The benefits of attracting & living with wildlife
By Staci-lee Sherwood
There’s a reason parents tell their kids to go outside and get some fresh air. Being outdoors among nature is a way for the body and mind to regenerate. For those who live in cold climates think how much you anticipate spring when you can open the windows and talk a walk without freezing. One of the main attractions for people moving to year round warm climates is the benefit of being outdoors and having a garden.
There have been many studies done on the positive effects being outdoors or gardening has on one’s health, state of mind and overall well being. People who make a point of staying in touch with the natural world on a personal level have long known this. One of the best ways to reap the rewards is to have a garden you actually spend time in especially when it includes observing wildlife. This has a deep subliminal impact and one most are missing as we live more in an urban environment and are less connected to the natural world.
There are several benefits to sharing your backyard with wildlife:
It helps keep your own ecosystem clean. When you have a garden filled with trees, shrubs and flowers they help to remove pollutants from the air. This helps to make the air cleaner, healthier and safer for you to breathe. To attract wildlife from beetles and butterflies to birds and mammals they need a variety of plants for food. For the carnivores that share your garden having a small intact ecosystem helps to attract their food that often feeds on the vegetation and small insects the garden provides. This mini ecosystem helps to maintain a healthy balance and life cycle without the need for pesticides.
Last year US Green technology published an article on the benefits of gardening. ‘Plants produce oxygen through the process of photosynthesis. They take in carbon dioxide from the atmosphere through their leaves and use it to help expel oxygen and water. Carbon dioxide is what we expel when we breathe- it is a waste product by all means, and plants help recycle it into something we need to survive! They also remove any chemicals and bacterias that may be floating around in the air, providing an overall healthier environment to be within.’ You can read the full article here
It helps relieves stress. There is something calming about watching animals go about their business from finding food to building a nest and raising their young. Ask any birder or wildlife photographer and they’ll tell you how they often travel to remote areas and spend countless hours just watching and listening. Some do it as living to sell the photographs, but the majority know the calming effect it has on us. In the modern era most people are disconnected from nature thinking it’s a place to go visit. Nature is us we are part of the animal kingdom and live in nature as much as any other species.
When we disconnect from that which is ingrained in our dna we feel stress. A major cause for many modern health problems starts with stress which weakens the immune system and allows for us to get sick. One of the best ways to stay healthy is to get back to nature literally. In 2020 ScienceDaily published an article about research done at Cornell involving students and how a simple walk improved their wellbeing. Imagine what a whole garden could do.
It gives people a sense of purpose. For young children seeing wildlife free and natural so close to home gives them a healthy respect and understanding of the world around them. For teenagers it can be a better way to focus their energy. Empty nesters can revisit the happier parts of being a parent and caregiver without the constant strain on their time. Having a pollinator garden is a trend taking off because so many of our pollinators from butterflies and moths to hummingbirds, are struggling to survive.
Habitat loss is a huge problem and a garden filled with their food can help prevent the march toward extinction. Think of your garden as an all night grocery where they can always find food. With so much development changing the landscape from open space to a concrete one wildlife are being pushed farther out into a barren wilderness where food and water no longer exists. Your organic garden can help change that and even save a species. This can give a person a sense of purpose a sense of giving back to the planet that gives them life as they help other species to survive.
My pollinator garden has brought several amazing life experiences and interactions with a variety of species. Having lots of host and nectar plants I’ve attracted more than a dozen species of butterflies and moths who come to feed and lay their eggs. Once I had a Muscovy Duck make her nest in the garden. As her ducklings were hatching I was able to watch from just a couple of feet away after gaining her trust for the month she sat on her nest.
Mama Muscovy Duck checking to see if her duckling has made it out of the egg
Mama Muscovy watches her duckling slide out of her shell
Newly hatched just seconds old a warm feathery nest welcomes her
The curious sibling gives the newborn duckling a sniff and a hello
During the Florida summers temps can hit near 100. Mother ducks sit on nests 23 hours a day. Two days before her eggs hatched we hit a heat wave. I brought her a small bowl of water and held it near her beak. She eventually decided she would test what was in the bowl and the next two days I brought her a fresh bowl of cool water and held it while she drank.
That same year I had a Yellow-bellied Cooter Turtle make 4 nests in my garden. I watched over them making sure they weren’t predated. After hatching I found a couple of stragglers going toward the street. I picked them up made sure they looked ok then brought them down toward the pond.
The mama turtle digs one of her 4 nests in my garden
One of the hatchlings released back toward the pond
A Monarch Butterfly laying an egg
There are many benefits to sharing your garden and life with wildlife. It can benefit you and all the species that will come to depend on your garden for life. Don’t discount the sheer joy in watching a butterfly lay her eggs, a spider weave a web or hearing the buzz as a hummingbird navigates around the flowers. It will be worth it.
Click here for information about butterflies in your region www.naba.org
Click here for information about native plants in your region https://ahsgardening.org/gardening-resources/societies-clubs-organizations/native-plant-societies/
Join a facebook group for tips on attracting wildlife to your backyard
Also published Dec 2, 2021