Monday, March 30, 2009

Wildlife in the City Revisited

Nancy, at Gardening Gone Wild has done her summary post on wildlife in the garden.  I decided to go ahead and post a review of wildlife we have in our yard, and my thoughts and some questions before reading the posts I haven't read yet.  The pics were taken in March 2009 unless stated otherwise.

When I saw this robin tugging on the worm, I ran in and got my camera, and got out in time to catch it eating.

I am so excited to see the robins back, I included this, too.  I have already posted pics of cardinals.  We also have blue jays and woodpeckers, and an occasional hummingbird.

I was tickled to see the dove pair together on our shed.  They are shy, so I took this out of the window.  I did some adjustments to it to be able to see the doves a little better.

We have seen some grackles, but I can't remember if they are around a lot in the summer.

I have a few books on gardening with butterflies and other wildlife in mind, but rarely get more than a few pages read at a time, especially now that I'm blogging.  I remember reading about having brush piles for shelter.  What I'm not sure about, is how much this pile needs to be left alone.  This pile, near the compost pile, has either been blown by the wind, or moved by some critter or other.  I moved some back, and stepped on it lightly to secure it better, and that made me hope nothing was in it already.

This pile of sticks is in the neighbor's yard where I just started gardening.  I plan on moving these to the back of the yard, close to the compost I've started there.  Is this better than the smaller sized stems in the other pile?  Should I add some smaller stems?

Nancy mentioned that she quit feeding the birds when it got too expensive, but she noticed they were still around eating on the seed heads. In the 10 years we've lived here, we've been inconsistent in putting out bird seeds in the winter.  We never feed them in the summer.  Since I saw all the great bird pics here, I decided to ask Larry to get our feeders out and fill them.  We've had them in different places, trying to discourage the squirrels, or to save the flowers in one of my beds.  We gave up on the squirrel battle, and just have most of them in the carport.  We are inconsistent in keeping them filled. I'm thinking that's good, so they don't come to depend on it. Like Nancy, and others whose blogs I've read, I leave the flower bed clean up to spring.  I grow black eyed Susans, cone flowers, and a large variety of annuals and perennials.

This sparrow was talking to me as I was taking its picture.  I think it was telling me I forgot to put water in the bird bath Larry made with a clay pot and saucer.  The rocks are in it for butterflies to land on.  We try to keep fresh water in it and our two regular sized bird baths once the weather warms up.  

This was taken in January.  We have sparrows all year here.  

I recently bought some safflower seeds because doves are supposed to like them, and the squirrels supposedly don't eat them.  Larry layered them with sunflower seeds.  I didn't know he was going to do that.

We have some bird houses hanging around, but need to learn where to put them in order for the birds to consider using them.  

A sparrow couple has been building their nest and having babies right outside our bedroom window, next to our window air conditioner for several years.  Last year, Larry put some clay pots in the space, thinking he was blocking them from the area, but they made the nest right in there.  They probably are disappointed the pots aren't there this year.  I open the shade, knock on the window, turn a radio on loud, and when it's warm enough, the air conditioner, but they are not dissuaded from nesting there. When the babies are born, they wake us up before we are ready to get up.  :o(

Larry likes to set things around to decorate the yard and beds.  He puts broken pots here and there.  We haven't seen any critters in them, but they would be welcome.  (I will be moving the bench when the black eyed Susan needs the room.)

I noticed this today, and asked Larry if it was for critters, and he said it was if they wanted it. Maybe one of our garter snakes would like to curl up in it.

Last summer, I got interested in taking pictures of butterflies and moths and identifying what kind they were.  I put some of them in my sidebar.  I also learned about the caterpillars on my plants, and asked questions of the people on the butterfly and cottage garden forums on ivillage.  I was assured that the caterpillars were not going to kill the plants, so I left them alone.  I learned which plants I have that are host plants for the "cats" and decided I should add some more this year.  I am planning to plant lots of parsley this year for the swallowtails.  I read that it's good to plant host plants in groups rather than scattering them around.  I already had planted lots of plants that the butterflies like for nectar, such as lantana, verbena, butterfly bush, which some don't like because it's not native, marigolds, goldenrod, and asters. I saw them on most of the flowers, actually, but these, I remember the most being fed from.  

We have lots of bees and wasps, as well.  As I mentioned in my first post, we also had an opossum family living under our deck last year, and have an assortment of spiders and other insects, rabbits, and lots of garter snakes.  We live a block from a cemetery, where there is a flock of geese we see flying overhead sometimes.  They also have swans in their pond.  I bet there are other critters that live there, too.  

I like what I've read about living and letting live, and am rethinking whether I want to feed the birds and squirrels.  I do use Liquid Fence to keep the rabbits at bay.  They still eat plants, but it causes them to stay away awhile.  I'm glad we don't have deer!

Now, I am excited to find the other posts to see how others coexist with, encourage or discourage wildlife.


  1. What a variety of wildlife, Sue. Awesome post. How lucky to catch a robin with its feed! I understand its a nuisance to have birds and critters building their abodes in places you least want them to, but what with decreasing population of sparrows for the past few years, I'd buy some space for them! Larry has great taste, by the way. :)

  2. Sue, waht a great post. I so enjoyed reading about all your critters and learning how you do for them. Like you, I am just finding out how to attract bees and butterflies and provide food for their caterpllars. It has been great fun and another reason to be out and enjoying the garden.

    My one trick to keep rabbits and bugs from eating plants and blooms is to make a spray of hot sauce and water and spray on the plants. This works really well for rose blooms. The only thing is if it rains you have to respray.

  3. What a wonderful detailed post. I love it. Ummm I can live with most of the critters,,,,,,,I certainly would NOT be trying to put out anything for a snake to curl up in though!!

  4. Feeding the birds can be a great help to them. Birds that are old or starving can regain their health if food is easily available. In those cases it could give those birds an extra year, maybe more of life. A lot of birds do die of starvation every winter. Seems a shame.

  5. i loved the picture of doves.They look so much at peace and in love. lovely

  6. Great post! I'm always glad to hear how many people garden for the wildlife and keep them in mind while planning their garden. I love your birdbath made out of terra cotta pots. I'm also impressed you were that fast to go in and get a camera while the Robing was eating it's worm!

  7. Great post Sue! I smiled when I read about a place for the Garter Snake to curl up in. In early spring I often find snakes curled up in a corner of the hay shelter, looking as though if they could talk they would say "You can't see me. I'm not really here."

    Last summer a Red-Bellied Water Snake took up residence around our house. Often I heard him rustling around when I was weeding.

  8. I have a little bird bath made out of clay pots also, and I use broken pots in my garden, my Mom taught me that, the frogs or toads like to get in them in the summer.

    Love all your bird feeders

  9. You have a nice variety of wildlife out there in Nebraska! I really like everything you've done for the wild critters who happen upon your yard. We have to be very careful about water in birdbaths around here because standing water breeds mosquitoes. I love the pic of the robin eating the worm too! What a great shot! I don't think I've ever seen a bird eat a worm around here, but I'm not convinced we have real earthworms - I've never seen one while living in Florida. Great post!

  10. Chandramouli, I didn't know there were fewer sparrows. Is that true for the U.S. too? I showed Larry your comment about his taste. I forgot to mention I'm the one who brings most of the stuff home from garage sales and flea markets, and he puts them places before I get to it. LOL

    Beckie, thanks for your tip. Do you use bottled hot sauce? How much per cup of water? It is fun watching for butterflies and observing the growth of the caterpillars.

    LOL, Darla, at least I'd see the snake there. When our son comes over, he looks in the window wells and sometimes turns the compost pile so he can look for the garter snakes that love our area.

    Marnie, I never thought of that. Larry uses a song bird mix and sunflower seeds. I recently bought safflower seeds. I'd like to look into what birds actually stay here over the winter and figure out an affordable, yet healthy way to feed them.

    Thanks, Nitsu, they do seem like a loving couple, and they always have a baby or two to raise in my vegetable garden. I'm not sure where they nest.

    Thanks Catherine, I still haven't made it to the other posts, but hope to yet this evening. I'm glad I participated in this workshop. The robin was having a tug with the worm when I first saw it, and it wasn't out of the ground yet.

    Sweet Bay, I can just see your snakes acting like they were invisible. Last fall, on a yard walk with our grandson, we saw a garter snake in the grass, holding very still. After a minute, we went in for my camera, and when we came back out, it was no where to be seen. My son probably knows your water snake. Do you have water that the snake hung out in? Did you ever come across it and get startled?

    Deb, I think I've heard that toads or frogs like the broken pots, too, but haven't seen any in them. If you haven't, you should put some of your pot pieces or rocks in your clay pot bird bath for the butterflies to land on and get a drink.

    Kate, I have to add fresh water every other day or so in order to prevent mosquitoes from breeding. If chickens eat mosquito larvae you could use one of the clay pot bird baths now.

    Thanks, everyone!

  11. Your Bird PHOTOS are amazing! Thank you for sharing these with us. Happy Spring Dear Friend - stop by and see my Tuesday BLoom!

  12. LOL! You gotta be quick. Seems Larry's got more energy than you and he's a smart worker, ain't he ;)

    Not sure if they're endangered in US, but their population has reduced considerably all over the world generally and in India too!

  13. Thanks for the comment and the link, Bren! Happy spring to you, too!

    Chandramouli, Larry does not put things off like I do. I do move the stakes around where I need them.

    Thanks for the link to the sparrow website. I found out the house sparrow, which looks like what we have, is not native, and not desirable because it gets into the nests of other birds and destroys their eggs or babies, I can't remember which. I wonder if that's why we don't see other kinds of birds on our feeders. There are other kinds in the neighborhood, though. Hmm.

  14. Because this is a rural area and there is ample food for birds and wildlife, we focus on water. I have 2 dripping faucets rigged for the birdbaths and hope to add another this spring.

    DH has a cattle trough that he keeps filled with fresh water for deer on another part of the farm.

    I put out sugar water for hummmingbirds and have already seen one this week!

  15. Such a great post, Sue! Lots of wildlife in and around your yard. I know I couldn't live with possums under our deck, though;-/ First of all, my dog would go nuts and there are other reasons...
    I do love feeding birds and keeping water out all winter and summer really does extend their chances of survival. You do have quite a few types of birds so if you fed on a continuous basis you would get even more. Isn't nature marvelous? It's a great pasttime too!

  16. Hi Sue,
    I love all of the random objects placed in your garden for wildlife. I like to use all of my "less than perfect" ceramic garden pieces for critters in the garden. I found a flower pot snake this week nestled under some stepping stones this week...startled me to death. Found out they are harmless, so I'm trying to accept them. Your growing butterfly garden sounds charming.
    Very cool post! ~ Karrita


  17. Nell,
    I forgot to tell Larry about your dripping faucets. I imagine since fresh water is always being added, the mosquitoes don't hatch in it. How cool that you've seen a hummingbird already!

    I'm interested in knowing your other reasons for not wanting an opossum in your yard. I remember getting mixed comments when I first mentioned them in a post. When I read that they eat slugs, and realized I didn't have as many slugs last year, I decided it was OK for them to be there, especially because they were able to stay away from Heidi.

    So far, I've only seen sparrows and grackles on the feeders, but the others are back in the neighborhood.

    Thanks, and it's good to know that you had a snake using one of your stones. They startle me, too, but I know they want to stay away from me.


I welcome comments and questions from anyone, including those who do it anonymously. Some people find my posts by doing searches, and I like hearing from them. I guess spammers won't even read this message, but I will delete spam as soon as I see it.