
- Wild Raspberry
- Clover: Not the pretties lawn, but we make it work.
- Begonias: Wife loves begonias. Apparently the deer do as well.
- Hosta: Beautul plant if the deer and rabbits don't get to them.
- Feeders: We have 5 feeders active in our yard and have to refill weekly and sometimes more often depending on whether or not the deer and squirrels get to them.
- Insects: Plenty of bugs with more to come once the wildflowers bloom.
Step 5: Water
While we do have a bird bath, we don't worry about water too much. We let the wildlife head over to the neighbors yards when they water their lawns. Not a worry for us. We have everything else! :-)
Step 6: Wildflower Patches
A few years ago had the idea to bring more color into the yard. The decorative plans were too costly as the deer seem to eat most everything.
Was passing through Home Depot and noticed bags of wildflower seed for about $10. I bought a bag of perennial and annual seed. Ran home and tilled some ground, threw the seed down, and watered it. In about 8-12 weeks, end of summer, we were cutting wildflowers for inside the house and letting the insects and other wildlife enjoy the rest.
Step 7: Free Housing
Would LOVE to see the activity INSIDE these boxes! When we are lucky, we get to see the wildlife enter and exit. My 7 year old son asked if we could open a box where were heard chicks. Had to break his heart and tell him we did not want to disturb them and we would have to wait for them to be big enough to come out on their own.
Over the years I have hung a variety of shapes and sizes of roosting/nesting boxes for the birds. Some handmade and others purchased or gifts. Once hung they are pretty low maintenance. In late winter or very early spring I go to each box and clean out the old nesting making it clean and ready for the bird migration back to Northern Ohio.
Some of the boxes I built from these easy design plans.
- Bat House: New this year. No evidence of occupancy yet. Need to set up a IR motion trail cam soon to see if anything living here
- Re purposed Mailbox: There has been evidence that either mice or squirrels have used this for shelter or nesting. Have been asked by many why I have a mailbox hanging 10 feet high in a tree.
- Shot Gun Shell: Ceramic birdhouse given as a gift. Yes, this nature lover also enjoys hunting.
- Purple Martin Condo: Was received as a gift. No evidence of nesting. After about 15 years I finally lower it to inspect. Found a few twigs and put it back up. Serves more as decoration and a landmark of our property line.
- Clay Pot: Always gets occupied
- Wren/Finch Boxes: These get occupied every year.
- Bass Head: Another cool gift usually end up occupied by finches.
- Kids DIY Birdhouse: Fun project for my daughter and I about 5 years ago. This one might need some repairs soon.
- Screech Owl House: New this year. No evidence of nesting yet... perhaps the scary demon (high school mascot) is scaring wildlife away? But it looks cool.
Step 8: Our Wildlife
We have plenty of wildlife on our less than 1 full acre lot. Here are just a few of our friends we share our space with in the past few weeks along with some Whitetail Bucks from last fall during Rut. No pictures yet of the nocturnal wildlife.
Perhaps time to set up the IR trail cam in the backyard to catch the skunk, raccoons, and opossum in action.
Well, that is how we created our wildlife habitat in Westlake, Ohio a western suburb of Cleveland, Ohio. Overall, this was 18 years in the making with only a couple weeks of wildlife captured for your viewing.
Would love comments on how to improve.
Will be entering this in the Animals in the Wild and Outside contests. So if you feel the desire, please vote.
Will try to get the IR motion cam set up in the backyard. Chance are probably just more deer picts, but perhaps will find some other nocturnal wildlife.
Enjoy the imagery! I love what I have build and the kids love seeing everything in our own backyard. Although.. the deer are pretty ordinary these days.
Step 9: Habitat Update
As the summer progresses I will use this step to show updates of how our wildflower gardens progress and any new wildlife we are able to capture in photography.
- Last year we had a large population of tiny toads. They are getting bigger.
- Flowers are starting to bloom.
- Started a few pumpkin mounds for the heck of it. Hope to get pumpkins before the rabbits find them. Rabbits love pumpkin plants. Years ago they cleared out in one night an entire patch of seedlings.
Enjoy and stay tuned for more updates.