August 17, 2018
My Backyard Has Gone To The Birds

I have been wildlife gardening in my backyard without even know it.

The definition of wildlife gardening according to Wikipedia – “A wildlife garden is an environment created by a gardener that serves as a sustainable haven for surrounding wildlife.

It goes on to say:

Building a successful garden suitable for local wildlife is best accomplished through the use of multiple three-dimensional habitats with diverse structures that provide places for animals to nest and hide. Wildlife gardens may contain a range of habitats, including:

  • Log piles
  • Bird feeding stations and birdhouses
  • Bug boxes and bee hotels
  • Sources of water
  • Pollinators
  • Plant diversity

Let’s take it from the top

Log Piles

Rob has built me a log pile right outside the front door and the birds love it especially the quail.

Not only that we have 2 huge logs set upright that the birds love to perch on and view the surrounding area.

Then we have a plum tree laid on its side with its branched aimed towards the sky that the birds like to run up and down and survey their domain.

Whenever a bird gets scared they either head for the cedar trees that surround the yard to run to the brush pile to hide amongst the logs.

Our forest has some dead trees for the woodpeckers and for roosting birds and underbrush where the birds feel safe.

brush pile and jungle gym for the birds

Brush pile and jungle gym for the birds

Bird Feeding Stations and Birdhouses

Let’s just say the birds get fed before I have my breakfast.

I have four feeders for black oil sunflower seeds, a couple of suet feeder and some niger seed feeders.

In the winter there is white millet for all the ground feeders that stay until they head north in the spring.

And don’t forget the hummingbird feeders. There are two, one at either end of the deck and when the hummers start feeding heavily I put another one out in the garden.

In the winter when it freezes I bring in the hummingbird feeders at night and get up early in the morning to put them out so the birds have something to sip on after a cold winter night.

In our forest, we have placed birdhouses on the fence and in trees but haven’t had a lot of luck with birds nesting in them yet, but I remain hopeful.

Last year we had Bewick’s wren that filled one of the houses with sticks and twigs until they couldn’t even get in the door, but they opted to nest somewhere else.

Bug Boxes and Bee Hotels

I haven’t formally put up any bug boxes, but in reality, our backyard is full of wood, wood chips and wonderful hiding places for bugs and along with the garden they have lots of room to roam and multiply.

On the other hand, we do have two mason bee houses and it’s neat to see how they mud themselves into the holes only to emerge one day in the spring when the warm weather hits.

Source of Water

During the summer we keep 3 bird baths and a bird drip that I put on at least once a day.

One is a large bird bath that tends to be a communal one. I have seen up to 15 starlings in it at one time and by the time they are finished there isn’t much water left in the bowl.

Another is a smaller bath that is closer to the trees and you will see individual birds jump off the cedars, quickly bathe, drink and disappear back into the trees.

The third birdbath is a plant saucer that I keep on the ground for the racoons and squirrels.

Every morning when I clean and refill everything the one on the ground is full of dirt and grass where the racoons have been washing their food at night.

A waterfall is in the planning stage and it will have places where all the birds will be able to wash and drink.

Pollinators

I’ve always had sunflower seeds and lavender plants in my garden for the birds and the bees but this year I also planted a wildflower garden.

It is amazing how many bees and butterflies are attracted to it and the other flowers in my garden.

I’ve been watching the bees. They get right down into the centre of the poppy, lay on their side and push themselves around the stamen gathering pollen on their back legs. The chamber where they collect the pollen is called a corbicula or pollen basket.

Sometimes I see a flash of yellow in the garden and thinking it’s a bird I train my camera on it only to discover it’s a bee with its pollen sacs full or the hairs on its body covered with pollen.

bee pollinating

Another plant I introduce to the yard was a butterfly bush. In fact two of them.

They aren’t easy bushes/plant/trees to come by as they are considered an invasive species and you can’t buy them at the nursery.

I say bushes/plant/trees because depending on how you keep them pruned will depend on the size of them.

One was acquired by taking a cutting off of a neighbours tree that was hanging over the fence and the other was given to me. It had been laying on its side for over a month, bare roots exposed and yet it lives on.

They are one tough plant and the bees, butterflies and hummingbirds love them.

butterfly bush

Plant Diversity

With lots of different plants, shrubs and trees in the yard it provides food and numerous places for birds and wildlife to feed, roost and shelter.

The highest trees are the cedar and fir trees that surround the yard followed by the maple and alder trees.

We have a row of birch that are mid-size as well as a curly willow, lilac tree, pussy willow and dogwood.

Last winter we planted a rowan tree hoping to attract some cedar waxwings.

I find that the warblers prefer the birch, alder and maples whereas the finches, nuthatches and chickadees head for the denser evergreens.

Next is some shrubs like the huge rosemary that is in the middle of my yard, rhododendron and hydrangea as well as some native plants like huckleberry, salmon and thimbleberry bushes.

The robins and towhee are all over the berries.

The rest of the backyard is planted in flowers for the hummingbirds and bees.

These include native fuchsia, different varieties of salvia, bee balm, crocosmia and vermillionaire cuphea.

And of course the wildflower garden.

Rufous hummingbird on bee balm

Rufous hummingbird feeding on bee balm

The Vegetable Garden

An additional wildlife refuge is my vegetable garden. It provides lots of flowers for the pollinators, bugs and slugs for the quail and wonderful places to have dust baths.

If I’m not fast enough with the netting they also get the strawberries and blueberries to enjoy.

The Backyard

I say backyard but in actual fact, it’s the front yard. The backyard is the forest.

Thinking it would be easier to explain in a video that writing it out I did a walkthrough of the flower garden.

Disclaimer:

If you were looking for a manicured lawn and perfectly space plantings then walk away now.

The lawn is brown because it doesn’t get watered and I put the plants where I want.

I’m not trying to make excuse or justify it’s just the way we roll here on the west coast.

Wildlife gardening is for the birds, bees and critters, and if it happens to be pleasing to the eye, so much the better.

So grab a cup of coffee, tea, juice or water and enjoy all 20 minutes of the tour. I got a little carried away on time.

Here is a list of the salvia that you see in the yard

  • Dwarf hummingbird mint –  Coral
  • Lemon light salvia
  • Hot Lips
  • Dwarf hummingbird mint – Mandarin
  • Orchid Glow
  • Fire Dancer
  • Perennial Sage – Caramia
  • Then there is a bunch of blue salvias that I got in little 6 pack cells that didn’t have a name but are a becoming blue.

Hope you enjoyed the garden tour and our wildlife garden.

It’s a work in progress as we create our own piece of paradise to enjoy, relax and watch the birds.

And speaking of birds, here are just a few that grace our yard.

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