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Posts Tagged ‘wildlife habitat’

A couple of days ago I was returning from running errands, and spotted a family of turkeys in our yard. They were strolling through a group of trees along the driveway that I hope one day will resemble a woods. As they slipped into the tangle of vegetation, it reminded me how much progress I’ve made over the years replacing lwangrass with more wildlife-friendly plantings. This woodsy area is still far from beautiful, but it does now host a variety of native trees and shrubs that I have planted over the years. In the interest of full disclosure, it is also the site of one of my major wineberry battles earlier this summer.

I keep a list of birds I have spotted on the property, and this isn’t the first time I have seen turkeys here. (In addition to being a gardener, I am a birder, so I am usually always looking.) Still, it has been fun to follow this family all summer and plan what else I can add to the landscape that will make it friendlier to an even wider variety of creatures.

Yellow-billed-Cukoo

Above: Yellow-Billed Cuckoo, one of the many species spotted at Hackberry Point.

Come September, I will certainly add more natives for birds and other wildlife, and I hope many other Eastern Shore Gardeners will do the same. To help get you planning and planting, I wanted to share a link to 10 Tips for Attracting Birds to Your Landscape, a blog post I wrote for the University of North Carolina Press in support of Chesapeake Gardening & Landscaping earlier this year. I hope you enjoy it!

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Last weekend was very exciting—box turtle-wise, that is. Saturday night (7/29), friends who were exploring my front garden came indoors to report that a female box turtle was digging a nest along the front of the garden. We all piled out to get a glimpse, keeping a respectful distance, of course.

Turtle-first-hole

Above: First attempt, Saturday night through a carpet of thyme.

She was still working on the hole when my husband and I went to bed that night. In the morning, I was disappointed to find the empty hole, which wasn’t filled in as I expected. I did a bit of research, and found that turtles commonly dig one or more test holes and then abandon them for unknown reasons. Experts speculate that they find the soil conditions unacceptable.

Happily, she returned Sunday evening at about 6:00 p.m. and began to dig a second hole in a new location.

Turtle-nest-side

Above: The start of her second, successful, nest. You can see the hole just beneath her left rear leg.

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We’ve all read at least something about welcoming wildlife in the garden. Providing suitable habitat—including food, water, and shelter—is essential. Sometime the habitat that wildlife chooses isn’t quite what you would expect, though. My current case-in-point is the rather large toad that has been living on our deck all summer long.

Pyrosa-'Variegata'

Above: A potted Pyrrosia fern summering on a deck doesn’t seem to offer much in the way of wildlife habitat, but evidently toads think otherwise!

At first glance, a deck doesn’t seem like a great spot for a toad to set up residence, especially one that is the main route four dogs take to and from the back yard several times a day. Still, “our” toad seems happy there. Food doesn’t seem to be a problem, since he or she seems to be able to find plenty to eat—especially in the evening when the lights in the living room or out on the deck are on and are attract night-flying insects.

I added a plant saucer to make sure adequate water was available, which takes care of two of the three basic characteristics of suitable wildlife habitat. (Dogs and toad don’t seem to mind that they are sharing, as long as I keep the saucer filled up.)

Shelter is another story. I wondered what our resident toad did during the day and in very hot weather, since toads normally spend the daytime in cool, moist soil, either under logs or debris or in burrows. During hot, dry weather they can aestivate, meaning they spend the hot summer days in a dormant state, in burrows or similar locations. As it turns out, houseplant containers provide perfect shelter.

Toad-sansiveria

Above: A potted sansevieria is the perfect spot for summertime snoozes, thank you very much, as the photo above illustrates.

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