Its’ currently January in NSW and the temperatures have soared with very little rain.very little rain up until this past week. Sadly we have had huge bush fires throughout our region and also much of Australia due to lack of rainfall. Part of the tragedy has been that many homes and properties have been destroyed, but what has also been tragic is that much of our wildlife which lived in bushfire affected areas have also perished. Koalas caught up in the bush fires have caught the eye of the public and much is being done to provide ongoing protection and support for these creatures.
So, I got to thinking. How can we provide safe habitats which encourage local fauna into our gardens? Now I realise most of us live in urban landscapes, so we probably will not attract koalas, but there are other smaller creatures, both mammals, amphibians and reptiles. I have seen micro bats, native rats, water dragons, blue tongue lizards and beautiful birds and insects in the garden. We can aim to provide a protective and safe environment to home these creatures – not to domesticate them or to make them dependent on us, but to just give them a source of water and a safe environment to live in.
Most creatures have a need for water, and shallow dishes filled with water underneath a shady tree provide a much needed drink for thirsty wildlife. Shallow ponds provide a habitat for frogs, and these keep away the mosquito larva. Birds also enjoy splashing in garden ponds. I’ve also noticed that even benign insects like ladybirds, butterflies and dragon flies enjoy a visit to my bird bath. I’ve placed some glass marbles at the bottom of my bird bath so it is not too deep for bees and other insects. Keep the water clean and fresh.
A key to providing a habitat garden is planting plenty of nectar and pollen bearing natives which are a feast for our beautiful birds. These are less water needy and are good for everything from small blocks of units to larger urban gardens. Small mammals enjoy poking around in leaf litter and dead plant material for bugs on their nocturnal excursions. I for one find it just so relaxing to be sitting under a tree on a log to quietly enjoy the birds, insects and reptiles that are there just quietly going about their lives. I know many people who encourage native birds by providing seed which is commercially produced. This can sadly make the birds dependent on you and can also cause them to die. A better idea is to provide an environment which mimics their own and causes them to forage for their own food in your garden.
Tree hollows, hollow logs and even nesting boxes in a quiet place can provide a home for a small creature. Likewise, rocks, and native plantings also provide a nesting environment. Native wildlife need to be protected from predators which include our domesticated animals. Keep your cats inside at night, and make sure dogs do not roam where the animals are living. The native wildlife also needs a quiet and safe environment to nest and raise their young and protect them from our very changeable and often extreme weather conditions. If your garden is small, try to make these habitats in the quieter, more secluded corners of your garden. Perhaps under a large established tree or a sheltered spot.
As the trend is towards more urban gardens which reflect a water wise bush environment, it is logical that creating a safe haven for our wildlife is essential for both their safety and survival. I see it as a ‘win win’ situation. You have a low maintenance, drought proof garden which echos our native bush land. You have the benefit of lots of little creatures visiting or making their home’s there. And, you helping to keep our wildlife safe.