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.

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