July 27, 2012
Stop, Look, and Listen to Your Wild Neighbors
You'll be amazed at the critters and creatures that live in the world just outside your door
by Debra Firmani
The world outside your door is filled with things that buzz, tweet, squawk, flutter, scurry, build, burrow, hoot, chase, pounce, and soar. It’s fun, free, available 24/7, and there’s always something new!
Just step outside and…
What can you do with 5 or 10 minutes?
- Listen to the wild voices you hear. Depending upon the season and time of day or night, you may hear insects buzzing, amphibians chorusing, birds calling, singing, or drumming, or mammals making a whole range of entertaining sounds.
- Watch your wild neighbors while they work, eat, and play—birds gathering nesting material, feeding on berries or insects, or enjoying a splash in your birdbath; butterflies and bees sipping nectar from flowers; squirrels storing nuts, gathering leaves as lining for their nests, or having a good chase!
- Feel nature first-hand—capture a silky milkweed seed on the wind or a “whirlybird” maple seed twirling to the grass below; gather a few pinecones, nuts, or leaves in your hands, or compare the bark textures of different trees.
What can you do with 30 or 40 minutes?
- Identify! Try to get a good look at the creatures making the wonderful wild sounds you hear outside. Then, check out a few field guides, CDs, or websites to identify some of the species and learn more about them. Have a little fun trying to make similar sounds!
- Discover! Take time to watch the butterflies, moths, bees, bats, birds, chipmunks, rabbits, squirrels, and other creatures in your yard. Soon, you’ll see the way they fit into the food web of your backyard habitat. Add to your knowledge and list of cool natural things to look for with these resources.
- Examine! Search for seeds, nuts, feathers, or other natural objects to examine with your magnifying glass. Look them up in field guides to learn more about the plant or animal species they come from, or—in the case of chewed nuts—which creature may have been nibbling on them.
What can you do with an hour or more?
- Explore! Take your explorer’s kit outdoors and start looking into the soil in your backyard. Uncover some of the fascinating relationships between the plants and animals, large and small, forming the web of life in your yard.
- Create! Use your sketchbook, journal, or camera to record your memories of the animals and plants you encounter, or write a poem about a real-life nature drama that you watch unfold.
- Welcome! Invite wildlife to visit by making a brush pile that provides shelter and safe cover. The safer and more comfortable they feel, the more you’ll see of them!
Create a sanctuary
Enjoy the company of your wild neighbors in your own yard. Every day, more and more wildlife habitat is lost to the spread of development. But you can help wild animals in urban and suburban areas by offering them sanctuary in your own backyard (or front yard, roof-top garden, or deck), no matter how small. Learn how your green space can become an Urban Wildlife Sanctuary.
Debra Firmani is a writer and long-time advocate for animals and nature. Her articles on wildlife, wild lands, backyard habitat creation, and nature education have appeared in print and online.