Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Garden Habitat Again

My previous post mentioned the various creatures that make their home in or near my garden. I now have some recent photos of some of them.

The blue wrens seem to nest in some dense bushes in my neighbour’s yard but they spend a lot of time in my garden. The male bird tends to be a lot more timid than the female. I guess this is because his bright colouring makes him more noticeable and vulnerable to predators. The female (and her young) think nothing of coming within a couple of metres of me when I’m working outside.

I have seen a book listing 100 birds you must see before you die. The list includes all kinds of exotic birds from around the world. This particular wren is listed among that 100 and it is very satisfying to know we have a family of them that call our backyard home.

Not quite as pleasing to the eye is this creature. I’m not sure whether it is a frog or a toad. It would be a little bigger than my closed fist. It likes the area around my veggie garden because of the regular watering.

I took these photos yesterday. I was picking beans and when I heard something hit the ground I thought I had dropped some, but it was the frog/toad moving around near my feet. Hopefully he is earning his keep by eating some of the less welcome residents of my veggie patch.

Friday, January 08, 2010

Garden as Wildlife Habitat

How many of us recognise that our gardens provide habitat for a variety of critters?

I know mine often gives a home to all manner of bugs, slugs and caterpillars that are hopefully grateful for the feast provided for them in my veggie patch. They must feel more at home than they should – at least until I bring out the white oil, derris dust and other safe means of deterring their presence.

How easy it would be to resort to more lethally effective means of ridding the garden of these pests. But then, an indiscriminate nuking of the garden would also rid the place of those living things I want to encourage, such as bird life, lady beetles and of course the essential bees.

To an extent those pests provide an attraction to some of the life I want in my garden. Where would the ladybirds be without an occasional outbreak of aphids?

Years ago I worked for a man who had created an amazing little ecosystem in his garden – all by providing a seed tray to feed small birds. This is how it worked:

The birds came for the seed and scattered some across the ground below the tray. The fallen seed started to attract mice at night, which in turn managed to attract the attention of a local owl that started perching near by waiting for a nightly snack.

Personally I prefer not to provide things like seed trays. Instead I’m trying to provide native plants to provide a more natural source of food for visiting birds. If I tried my former employer’s approach I suspect it would result in the attraction of snakes rather than owls to take advantage of the mice.

While I have not seen any owls being attracted to my garden, I have a list of almost 30 birds that I’ve seen visiting or flying in close proximity to my home. While I can’t claim that my garden had anything to do with the presence of a pelican flying past, there must have been something to attract most of the other species on my list: from the ducks and hawks that have made rare visits to the more common honey eaters, parrots and the ever present blackbirds.

Visitors other than the bugs and birds have been less noticeable. Apart from an occasional neighbours pet we have mainly seen small lizards of various kinds, several frogs huddling in unlikely damp spots and twice I’ve come across a larger frog-like creature that may have a been a toad.