Inviting Wild Neighbors In
do small animals. Dogwood offers winter food to birds and is the state tree, to boot. The hawthorn is a good bird nesting tree and it provides the state flower in spring.
In addition to bird feeders, bird houses are an attractant. Our son, J.B., made a wren house in Cub Scouts that never failed to entice a family of wrens. J.B. is over 30 years old now and the house is tattered, but it still houses birds. Although artificial houses help, birds and animals relied on native plants for nesting and resting cover long before the Cub Scouts came along.
Keep in mind that you can't attract just the critters you want. Your brushpile may harbor both a rabbit and a snake. You may run afoul of anti weed ordinances. It's a sad fact that many urban dwellers are afraid of a wild back yard. If it won't burn, mow or trim, they don't want it. And others, who might manage a yard for wildlife, are intimidated by their neighboring neatness freaks.
The thick foliage of eastern redcedar is good for nesting birds and the blue berries provide wildlife food, but the trees also can be a host for cedar apple rust which hammers apple trees.
The family garden also can be a casualty of a wildlife-oriented yard. You may call it a garden, but it's just another food plot to wildlife and unless you take precautions, your share of the produce is likely to be minimal. After all, wildlife gathers food night and day.
Rabbits and deer will mow down peas, beans, beets and carrots like a scythe. Raccoons can decimate a sweet corn patch overnight. Possums are ever-fond of sweet melons, and even box turtles will lumber into the tomato patch to sample your Mortgage Lifters.
Some animals can be discouraged by sprinkling blood meal, which also is a good fertilizer; however, you need to re-apply it after each rain. Chicken wire is a cumbersome and expensive solution. Sometimes you have to roof plants over as well as protect them from the side. An electric fence may also offer a solution.
But if you are able to live with the drawbacks, a wildlife-oriented back yard can reestablish a link with nature many have lost in the modern world. Once I heard a loud thump against the window and looked out to see a dazed female cardinal which had flown into the window.
And then I