This yard just naturally attracts wildlife
The National Wildlife Federation certifies qualified yards – and even balcony gardens – as wildlife habitats to encourage people to maintain natural landscapes.
A residential backyard might seem a strange place to cultivate a wildlife refuge.Skip to next paragraph
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But creating a natural oasis behind their Jefferson home has afforded David and Cindy Johnson a glimpse into a world they might otherwise have overlooked.
A variety of butterflies, birds, rabbits and other critters now frequent the Johnsons' backyard to drink nectar from flowers, peck up seeds or nibble on a variety of plant species that grace their small patch of earth.
Founded in 1973, the national program encourages people to maintain natural landscapes instead of properties dominated by expansive lawns and ornamental plant species. Its popularity has only recently grown, however, according to Roxanne Paul, a NWF spokeswoman in Reston, Va.
Three quarters of the more than 126,000 certifications that have been awarded nationwide occurred in the last five years.
"The program's really taken off," she said.
The Johnsons' backyard is the 126,393rd addition to the certified wildlife habitat family. Most certified properties are residential backyards, but the NWF also has 3,500 schools, more than 3,000 farms, 1,000 businesses and a number of churches that have participated, according to Paul.
In Georgia, there are 5,209 certified habitats, and Jackson County is home to 23 of these properties.
What started with a gazebo and pebble path three years ago has since evolved into an ongoing labor of love for the Johnsons. The couple decided to work towards certification after they stumbled across the program while researching gardening on the Internet.
Named for its humble beginnings, Pebble Path Gardens now boasts 41 Leyland cypress trees, a vegetable and herb garden, a currently frozen water garden home to several fish and a variety of fruit trees, among other attractions.
"It kind of perpetuates itself," said David Johnson about the project. "The more you do along the guidelines for the wildlife, the more that shows up, the more you want to do it."
While thrilled to witness a variety of birds flit from tree to tree and butterflies from flower to flower, the Johnsons' interest in identifying these species was only recently sparked.
After adding a hummingbird feeder, the couple decided to leave it up into the colder months. Last month, they noticed one or two hummingbirds were still frequenting the feeder.
Following a discussion with the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, they learned their backyard may be a winter refuge to a rufous hummingbird, a species native to the Pacific Northwest.
The National Audubon Society has ranked the species at No. 16 on a list of common birds in the U.S. whose populations are declining. The bird's current global population is 5 million, and its native range is from southern Alaska to northern California.
"Whereas before it was really pleasant and nice, now it's kind of grown into more of a curiosity to kind of know exactly what's here," Cindy Johnson explained.