In 2021, more than 140 Eagle Watch residents joined efforts to certify their yards and create Cherokee County’s first certified wildlife habitat community through the National Wildlife Federation (NWF). In the past year, two other Towne Lake neighborhoods, Arbors and Wyngate, launched their pursuit of certification through NWF. (If you missed my
April article on this topic, visit https://townelaker.com/archives.)
Most Towne Lake yards, with an abundance of canopy trees and natural mulched areas, already have the elements needed to certify as a wildlife habitat. Many homes need only add a water source, such as a birdbath or butterfly puddling dish, to satisfy the habitat requirements (www.nwf.org/certify).
The reward for certifying is an abundance of songbirds and butterflies arriving to enjoy the healthy environment you have created around your home. Below are a few snapshots from my backyard nature journal, illustrating a habitat yard in summer.
Deer-Resistant Blooms for Butterflies and Bees
Bright orange butterfly weed, alive with the flutter of butterfly wings, catches my eye from my studio window most summer mornings. Butterfly weed, our Southern native milkweed, blooms all summer, attracts many butterflies and bees, and is the host plant for migrating monarch butterflies. A big plus is that it’s also deer-resistant. The toxic sap, to which monarch caterpillars have adapted, is unpalatable to deer.
Goldfinches often feast on the last seeds of the golden ragwort in my shade beds (ragwort, not to be confused with ragweed). This early spring bloomer has bright yellow flowers and beautiful dark green leaves, which make a lovely groundcover under my trees. Currently beginning to bloom, in the sunnier areas, is blue mistflower, a reliable late summer color. It, too, is a favorite for butterflies and bees.
Water for Wildlife
A birdbath or butterfly puddling dish is an easy addition to attract splashing birds or butterflies, which need water in the dry summer months. I freshen the water in my birdbath frequently for the health of the birds, and toss in a quarter tablet of Mosquito Dunks every couple of weeks to eliminate any mosquito larvae. (The active ingredient is harmless to birds and other wildlife.)
A Mosquito-Free Fourth
Last year, our neighbors, Bob and Galya Grove, hosted a fabulous Fourth of July party in their yard.
To keep the mosquitos away, we used a simple solution: two fans on either side of the yard, blowing across the party area. All through the evening, we and the other guests sipped and ate for hours with no problem mosquitos at all!
Oscillating fans are a healthy and surprisingly little-known solution to mosquitoes for any outdoor area. Mosquitos are extremely weak fliers — the slightest breeze will keep them away. An inexpensive rotating pedestal fan on your deck or patio is all you need as an alternative to the constant spraying of your yard. Marketing claims to the contrary, all mosquito sprays — natural or not — have a harmful effect on bees, butterflies and susceptible wildlife such as tree frogs and songbirds, the last of which need the insects killed by mosquito sprays to feed their young. The diet of baby songbirds is 98% insects.
• American Mosquito Association. www.mosquito.org/page/FAQ.
• Tallamy, Douglas M. (2019). “Nature’s Best Hope.” Timber Press.
– Ann Litrel is an artist and certified Master Naturalist. She instructs nature journal workshops and paints in her studio, Ann Litrel Art, in Towne Lake.