Encouraging wildlife, even in an urban backyard–my kind of weekend.

WHOOSH! That’s the sound I heard as the week flew by. I am a bit of a broken record on this one. I think I say something similar as I approach each weekend. That’s fine with me because I think it helps me enjoy the weekend that much more.

So for this weekend I am taking a second look at a goal I’ve had in mind for a little while now.  The National Wildlife Federation has designated May as Garden for Wildlife Month.  

NWF signSeveral weeks ago my Illinois friend Penny from the Cutoff suggested I might be ready to apply to the National Wildlife Federation to have our home designated a Certified Wildlife Habitat.

I think we’re ready to get serious.

Could we actually qualify? Well, let’s see.

We Do have wildlife.

 We provide a variety of seeds in multiple feeders, offer many pollen sources for the birds and bees, with dozens of different varieties to attract hummingbirds and butterflies. I think our food sources are strong.

And then there’s water.

The lilies are a great hiding place for the fish, but nature sometimes has other ideas, and the fish and water are also a feeding and watering source for other wildlife. Raccoons and other small wild animals come to visit.  Skunks and raccoons thrashed the water lilies last fall. I don’t know who won the fight, but none of the goldfish survived.

Thrashed water lilies

I’ll never forget the time I looked out the kitchen window in time to see a heron swoop down to wade in the pond and gobble up our fish. Nature’s food chain isn’t pretty.

Sometimes we really get surprised by unusual backyard visitors.


The National Wildlife Federation requires we provide cover and places for birds and animals to raise their young.

We offer many trees, lots of brush, and the more I look for places to provide cover, the more I realize we don’t need to keep all the foliage so well manicured. Just let it grow! That sounds good to me!

And the birds and smaller animals do need cover and protection, because…

hawk in redwood tree

We do have predators.

When the hawks swoop through the backyard the other birds immediately make a mad dash into the vine covered back fence. Cutting back the vine would make the birds easy pickings!

I think we’re getting close! Thank you, Penny, for the encouragement to move forward.

And since I’m talking about making our home hospitable to wildlife, let me share a teaser photo with you.
rotten floor
A few years ago we had an up close and personal encounter with some of God’s little creatures…fortunately the National Wildlife Federation doesn’t require us to make an indoor home for wildlife.
Of course we do make an occasional exception.
When it gets too cold, Darwin can come in!
When it gets too cold, Darwin can come in!
Enjoy your weekend exhale, my friends. I’m going to do the same.

51 thoughts on “Encouraging wildlife, even in an urban backyard–my kind of weekend.

  1. yes it does! you are doing very well on encouraging the wildlife debra! we have cormorants and herons fishing in the dams here too … they cleaned out the fish (native bass) a long time ago …. now they eat frogs 🙂

    1. Friends have asked if I don’t want to have some pollywogs and maybe water turtles in our pond, but I just cannot handle the idea of watching them get eaten! I can appreciate the “circle of life” but I don’t want to watch it happen when I can avoid it. 🙂

  2. Is this a garden or a park? What a variety of wildlife and less wild life. No wonder it’s your kind of place to spend the weekend. Good look with getting your garden a Certified Wildlife Habitat.

    1. I think we will submit our application to the National Wildlife Federation this week, Otto. I’m very excited about it. The more I pay attention to the things we have to offer, the greater my interest grows in hoping to provide even more. I hope to really use this as another way to teach my grandchildren about the importance of backyard ecology! Thank you for your kind encouragement.

  3. It sounds like you’re just about all the way there, Debra. I know that in the UK urban gardens often see far more birds of many species that can be seen out in the countryside and our urban foxes are become notorious. After the repeated and prolonged visits of one or more hares to our overgrown farmyard, I’ve now told DH to shelve any idea of clearing it. 🙂

    1. Good for you, Perpetua. The hares you are seeing are likely nesting. What seems overgrown to you is really providing protection and comfort for them. I love the pictures you have posted of them, and am green with envy brighter than the grass that gives them cover that you get to see them just outside your windows. Enjoy!

    2. I really loved your comment about not clearing the overgrowth, and giving the hares a little more protection! I hadn’t really considered how important some of our “overgrowth” is to protect the small animals. Once I started the application process I really began looking at our possibilities so differently! I have loved your stories of the hares, so I know you care about them! 🙂

    1. Thanks, Nancy. I think the NWF application has really opened my eyes to how we have more to offer as “animal protection” than I previously thought, since our yard is only very average in size. I hope to submit the application this week! 🙂

  4. You are more than qualified, Debra, and certainly have a thriving wildlife habitat in your personal Californian nature preserve. The fact that you draw in so many migrating “visitors” is evidence that your property is a natural habitat for all creatures. Go for it! You’ve reminded me that we need to display our own sign, which has been sitting here attracting only dust motes, and to champion Garden for Wildlife Month. It is through this type of attention that folks begin to realize that even the smallest of things can provide nesting material, a place to hide, a bit of nourishment for the wildlife around us. Thank you for this post, Debra. Good luck.

    1. I’m ready to complete the NWF application this week, Penny. I really am grateful you encouraged me to look into it. I agree with you about displaying the sign. It really does attract attention and I, too, hope it encourages others to think about how we can provide a little more hospitality to the little critters that come to visit, even in “city limits.” 🙂 I hope you’ve had a lovely Mother’s Day, Penny. ox

    1. The website for the National Wildlife Federation is very informative. It’s great that “credit” is given for small scale sanctuary! You might find it interesting, too, Tammy. 🙂 Thank you for commenting.

  5. What an enjoy encounter in your little sanctuary. We get some numerous encounters too, and yes … every once in a while we either see the whoosh or evidence of one.

    1. I hope you’ve had a good weekend, Frank. We spent a lot of time in our backyard, being just a little bit lazy and enjoying some downtime. In that way, our backyard can be a sanctuary. No hawks, though. 🙂

    1. It’s funny, Charlie, but I think I thought squirrels were almost everywhere on earth! They are a little rodent-like, can carry disease and eat the bird food, but they are also funny! Sometimes they throw acorns at us when we sit under the oak tree. We do get a lot of pleasure just enjoying the animals that come by to visit! 🙂

  6. You’ve a wonderful piece of property, Debra, though yo’re not the first I’ve heard complain that their pond became a one night fast food stop for some critter or bird. I’m glad it wasn’t a prized koi collection. I hope you can win designation for your property. That would be fantastic! Wishing you a wonderful Mothers Day, Debra.

    1. Thank you so much, John. I did have a very nice Mother’s Day and really enjoyed a weekend that ended up being quieter than usual. Perfect! I am looking forward to completing the application to the National Wildlife Federation, and one reason to be so intentional with the designation is I hope to continue to teach the grandchildren about the importance of backyard ecology! I hope you had a very nice weekend, too.

  7. It sound like you have all you need for a wildlife habitat. And so pretty too. I don’t do anything for the birds and animals here, but I may get a bird bath. I figure that only those adapted to this barren land will come here to live and that it may not be a good idea to feed them. Raccoons got the gold fish from the pond.at our L.A. house, I felt sad for the fish, and sort of amazed at how raccoons can survive in the middle of the second largest city in the U.S.

    1. One of the interesting things about living in the desert is that the native plants are so supportive to birds and small animals. Even flowering cactus is a food source. I would imagine that you see lots of very small animals and some interesting birds. I think a birdbath might be fun just to see what comes your way. Not too long ago I saw to very large raccoons come out of the storm drains in the middle of Old Town Pasadena, right in the middle of some of the nicest restaurants. So funny! We probably don’t want to know what’s living down there, huh? 🙂

    1. We had the drunken teenagers at one point in our lives, too, Hansi. Our home was THE place for both the sanctioned and unsanctioned parties! Fortunately we made it through those years! 🙂

    1. Sometimes I think people who live in more open spaces would be very amused at how excited I get at each and every “new to me” bird or even just the every day squirrels. It’s a very small plot, but I enjoy it. 🙂 Thank you, Karen.

    1. Thank you, Meg. I think we are fortunate to have a little breathing space in the middle of a busy landscape! We put a lot of energy into making it nice so we can “destressify” at home. 🙂

  8. I really don’t feel so bad any more about it that we let our grass overgrow in some places. I love all your pictures. it’s great to be able to observe some wildlife from your home.

  9. Just loved seeing more of your garden, with the sunlight filtering through, the different habitats you have thanks to the planting and water features – it looks such a special and precious place Debra. And I hadn’t heard of Certified Wildlife Habitat., so I’ll look forward to reading more about that. I can’t remember what scary number I heard the other day about the percentage of water use din America is used on lawns so I can see how important it is to create habitats other than grass!!

    1. Thank you, Claire. I’m really looking forward to the Certified Wildlife Habitat designation. Our property isn’t large by many standards, but I’ve been working on a more focused approach to offering as much as we can to the animals, as well as being sensitive to the resources. I know we still use too much water. It has only been in the last very few years that I have really clued into the fact that we use more than is reasonable! I’m afraid the American culture has been built on the idea that there is always “enough” and in most cases we can get “more.” When it comes to water in California, that is just not true. But we’re learning, I hope! 🙂

  10. Dear Debra, I never knew there was such a thing as a “Certified Wildlife Habitat.” Given what I’ve read in the past about your backyard and the animals with whom you share it and also today’s posting, I can see that the Habitat organization will be happy to hear from you and to know what you are doing for the Universe. Thank you for extending your care to animals–tame and wild. Peace.

    1. Thank you so much for your very kind and encouraging comment, Dee. The Certification for Wildlife Habitat isn’t completely uncommon in our area, but I’m hoping to call more attention to the possibility. Our property isn’t huge, but it’s still possible. I’m really looking forward to receiving the designation and sharing with the young people in my family why it is important to me! 🙂

  11. Time With Thea

    Based on your delightful photographs I think your yard so meets the criteria for becoming a Certified Wildlife Habitat. Just wondering, does your wildlife eat your lovely plants at all? We have different forms of wildlife drop by once in awhile, mostly deer. They love my flowers and beets and I have had a snake enjoy my zucchini! Oh well! ~Thea

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