We were backyard birding. That's what started this whole TheParkNextDoor thing. We put up feeders in our tiny urban backyard, and, lo and behold, the birds came. Lots of House Sparrows, of course, but then Goldfinches, House Finches, Downy Woodpeckers, Chickadees, Robins, Starlings, Cardinals. We loved looking out the bedroom window onto the backyard and watching the birds come and go. And not just in summer, but in every season. The bright red of a Cardinal in snow white winter is a stunning sight.
Then we started visiting local parks to see more birds. Turned out, there are lots of birds in Wisconsin. And the first spring migration we witnessed in earnest was amazing. We visited Greenfield Park in West Allis a lot. I can still recall the robust influx of Cedar Waxwings that summer. They were everywhere at Greenfield Park. I was in awe of their beauty.
Then more parks: Brown Deer, Grant, Estabrook, Jacobus, McCarty; and Wisconsin State Parks - Harrington Beach, Aztalan, Havenwoods, and more. Then preserves: Stigler Nature Preserve, Wehr Nature Center, Lion's Den, Lakeshore, Lulu Lake, and on and on. So many green spaces, so many birds!
We discovered warblers (these tiny little songbirds that migrate to Wisconsin in spring), woodpeckers, shorebirds, gulls, herons, cranes, bigger songbirds, thrushes. It was thrilling to see these birds live and in such close proximity. We started our life lists. We added to it.
In the 5 years since this adventure began, we've visited well over 100 green spaces in search of wild birds. The variety we've seen has been stunning. Unfortunately, over the past couple years the number of migrating birds seems to be declining. Though there is certainly a natural ebb and flow, and weather patterns can affect migration paths, I've noticed a decline in the number of birds we see. It's disheartening, and concerning.
So, my husband and I talked about what we can do in our every day life that might make a difference. We moved last fall from our little house with our tiny backyard, to a home with a little bigger backyard. Still in the city, still just minutes from the freeway. But, a fresh start, as backyards and gardens go. And we decided that we would create a garden space not just for us, but for wildlife.
So the journey to a Certified Wildife Habitat began this spring. We already have the same kinds of birds visiting our yard that visited our old backyard. But we were hoping to see more. The new garden already has a good start. It came with two big pine trees, great shelter for our feathered friends, and for squirrels, too. There is a garden with wildflowers already in progress. We weren't sure what would sprout this spring, but it is wild and green. Some weeds, yes, but we've been pulling some of those and filling in with native plants. We've added some bushes that will produce berries in the fall and winter. Some Juniper that will provide berries in the winter months. A crabapple tree that will flower in spring, provide perches and shelter for the birds, and fruit for the birds to eat as well.
We started composting old leaves, and composting greens and vegetables. We put up feeders, and two bird baths. We planted climbing honeysuckle for hummingbirds, and lavender, milkweed, and bee balm, too. It's a good start. The bushes are small, but they will grow. The tree, too. But we've already received rewards aplenty with added wildlife visitors.
This spring migration we had our first Indigo Buntings, Baltimore Orioles, Kinglets, Nashville Warblers, Catbirds, Red-breasted Grosbeaks, Swainson's Thrush, and Red-breasted Nuthatches. All of these sightings in our own backyard!
And the cast of everyday wildlife is impressive, too. Robins, Goldfinches, Blue jays, Starlings, Grackles, Clay Colored Sparrows, Chipping Sparrows, House Sparrows, Chickadees, Ruby-throated Hummingbirds, Chipmunks, Squirrels, Monarch Butterflies, Opossums, Rabbits. An impressive array of nature right beyond our back door. It's a wildlife party beginning at sunrise.
We're still hiking. We're still in search of nature, and wildlife sightings. There's so much here in Wisconsin to explore. But this little bit of green in the city is impressive in its possibility. And it sure is a blessing to come home to after a long day.
We've learned a lot so far. And, we'll be sharing what we learn along the way. So tune in from time to time as we discover humane gardening for wildlife. For all of us, actually.
A traveler, singer, novice photographer, humane gardener, and nature lover.