Now that you know about feeding wildlife, let’s look at the other needs of wildlife.
California and other parts of the Southwest are under draught conditions most of the time. As a result, wildlife is desperate for water sources.
So, as your shower water warms, capture the cold stuff in a bucket. You can use it to water plants, but also fill a bird bath or small animal drinking fountain. Every morning I enjoy watching four or five hummingbirds fight for the perfect perch to take a bath in a fountain. Bees also visit for a quick drink, and we always need bees around to pollinate crops.
When you return from a day trip, let the ice from your ice chest melt. You’ve now got water for your fountain or bird bath.
Like you and me, animals need shelter for sleeping, as well as raising young. But they also need it for protection. When you decide where to place a feeder or fountain, put it close to a dense shrub or tree for cover. Sometimes darting into a shrub is the only way to escape a large predator like a Cooper’s Hawk.
If you’re in a rural area and have the space, even a brush pile of limbs and branches can serve as shelter for sleeping or nesting wildlife.
Some people have luck with nesting boxes or nesting shelves, but not me. The native trees and shrubs in the canyon probably provide much nicer locations than a wooden shelf or clay nesting box.
If you don’t mind bats for neighbors, you might try a bat box. It’s a great place for bats to roost during daylight, and when they leave to forage at night, they’ll help rid your neighborhood of thousands of mosquitos and other insects.
Now that you know how to create a wildlife friendly yard, what will you provide? Will it be food? Water? Shelter? Or will it be all three?
Everyone wants their dog to be healthy, right? After all, a pet is part of the family. So when my little princess (I say sarcastically!) started losing the fur on the back of her legs and tail, I started to worry. Big time!
A trip to the vet didn’t help. Whatever suggestion was made, yielded no change. I tried fish oil, but no change, and she wasn’t thrilled with it either. I was already feeding her grain free dog food so that couldn’t be the cause. So, I did what most folks do…I Googled the issue. I checked out products on Amazon. Found a few that sounded promising, but wasn’t willing to spend $40 on something that may not help.
Then I found another product. It was just dried beets--human grade dried beets--and it was less than $20. So, I bought it and started adding it to her food once a day. If it didn’t work, I hadn’t spent that much money, right? You know what? After a couple weeks, I noticed her fur was growing back. The beets were working!
Since then, I’ve also started using a few other things that help keep her healthy and fully furred. I have a toxin-free dog shampoo that makes her fur so soft and silky, and is so gentle it doesn’t sting her eyes. There’s also a couple supplements I add to her food, when she’ll let me. She can be a picky eater, and will actually go on hunger strikes for a day or two before caving, so I’m always testing the waters with her. I also have an oil I add to her food that is great for her skin and coat.
For now, we’re both happy campers. She’s got a full, healthy coat of fur, and I’m working hard to keep it that way.
Gotta run for now…I think I hear her over in the cat food bowl stealing their food!
Just like humans, animals have specific needs--food, water, a place to sleep, and a place to raise a family. Unless you’ve got a large piece of land, you probably can’t provide everything for every animal, but you can still help by offering what you can.
One of the easiest things to provide is food, and if your yard includes plants, you’re already providing food. Have you ever seen a flock of bushtits swarm over aphids on your bush? They’re devouring the bugs and helping your plant at the same time.
But not all birds are insect eaters. Many only eat seeds, so I offer bird seed to supplement a seed eater’s natural food source. More food is needed during the spring and summer when new families are hungry. I’ve seen quail bring their young to my ground feeders. Fledgling birds learn to forage (find food) by following their parents. Young house finches, scrub jays, lesser goldfinches, and spotted towhees eat at my feeders every year.
To attract a larger variety of birds, offer more than just everyday bird seed. I start with a basic seed mix (use one with 25% or fewer sunflower seeds for less mess), then add a waste-free blend that’s just nut meats. Lastly, I’ll add a type of finch mix with very small seeds. Goldfinches and mourning doves both love Niger/thistle seed, but goldfinches need a hanging feeder with small holes. Mourning doves and many others will eat from a hanging feeder, but are just as happy with a ground feeder. So, I have two ground feeders to help lessen the mess on the patio. Another protein source that attracts insect eaters is freeze dried meal worms and little suet balls. I sprinkle both near my ground feeders. If you’re not against crows, you can toss out raw peanuts in the shell. Scrub jays love them, but so do crows.
Birds aren’t the only wildlife you might help. I noticed a pair of orange-throated whiptail lizards munching on freeze dried mealworms.
Butterflies also visit my yard, enticed by certain blossoms. Just by growing the right plants, you can feed hummingbirds year-round in Southern California.
Keep your eyes out for the Part 2 of How to Create a Wildlife Friendly Yard.
Been thinkin' about hiking, but don’t know what you need or where to go? Well, I can help with that!
You’ll need a lunch, or at least snacks, and plenty of water. Hats and sunscreen are a must during the summer. Dress in layers in case the weather changes, and always wear comfortable shoes. Hiking boots aren’t required if you’re on a level surface, but if you’ll be walking over rough terrain, you may want boots. And if insects think you’re a tasty morsel, carry a non-toxic bug repellant with ya. Have binoculars, bring em. Field guides for birds, bugs, and butterflies might come in handy, too. To be safe, have friend or two with you.
Don’t know where to go? Your choices are limitless. In San Diego County, there are countless free hiking trails at open spaces like Blue Sky Ecological Reserve in Poway, Marian Bear Memorial Park in San Diego, and Ramona Grasslands Reserve in Ramona, to name just a few.
Some areas charge a day use fee, and offer hiking trails with unbelievable views, such as Cabrillo National Monument in Pt. Loma, Torrey Pines State Park north of La Jolla, William Heise County Park in Julian, and Anza-Borrego Desert State Park near Borrego Springs.
It’s hard to believe, but many people love hiking in the desert. You might catch a glimpse of a bighorn sheep. Depending on the season and in which part of California’s largest state park you find yourself, you may discover colorful wildflowers, a sidewinder, or mud caves to explore. The mud caves are really cool!
There are great places north of San Diego, too. Enjoy a guided nature walk among oak woodlands or canyons at Caspers Wilderness Park in Orange County. If you prefer cooler breezes along the coast, check out Orange County’s Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve. Farther inland, you can explore the Santa Rosa Plateau in Riverside County. When the conditions are right, you’ll have amazing discoveries at the vernal pools at SRP.
Don’t live in San Diego, check the internet for places to visit. Or you can use the old-fashioned method and find a book that list walks and hikes in your area. Just find a place and get out in nature. You won’t regret it.