Welcome to another page from the Naturalist’s Notebook. You are probably wondering about the really big number in the title of this post.
Yesterday, I got a letter from the National Wildlife Federation informing me that my yard is now Certified Wildlife Habitat #239,828. Because of my planning, landscaping, gardening, and use of many native plants, wildlife will find quality habitat here: food, water, cover, and places to raise their young.
I’m a big believer in helping my animal neighbors by creating great places for them to live. I started long before most of you were born. The yard we just moved from was certified way back in 1985 as National Wildlife Federation Backyard Wildlife Habitat #8,280. Since then, 231,548 other folks have registered their yards as wildlife habitats. You can register your yard too, and it may be easier than you think.
You can get off to a good start by keeping a nature journal of things you see happening around your yard. I’ve kept one for years. Go out every day and keep your eyes and ears open, and then write down your observations. Maybe you are an artist and want to include some drawings, too. There is no right or wrong way to do a journal. It will be all your own creation.
Is there food for animals in your yard? Maybe you’ll see a robin pull an earthworm out of the grass or a bumblebee visit a flower or a caterpillar munch on a leaf. Even if you live in a small apartment with a little balcony, you could hang a hummingbird nectar feeder, and you’ll have a good chance of attracting a hungry hummingbird. Guess what? You’ve provided FOOD for animals, which is the first requirement.
Today, I was putting sunflower seeds in one of our bird feeders when my favorite little bird, a Brown-headed Nuthatch, flew down to snack at a suet feeder less than six feet away. Then, it was joined by another one. I was thrilled! They are one of the smallest visitors at my feeders, but they are absolutely fearless! They don’t seem to be scared of me like the other birds. My nuthatch encounter will be a good memory, so it went into the nature journal.
If my cell phone was handy, I could have gotten a good picture. Instead, I’ve included a photo of the suet feeder without birds. Suet is a mixture of beef fat, seeds, ground corn, oats, and ground sunflower kernels. Sound yummy? Maybe not to us, but the birds love it. It provides energy they need to survive cold nights.
I mentioned feeding hummingbirds, and this could be important. Ruby-Throated Hummingbirds will be returning to Chattanooga the first week in April after spending the winter in the tropics. They need lots of energy after flying hundreds of miles. They drink nectar from flowers, but you can give them extra nectar with a hummingbird feeder. Most hummingbird feeders cost less than $20. Make sure part of the feeder is colored red. Hummingbirds are attracted to the color red. You can buy nectar that is already colored red, but you don’t really need the red coloring if your feeder has red on it.
MAKING HOMEMADE HUMMINGBIRD NECTAR: With the help of a parent you can make hummingbird nectar in your kitchen. The recipe is easy! One part sugar to four parts water. Mix the sugar into the water in a pot on the stove and bring it to a boil. Turn off the heat as soon as your mixture begins boiling, and let it cool completely before you fill the feeder. You don’t want to burn the hummingbird’s tongue! If you have extra, keep it in the refrigerator to use later.
We’ll talk about the other 3 things—water, cover and a place to raise young—next time around.
Now, go out and journal!