Friday, June 29, 2012

Backyard Wildlife Sanctuary

My backyard wildlife sanctuary is registered with the Department of Fish and Wildlife for Washington State.
To give you a little background, my location is considered the Pacific Northwest, but more specifically, I'm in the foothills of the Olympic Mountain range on the Olympic Peninsula - that western most chunk of land you see when you're looking at a map of us.  I'm located on the eastern slope.

My property borders the Department of Natural Resources land, which is all forested.  This is perfect for creating and enhancing the natural landscape for wildlife.  The truth is, it was already perfect before the humans arrived, so I feel grateful and humbled that the wildlife are willing to share their land with me.

You can create your backyard wildlife sanctuary almost anywhere however.  Animals and birds are quite adaptable.  Even if you only have room for a bird feeder and bird bath, you will have many grateful visitors!

My little piece of paradise only takes up a few hundred square feet.  It's located on a clear, leveled area near heavy brush and tall trees.  Lucky for me it also includes a trail that is frequented by deer, coyote, raccoon and the occasional bear, bobcat, or cougar.

Originally I had my bird feeding system on the inside of the fence - but then I had my first bear visit who pushed the fence over to get to the feeders.  After that I created the new area outside the fence.

The big picture

The bigger picture

I consulted with my pal Christie at WildBirds Unlimited in Gardiner, WA. about a feeding system that would survive the elements and wildlife here.  She suggested this pole system which is free standing, with a squirrel and raccoon baffle, and attachments can be added on.

Next I added an old spool table to the area for the "platform feeders" like pigeons, with cracked corn and black oil sunflower seed.

Turns out the squirrels and chipmunks are most fond of it!

I placed a rock under one end of it to allow a back door for the chipmunks who often pop in to the hole from the top for a quick escape.  (There is a Merlin Falcon in the area.)

I also recently had to implement some fencing pieces which are not easily seen in the photos.  This is protection from a recent cat who has been skulking around.  The fencing allows the birds and small animals a chance to escape and slows down the cat. 
Most people around here don't allow their cats to roam free as there are too many larger predators.  So my guess is he is an unfortunate stray.

The feeders hold black oil sunflower seed and thistle, and accommodate goldfinches, nuthatches, purple finches, grosbeaks, bluejays and more.

I also scatter cracked corn and black oil sunflower seed on the ground for towhees, doves, sparrows and the occasional raven.

In the winter I put out a suet feeder for the woodpeckers and gray jays.

Even the pigeons like it!

Another very important aspect of your backyard wildlife sanctuary is water.  I have three ground water locations and one bird bath in the yard.  You'd be surprised at the favoritism of these.
The midsize birds like the ground birdbath (sorry no photo, renovating that area), while the smaller birds prefer the tiny concrete water hole or the saucer.

The larger birds prefer the ceramic bird bath in the yard - like a Jacuzzi?

I have added a fun piece of driftwood I picked up at the local beach just to see what they would do with it.  Turns out the squirrels hide seeds in the holes, the chipmunks love playing on it, and many birds perch there waiting for a drink at the water hole.

You can retire your old birdhouses to your sanctuary as well.  This is a great cache for seeds or a hiding place.

If you're lucky enough to live near the woods, don't disturb the nearby brush as you'll be welcoming wrens and warblers.  I have yet to get an un-blurred photo of a wren as they are very small and quite fast, but the warblers often hop right past my window!

MacGulivray's warbler

Orange Crowned warbler

Once you have food and water available, you can register your location.  Here in Washington you can register with the Dept. of Fish and Wildlife here .  For a small fee you can also order a sign and a certificate like these:

indoor certificate

outdoor sign

You can also register as a Certified Wildlife Habitat here , with the National Wildlife Federation.  (I just applied for mine as of this writing!)  This is national., so anyone can apply.

I have only just scratched the surface of what your Backyard Wildlife Sanctuary can mean to you and your family.  You can also attract bugs and butterflies, frogs and snakes, who all work together to create a perfect ecosystem.
I'd love to hear your stories of how you have invited wildlife into your life.


  1. Great information, Jeni! I love all of your wildlife photos. We have an ancient cherry tree in our backyard that attracts birds, squirrels, and raccoons. One night we had a mom and four baby raccoons in the tree at the same time. They were eating cherries like crazy--so cute! We grow lambsquarters and let them go to seed so that the birds have something to eat. Then we have a field of foxgloves that attract ladybugs and tons of bees. There's more, but you get the idea. :-) Thanks for sharing! xo Jennifer

    1. Jennifer I love your truly natural approach to caring for the wildlife! Sounds perfect. :)


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