Getting the backyard spring-ready for NJ wildlife
Getting the backyard spring-ready to attract certain wildlife takes some planning and preparing the proper habitats for birds, reptiles, and furry creatures take time.
Habitat loss is a great threat to wildlife, so it's important to provide proper habitat to attract them in backyards, said Ben Wurst, habitat program manager at The Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey.
Even though New Jersey is the most densely populated state in the nation, there are a lot of unique habitats and diversity with wildlife throughout the year, he said.
Food, cover, and water are the three necessities every form of wildlife needs, no matter what species.
But Wurst said depending on where someone lives in the state, he or she can do that by simply putting out a bird feeder, birdhouses to put on the property, or even a bat house if attracting bats tickles your fancy. Water is critical in the form of a birdbath or take it a step further and create a pond.
How to attract birds?
The landscape is important, using native species, Wurst said. Plant evergreen trees that provide better cover for birds for them to take shelter during snowstorms or blizzards, and also provide places for them to nest. Plant shrubs and small trees also provide food for them as well.
He also said planting wildflowers that attract insects so the birds have something to eat, is beneficial.
Brush piles also provide cover and breeding sites for ground-nesting birds.
How to attract reptiles and amphibians?
To attract frogs, toads, salamanders, and even turtles, Wurst recommended creating a log pile. Even if you have logs or a tree that you cut down, just leave it to decay. These animals will then use them for shelter and to find food. Rock piles also attract toads and frogs to hide.
To really attract frogs, he said to build a backyard pond. "That's really one of the best ways to provide habitat for them because they use it to actually breed. Pretty soon, I think we're going to hear some spring peepers, as well," Wurst said.
Wading birds, like herons and egrets, feed on frogs and tadpoles and waterfowl eat aquatic vegetation.
How to attract bunnies, chipmunks, and other furry woodland creatures?
Brush piles can also provide cover and breeding sites for small mammals including chipmunks and white-footed mice.
Consider planting sapling trees as young bucks like to rub against them and smaller mammals like to take cover under.
Rabbits can be your first "lawnmowers." Let part of the lawn go wild, he suggested. In the wild grass is where you'll find a lot of wildflowers. That's early pollinator habitat for bees and other insects that feed on nectar.
"And the rabbits help mow my lawn," Wurst quipped.
How to attract butterflies?
To attract butterflies, again, delay mowing the lawn. Eventually, the site will colonize with native grasses and wildflowers. Daffodils also provide habitat and food for butterflies. But native species are always best such as common milkweed which attracts monarch butterflies.
Other great wildflowers include switchgrass, goldenrods, and asters.
Redbud is a great native tree to plant. Wurst said it's a small tree that blooms well in the spring. Butterflies are attracted to them.
It's always best to create a wildflower bed when starting to plan your yard for the spring. Wurst said to attract wildlife this summer, start putting together a backyard plan now, till the soil, get rid of old grass, and source seeds to plant.
Some of New Jersey's Native Plants