Nice time for a co-habitat project

Mike Bleech Outdoors Columnist

Many of us are looking for, or at least should be looking for, an enjoyable outdoors project. How about one that will do a world of good and last for decades?

You can do this in your own yard if you have a lawn, or even a planter on the porch. There are acceptable ways it can be done on public land. However, do not strike out on your own to do a habitat project on public land. Regular people planting things that do not belong here have brought with their exotic plants exotic plant diseases that have been disastrous to our native plant and animal communities. The best way to start a habitat enhancement project is by researching on the Internet. Do it right. The last thing you want to do is more harm than good.

Like most homeowners I expect, our backyard has been an ongoing project. From the beginning we have designed it to be wildlife friendly. This has become of increasing concern because of things that have been happening in nature. One big trigger has been the decline in bees and other pollinators. Another has been the 30% decline in wild bird populations in North America. The reason the desire to improve the habitat in a large part remains our enjoyment in seeing wildlife close-up.

Last summer I received a couple of sample wildflower seed packets from the Sierra Club which was part of their initiatives directed at pollinators. This inspired me to put in four smallish flower beds along a tiny creek that separates our backyard from a neighbor’s. This creek has gone dry only once in the 15 years we have lived here. But until last summer when I began remaking the creek bed it had become a muddy mosquito breeding area. By narrowing the channel to accelerate water flow it has once again become gravel bottom with mixed habitat and no biting insects breeding.

Wildflower seeds are widely available so we have increased our seeds since. Along one side of the creek where flat rocks on edge hold back the bank to prevent erosion, good spoil was placed as fill for the wildflowers.

Also, where one dead black spruce tree was cut down a pink dogwood was planted. A red dogwood is planned to go beside Jeri’s lily bed. We are anxious to see the creek when it all blooms. And we got some good exercise doing it.

Check the Sierra Club for more about their pollinator initiative at www.sierraclub.org.

Birds get a lot of attention simply because most people enjoy watching birds to some degree. Heavens, they can fly. You can register for webinars about birding during the pandemic through the American Bird Conservancy by going to their web site at www.abcbirds.org. The next, titled ‘Enjoying and Helping Birds at Home’, is Thursday, April 23, from 6 p.m. to 6:45 p.m. Eastern Time.

You might get more ideas for improving bird habitat by visiting websites of the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology, www.birds.cornell.edu, and the National Audubon Society, www.audubon.org.

The Foundation for Sustainable Forests is partnering with the Erie National Wildlife Refuge and the Pennsylvania Bureau of Forestry to present the Lynn Firth Virtual Wildflower Walk to celebrate spring on April 26 at 1:00 p.m. which can be accessed through the Foundation website at www.foundationforsustainableforests.org/events. This may provide you with ideas or inspiration. The event can be viewed on the Internet or you can later take the physical hike.

The virtual wildflower hike will be along the Trolley Line Trail at Cambridge Springs.

Today we received a packet of tree and shrub seedlings that came with a membership in the Arbor Day Foundation. It consists of 10 Norway Spruce seedlings and two Fragrant Purple Lilacs. They will all go somewhere. At least one lilac will probably go beside the creek to add a different color to the palate.

Along with the seedlings we got some information including a small booklet which shows trees and shrubs sold by the Arbor Day Foundation along with great information for anyone who will be choosing and planting. Members get nice discounts.

Get Arbor Day Foundation information at their website,



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