Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Attracting Birds, Butterflies and Bees to your Backyard

 "The secret to attracting birds, butterflies ad other wonderful wildlife to your backyard lies in restoring their natural habitat."  
David Mizeyewski, National Wildlife Federation

At the start of this new gardening year, I am planning to do more to attract desirable wildlife to my garden. In the Poconos, like most places on Earth, a great deal of natural habitat has disappeared due to the rapid growth of residential areas and the way in which we maintain our homes. As a child in England I loved to gather bluebells from the woods, and catch tadpoles to watch as they changed into frogs. I want my grandchildren to have similar experiences. Loss of habitat is the number one threat to wildlife today!! The National Wildlife Federation has identified how we can provide for the needs and conditions that enable wildlife to survive and thrive.

I am proud to say my garden is a certified Wildlife Habitat, as shown by the sign. I try to follow the National Wildlife Federation guidelines for a quality habitat by providing food, water, cover, and places to raise their young.

    1.    FOOD
Seeds, berries, nectar, nuts and fruit from plants is the best food source.

Native plants are most desirable. I have many native plants in my garden:

My grandson placed a stone turtle under the turtlehead.

The lungwort is just coming into bloom.

Feeders supplement the food I provide through my plantings. My handsome husband (HH) puts out two types of seed feeders that are pretty much squirrel proof.

HH provides suet as a high energy food for the winter.

My Mum has a platform feeder for birds that normally forage on the ground. She particularly likes to attract the mourning doves. She obviously doesn't have a squirrel problem at her home in England

   2.     WATER

If birds can't bathe, their feathers become dirty making flying difficult. I would love a pond like this one I photographed on a garden tour. It is on our to-do list, but cost is a problem.

 In the meantime, we provide bird baths and fountains. In the winter the bluebirds love the heated water dish.

   3.    COVER

Wildlife needs shelter from the weather and from predators. Here at the farm we are fortunate to have wooded areas, thickets, and bramble patches. We leave dead trees standing where possible. When the branches fall, the holes provide nesting places as well as cover. Woody debris is an important source of cover for insects and invertebrates, and small mammals.

Standing dead trees are called snags.

You can create a log and brush pile to form a "wildlife hotel". This turtle lives under our brush pile.


We attached six or more nesting boxes to this fence. The brambles and wild area behind the fence provide natural nesting places.

Many of the places that provide cover for wildlife are also the best places for raising their young.

A chickadee sheltered in the "church" during our last snowfall. A thrush nested in there last spring.

Milkweed is the host plant for the Monarch butterfly. We don't have any on our property yet, but HH gathered milkweed seeds last fall and we plan to plant them soon.

Finally, if we want birds, bees, and butterflies in our gardens, it is necessary to practice SUSTAINABLE GARDENING. I addressed this in a recent post called, What is Sustainable Gardening?

Today, I looked out and saw the goldfinches have got their golden feathers. They stayed around all winter in their drab, olive coats. Now the "gold" has been put back into "goldfinch" I feel spring has truly arrived!

The rewards of gardening for wildlife are many. For me it added beauty to my garden, improved air, water, and soil quality, restored habitats, and best of all it is FUN!! I encourage you to click on the Wildlife Habitat sign in my sidebar, and learn how YOUR backyard can become a certified Wildlife Habitat.

I love reading your comments. I hope you leave one so I’ll know you visited!


  1. a nice post on understanding natural habitat, and effort that can be made to bring life back to garden. ~bangchik

  2. Hi Pam, lovely informative post, I just wish we had such colourful birds here. Saying that I love my feathered visitors even if they look a trifle dull, the sound they make is wonderful.
    Your new look blog is great and now i'm a follower so will get updates.
    Have a lovely Easter.

  3. I like the look of your new blog, Pamela, and what a great post. I've really enjoyed reading this as I try to garden with wildlife in mind. Last week I saw a pair of goldfinches in the garden, I was really excited as I've never seen them in the garden before. I must be doing something right.

  4. That was a beautiful post Pam! I am also working on attracting the bees, butterflies and birds back to my garden and it was great to gather some more helpful ideas here!

  5. Picking bluebells in the woods? You wouldn't do that now would you?

  6. Wow, the photos of the wildlife in your are fantastic. Mine is also a certified wildlife habitat, and I glad I did this last year. You and I love the same gardening style.~~Dee

  7. Bangchik - one thing I like about following blogs from other countries is that I can learn world-wide differences and similarities in gardening. I wonder if you do something different to attract pollinators in Malaysia?

    Maureen - Yes, our birds are colorful. But I DO miss the bluetit and the little English robin!

    Jo - Goldfinches! Great! Did you plant purple cone flowers? Goldfinches love the seeds.

    Gippsy - I am so happy you found this post helpful.

    Elephant's Eye - My childhood bluebell woods were public property, called Cannock Chase. There were abundant flowers for all the children in the neighborhood to gather. We gave bunches to our mothers and teachers. A classroom full of bluebells (and bowls of tadpoles) is an early memory of school.

    Dee - I hope more gardeners will register with the NWF. It is so rewarding on many levels.


  8. What a great post, Pamela! So many people want to attract native wildlife to their garden, but often neglect to provide all that they need such as places to raise their young. I am sure your post will inspire many :-)

  9. I hope you are right, Noelle. Thanks for your great comment!

  10. Hi Pam,
    I enjoyed your post and photos. I try to provide things for critters. I thought about applying for the certified wildlife dealy, too, but we don't provide heated water in the winter. I think rabbits are what are living in my stick pile shelters. I did become a Monarch way station, since they seem to like it here, and I saw quite a few last year. I grow several kinds of milkweed, but hope to plant more this year. They are one of the last plants to come up in the spring, so I don't know if the wild milkweed that somehow got planted in one of my front flowerbeds will be back or not. I never thought of collecting seeds. I'll have to do that if mine don't come back.

    Thanks for encouraging us to provide safe places and food for wildlife.
    Thanks for your comment on my blog.

  11. I have always wanted to do this. This may be the year! I will check it out! Thanks for all the tips. Loved visiting your blog!

  12. Hi Pam--I was happy to receive your note about your blog-host change, because it made me come over here for a visit, which I have far-too-long overlooked. Well, I haven't stopped thinking about your lovely posts but I have put a limit on my blog-hopping as of late. I have now changed the link in your earth-day post, and on my blog list. I love your new blog, even though it's quite similar to the last. Blogger is actually a pretty easy format and they've made some changes that make it just as nice as wordpress, in my opinion. It's very user friendly and I know it will be better for you as far as links on other's blogs and being accessible. Anyway, this was just a wonderful post and I thoroughly enjoyed reading it. I love the ways you keep your yard wildlife-friendly...and although I try to do most of the same things, my yard isn't nearly as big and I don't have the farmland and the rest of the available habitat that you have. I am certified as a wildlife habitat like you, and my heated birdbath is a bird magnet in the winter. Thanks for a lovely post and I hope your spring is going along well! Take care, Jan

  13. Sue - You SHOULD apply. You don't need a heated water dish to qualify. I think your beautiful garden is perfect as a wildlife habitat.

    Rosey - Let me know if you apply this year - I hope you do! Great comments, thanks.

    Jan - Glad you like the blog. I kept it similar to the old one because this is my style. I do like Blogger now that I am getting used to it. Thanks for your lovely comments. I am having a great spring, so far, and hope you are, too.

  14. I hope the sleet you mentioned is long gone! We hit 81 degrees today, which is heavenly to me, but it's due to get chilly again later in the week. I hope to become a wildlife habitat someday. Is a birdbath considered sufficient water? I always assumed you had to have a pond.

  15. Hi, Robin. The weather is beautiful for the last several days, and I have been out in the garden as much as possible. I also assumed you had to have a pond to be certified, but found a birdbath is considered sufficient. Just as long as you are providing water in some form. Thanks for visiting. Pam

  16. A pond is on my to-do list as well. I think it will be easier to move though...no room for a pond on my little patch of earth. I do have quite a few bird baths that feathered visitors seem to enjoy. I need to work on getting more cover: the neighborhood cats sometimes lurk underneath the birdbaths and jump at the birds. I hope to get my garden certified soon.

    Christine in Alaska

  17. I didn't plant any purple cone flowers, Pam. The goldfinches were on my seed feeder, which contained a mix of seeds. I saw a goldfinch again in the back garden this week, so I may plant some flowers especially for them, or else get some of their favourite seeds to hang in the feeders so that they will stay around.

  18. Christine - we are making definite plans for a pond this year if we can afford it, although a pond is not necessary for certification. I am sure your garden is ready to be put on the National Wildlife registry. Let me know when you do it.

    Jo - You are doing all the right things to attract our feathered friends. Keep up the good work!

  19. Oh my ...lungwort ...I have that somewhere.
    The pond has to be so relaxing.
    Lucky you getting bluebirds in your area.