Large Backyard Landscaping IDEAS
Most wildlife are very mobile and can usually find enough water in nearby ponds or streams or from rain, morning dew and even from insects. However, providing standing water in birdbaths or small ponds can be an effective attraction to wildlife. If you decide to provide water, remember to keep it fresh! Small water areas, filled with algae, can be toxic to some wildlife species as well as provide the ideal living site for undesirable mosquitoes.
Birdbaths should be no deeper than 3 inches and have gently sloping sides. The sound and sight of dripping water or spray of a waterfall or water fountain will increase your project's attractiveness.
A secure place to raise young may be a limiting factor in attracting some species of wildlife. This factor can often be addressed by the placement of houses built especially for bluebirds, wrens, tree swallows, purple martins, kestrels, wood ducks, squirrels, raccoons, owls or other species. After putting up these houses, you can sit back and enjoy watching the nesting activities and the raising of the young. What better way is there to teach an appreciation for nature!
In a rural setting where large trees and nearby ponds or wide, flowing streams are available, wood duck nest boxes can also accommodate nest sites. Wildlife house plans and bird feeder plans are available from many organizations, your local nursery or library.
Bird feeders are also used to attract birds for close-up observation and can be designed to attract many different species. Hummingbird feeders placed near the windows of your home may bring these tiny, nectar feeders from the flower garden to the window.
Species such as the mourning dove prefer to feed on the ground under feeders placed in the open, while chickadees prefer their feeder to be close to protective tree cover.
A variety of hard and soft mast-producing trees and shrubs, thorny trees and shrubs, dense conifers, wildflowers and unmowed grasses produce a variety of food and cover for wildlife. The more you provide, the greater the variety of wildlife you may attract and enjoy. Native vegetation, wildlife houses and feeders and birdbaths contribute to your enjoyment. By landscaping the property around your home you are creating wildlife habitat as well as providing attractive flowers, cooling shade, windbreaks and natural insulation, and reduced maintenance and expense.
As you plan, design and work on your projects, remember you are doing something positive for wildlife. But, not everything you do is a "quick fix" for a low population. It may take several years to see all the results you seek. Be patient, give vegetation time to establish itself, and the wildlife will move in and multiply.
Perhaps as neighbors and friends see the rewards of your habitat improvement, they too will want to help wildlife in their backyards.
By learning more about the basic needs of wildlife species, our efforts to influence wildlife will be more effective. Your local Natural Resources Conservation Services (NRCS) and Soil Conservation District, working together with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources and other agencies, are happy to assist you in implementing planning and habitat improvement projects.