We moved into our new house in February of 2014 and I quickly started documenting what birds and other wildlife frequented the yard. My goal is to turn it into a certified wildlife habitat and restore it to a more native state. We live in what was once the edge of Austin, TX, but is now part of the heart of the city. From our back porch we can hear I-35 raging in it’s dramatic hurry day and night, yet our house feels in many ways like a remote park.
We chose the house because it is surrounded on two sides by a greenbelt and the house sits on .5 acres on a small hilltop in the middle of a neighborhood that was once a massive live oak forest. Before many of the older oaks died from oak wilt, there were trees that were 300-400 years old lining the small wet weather drainage areas that twist down to Walnut Creek. In the parking lot of the motorcycle dealership across I-35 there is an ancient oak tree that was a sapling when Christopher Columbus sailed for the America’s; the tree sits alone, walled in by asphalt with a single historic marker that tells of its life.
Understanding how my little yard fits into the greater scheme of the ecosystem that surrounds me is important so I can make choices that have a positive impact rather than a negative one. The new house has a good foundation for changing the landscape to something that will really attract birds, butterflies, toads, lizards, deer and other wildlife that might move through the area.
Through out the spring and summer I have observed what naturally occurs in the yard, studied how the light changes during the seasons, and how the water flows. The observations will be my guide as I start the journey of removing the traditional yard to replace it with native plants, add bird feeding stations, and provide water sources for avian, mammal and reptile species.
Once the fall bird and butterfly migration has ended in December, I will have a pretty good understanding of the baseline from which I can start my documentation of the changes that occur as I alter the food and water sources. Currently, the yard has very few flowering native plants- so it wont take long to increase the butterfly, moth and hummingbird population. Stopping the bi-monthly pesticide treatments that the person that lived here before subscribed to has already increased the lizard and toad populations- they are more effective at killing bugs anyway.
This is my journey to return .5 acres of urban yard to a more native space that uses less water and attracts more wildlife.
Current trees: Live oak, Pecan, Shin Oak, Red Oak, Hackberry
Current shrubs: Yaupon, Boxwood (not native), Nandina (not native), Mountain Laurel, Jade Bush (not native), Lantana, two other’s that I’m not sure about.