Tuesday, 26 December 2006

#1 Introduction

Would you like this cute little Rainbow Skink and his mates living in your backyard?

Nothing beats a trip into the bush, but if people are aware of the possible richness of life existing in micro-environments in their immediate surroundings, backyards and town parks can provide great opportunities to observe nature's small creatures every day. If you know how to attract animals to your backyard, and where and when to observe them as they go about their secret lives, you'll be amazed at the variety of wildlife visiting, living and breeding in your yard.

Attracting wildlife to your yard

Providing clean water for birds, reptiles, frogs and small mammals is the first step in making your yard wildlife-friendly. Vegetation is also necessary and if you are able to establish a combination of trees, shrubs and ground cover in your yard, animals and invertebrates will have protection from predators and the weather.

Roaming cats and untrained dogs will deter, and even injure and kill wildlife, so your pets and your neighbours' pets also influence what animals enter and linger in your yard. A healthy population of invertebrates is not only interesting to study, but a necessary source of food for many small animals, so avoid using chemicals in your garden where possible.

Three years ago (Dec 2003) our backyard was devoid of any vegetation or structure

My husband and I relocated to a 2/3 acre house block a few kilometers from town amongst dairying and grazing country in the Hunter Valley NSW. Our new yard adjoined another residence and a grazing paddock and consisted of a few neglected gardens, dead and dying melaleucas, and weeds. There was nothing worth saving, so we had it levelled.

Like much of the country, the Hunter Valley has been drought stricken for several years, so water availability was a major consideration in planning our yard. We constructed raised native gardens in the front lawn, and vegetable patch and herb garden in the backyard. We planted twenty native shrubs, along with four exotic trees that will grow taller than the natives.

After two years our backyard is beginning to take shape with gardens, shrubs and lawn

You can see that our backyard is mowed, trimmed and tidy which is not an ideal environment for attracting wildlife, yet creatures still visit our yard, some even making it their home.

Our bare extended surroundings also would appear to make an uninviting place for wildlife with no established trees or ground cover in either my neighbour's yard or the adjoining paddock, but yet small animals do still visit.

Create habitat and the wildlife will come

As well as providing a bird bath and a couple of bowls of water in secluded nooks, we have constructed a pond in an attempt to provide habitat for frogs.

My fern garden is small, but is home to skinks and many invertebrates

Common animals can be fascinating

Urban, suburban and rural backyards, along with town parks and reserves can be great places to observe nature up close.

Being able to make detailed and even long term observations of creatures and their lives is a distinct advantage of wildlife watching in your backyard. Although many of the animals and invertebrates that I will be featuring here are common creatures, they are all interesting in their own way, and I will be attempting to highlight hidden aspects of their lives.

As my yard becomes more established, the wildlife watching opportunities will increase.

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