Birds, Butterflies, Toads, Turtles: Won't You Be My Neighbor?

Goldfinches visit birdbath, photo by Tony Bacewicz

Many of us remember chasing fireflies on summer nights as children. In our family, it was a Fourth of July ritual. Others wistfully recall listening to hoot-owls, and finding frogs, toads, turtles, newts, salamanders, and, yes, snakes.

Are they gone forever, like childhood? They don't have to be. There are eight ways we can be better neighbors:

1. Make sure something is in bloom throughout the growing season. Allow some flowers and grasses to stand through winter.

2. Mix native trees, shrubs, grasses, and perennial flowers of different heights.  Creatures dwell and forage at many levels in the landscape. 

3. Tiny creatures can't outrun a lawn tractor or avoid the power of a leafblower. Reduce mowing, reduce lawn, or both. 

4. Leave some leaves if you want to encourage fireflies. Leaf litter is habitat for fireflies in their early stages. Adults also overwinter under leaf litter. Other insects need leaf litter as well. All of this means that leaf litter is also a source of forage for birds and other creatures. 

5. Dim the outdoor night lights, or point them downward. Bats are voracious mosquito-eaters, but night light interrupts their habits, too. Ditto, bright skies are bad for fireflies and some moths.

6. Give them all water. Bird baths are great for birds, but toads, turtles, butterflies, moths, and many insects prefer water at ground level. 

7. Want to attract owls and other raptors? They eat white-footed mice, which are vectors for ticks, which carry diseases. Leave some standing deadwood in place. Many owls nest in the openings of standing dead trees. 

8. Reduce or eliminate chemicals in the landscape, particularly rodenticides. Wildlife can't tolerate this stuff any better than we can. 

See the complete article at Zip06/TheDay.