Wednesday, October 29, 2008


If you haven't already certified your garden as a wildlife habitat let me tell you that it is very easy. All you have to do is to provide food water and shelter for the various animals that live in your neighborhood.
Two evenings ago we were having dinner outside at dusk and a large owl came swooping down and landed in a tree. We both looked at each other and said "wow" and then talked about how we enjoy so much wildlife in our garden. We hear owls calling every night. Judging by the number of mice and cotton rats this is pretty good hunting territory. I caught this little guy in the potting shed. He had been shredding gomphrena flowers and making a big mess. I'm not sure what he is but when I let him go he hopped away just like a kangaroo. He probably came back the next evening unless he became dinner for the owl.

Or maybe this snake. Our rocky terrain and dry stone walls are just the kind of habitat the snakes prefer.

For a couple of weeks the wild turkeys (Meleagris gallopavo) have been visiting the open area around the house. The other day there were turkeys and deer feeding together. It was quite a sight to see 20 or more turkeys moving around pecking at the ground and mingling with the deer. I might like to invite them into the garden to eat my snails but I'm afraid they might make quite a mess.

Last June they certainly had a good look around.

They are looking remarkably healthy with their iridescent bronze feathers. Thanksgiving dinner for someone I suspect, unless they stay pretty close to this house.

While deer and turkeys are not welcome to come in through the garden gate the anoles and lizards are welcome. These fence lizards don't usually pose for the camera unless you sneak up on them.

Not so the anoles, who are more than happy to have their photographs taken.

I wish I could capture all the butterflies, monarchs, sulphurs, fritillaries but they just don't sit still for me.
Our bird visitors are numerous. Wrens, mockingbirds, scrub jays, doves, hawks, chickadees and various seasonal birds, humming birds and cedar waxwings. The wrens are very busy at the moment and are always in the potting shed. I think they are looking at the old bird house which is on the shelf after being replaced by a fine English bird house. They turned their noses up at it last spring!

We'll never forget the foxes who moved into our garden whilst we were away this summer. They returned every morning for about a week and then our comings and goings obviously were disturbing their daytime sleep so they moved on. I hope they found another safe haven away from the coyotes.

Of course there are some who are not welcome. I just can't find anything good to say about the harlequin bug. I don't think anything eats these stink bugs and they can devastate crops overnight. They are particularly fond of the brassicas but don't stop there. I would probably reduce the numbers if I removed all the alyssum, which I was surprised to find is a brassica, but I do so love this sweet smelling and low growing plant. There is nothing for it but to keep a vigilant eye and try to hold down the population by removing any I see. The adult can over winter and I have removed a few this past week.

A few aphids are OK but a recent hatching on the new growth of pyracantha caught me by surprise. Not a ladybug in sight! Another reason not to prune too late in the year.

The garden is as much for these visitors as it is for us. It is important that we keep everything in the garden in balance.


  1. Nice post, Jenny. I certified my old garden last year, but I should do the new one, especially since Austin has a neighborhood competition going on right now.

    I've yet to see an anole at the new house, though I've seen several geckos. And I've never seen one of those fence lizards in my old garden. Not to mention foxes, turkeys or deer. Perhaps I'll see some of those now that I'm closer to the greenbelts. OK, I've already seen deer here. They're thicker than thieves.

  2. All of those animals are cool, but i have to say that I love the turkeys and the foxes best. Do you think the foxes munch on the turkeys?

    I still need to get my yard certified, but I do finally have all the requirements.

  3. You said you were planning a critter post, Jenny - and except for the stink bugs, what cool critters you have! The photo of the turkeys on the wall is just super.

    Our previous house was only two miles away from this one, but it was on a canyon. We never saw turkeys or foxes, but there were deer, fence lizards, snakes, armadillos, coyote, the occasional roadrunner and on one memorable occasion we had a ringtail on the deck outside our bedroom window.

    I'd say things are tamer in this neighborhood but according to our HOA, coyotes wander our streets, snacking on stray cats.

    Annie at the Transplantable Rose

  4. I looked into the Wildlife Habitat idea after hearing about it at my Master Gardener's classes. The way my water system is set up, I would have to hire someone to run the water to another part of the property at the cost of $1200, so I gave up on that idea. However, I do enourage the lizards and birds as best I can. It's so relaxing to go out in the mornings now and watch and listen. To date, I've never seen a rabbit, snake, or prarie dog. Since we are all closed in with block walls, I guess it's hard for them to come around.

  5. We are really enjoying the wildlife in our neighborhood. Pam- I'm sure you'll soon be seeing anoles when you plant with the natives.
    Vertie- It is a great program and I'm sure garden visitors increase when gardens provide the right habitat.
    Annie-We sometimes hear coyotes yelping at night and our neighbor has filmed them with the night camera he has set up. I once saw a skunk running through the garden early in the morning but didn't get him on camera. We have never seen a ringtail cat- what fun.
    I'm sorry about your water problem Aiyana but I understood you could just have a bird bath or even put out some kind of container with water. We have a small water feature and several bird baths which seem to suffice.

  6. You have a wonderful blog! I very much enjoyed this post and all the pictures of your garden visitors!

  7. I'm in the middle of a subdivision, so our wildlife mostly includes birds, rabbits, raccoons, meadow voles and lots of insects. There is a wooded area behind the neighbors across the street and in there were fox and coyote, at least in the beginning, plus we hear owls at night.

    But it is nothing to compare with where you are! Sounds like there is always someone interesting coming along to try to get into your garden.

    Carol, May Dreams Gardens

  8. Thanks for visiting Dee. My garden visitors are very special=well most of them.
    Carol- With all the building going on around us I worry about what will happen to the animals. This year the deer are looking terribly thin.

  9. And you say you are homesick for England?
    Doesn't sound like it :-)
    You seem to be revelling in all your visitors.

    The snakes and other reptiles would make me shudder. Finally got to see the infamous Harlequin bugs. Ours are the same shape, but green and equally destructive. Any chipmunks?

    I can do badgers, pheasants, quail, roe deer, muntjang, red kite, white barnowl, buzzard, merlin, foxes, polecats, grey squirrels, larks, kestrels, dormice, stoats and rabbits and hares.

    On the whole we ignore each other, and they are well provided for in the surrounding fields.

    What I like best are the migrant birds, although I couldn't name any of them.

    Fun to see what you have around you.

  10. Joco. We love our visitors but prefer them to stay outside our walls. What's a muntjang? Never heard of that. Texas is on the migratory bird route so we enjoy a variety of birds passing through. Birders come from far and wide during the season.

  11. At first I thought that was a Texas Garter snake but looking closer I wasn't sure. I looked in the Field Guide to Texas Snakes and wasn't there either. Perplexing. I have a lot of snakes in our gardens and enjoy having them.[not the poisonous ones] If you have ponds, you will have snakes. I think all snakes eat frogs. Loved the pictures of the foxes the most.

  12. Bob- the snake has been identified as the eastern black-necked garter (Thamnophis cyrtopsis ocellatus) by Jerry Cates. I have a link to his web page, on identifying snakes, on the blog.

  13. Your in Austin, right? I think your mouse is a Peromyscus (white-footed mouse or deer mouse) you would need to look at it's tail next time you catch him. One will have a "distinctly bi-colored" tail (deer mouse). Meadow jumping mice are not found in Texas. Sorry, to sound like a smarty pants. If you are interested in the mammals in your garden then David Schmidly's book "Mammals of Texas" should be your Mammal Bible. It is a great book!

    Great pictures of wildlife, you are doing a great thing for local conservation by providing these areas for wildlife.

  14. Thanks Travis for identifying the mouse. I'm sure you are right. I was just fooled by the way he jumped like a kangaroo. I hope I don't catch him again although I think he is back because there is more work going on in the potting shed! and all my citrus halves I put out to catch snails and pill bugs are being shredded every night.

  15. Just wanted to know that I came across your blog while researching and saw the post on your NWF certification. You're right--it was a SNAP to certify! Took me about three minutes. We're already certified as a Texas Wildscape. The more, the better! Thanks a bunch!