You don’t have to travel far to get outside and start enjoying a little nature. You also don’t have to be in the depth of the wilderness to enjoy nature. Even your landscaped neighborhood has benefits of nature. It doesn’t take much to begin and it is addictive. In my yard, just coming out of the depths of an exceptional drought, with weeds replacing the St Augustine grass, I have the beginnings of a natural yard.

I started with a single, simple bird feeder. That’s it. For the first year that I lived here that’s all I had. I filled it with a decent quality mix of fruit, seed and nuts, under the Audubon brand. In that first year I got golden fronted woodpeckers, cardinals, mourning doves and house sparrows. Not a great mix but enough to keep my interest. The feeder was strategically positioned so I could see it as I was doing school work for my masters. I loved the cardinals best. They would come as a pair. The crimson male would entice his partner down to the feeder by bringing her, and feeding her, nuts from the feeder. That spring they brought their youngsters and taught them how to eat there.

In the fall, during the hummingbird migration, I put up a feeder just outside my window. It was abuzz with hummingbirds for the two months of migration. From there I have added, bit by bit, plants to attract butterflies, plants with berries to feed birds, and another five feeders, including one for the squirrels. I figure, if you can’t beat them, join them. I have added bushes that birds can hang out in, staying safe(ish) from predators. I still have other things I want to add to the yard but the simple changes that I have made have added rose breasted grosbeaks, indigo buntings, orioles, some robins during a rare very cold snap, and cooper’s hawk to name a few. The hummingbird feeders, now up to 4, bring in Ruby Throated Hummers and Buff Bellied Hummers.

I see Monarch Butterflies at the milkweed, and I have watched their babies grow until they leave and build chrysalis somewhere for the final stage of their growth. I have Black Swallow Tails at the parsley and dill. We share the spoils, the caterpillars and I and I think I come out ahead.

The point is, that it doesn’t take a huge effort to make a garden that welcomes other creatures in. Each year I add another layer to the mix so that I increase the welcome I offer. If I had to say what two things would make the difference I would say it would be a high quality general seed (avoid millet and cracked corn) and a water feature. My water feature is an inexpensive bird bath that I bought from HomeDepot for about 35 dollars and it is quite popular. Things don’t have to break the bank. From there, I would add cover in the form of well placed shrubs in which birds can hide from the neighborhood cats and other predators. If these shrubs can be fruit bearing, so much the better.

Because planting for wildlife is such a passion, I will post more on this in the future. For now, this is a place to start and, as has said in many languages, starting is 98% of finishing.

So tell me, who visits your yard?