Perhaps it’s time to bring out those green thumbs and relish the ethical side of gardening. And the best part? The CEO of the Foundation for National Parks & Wildlife, Ian Darbyshire, says it’s really simple and you could even make a new friend or two.
“In my backyard, when I lived in South Australia, I had a koala that used to come in and everyday he would come back and drink fresh water from a bowl I put out. Actually, we gave him a name in the end called Kevin.”
“We used to go and sit with Kevin and have our photograph taken, but not touch him because koalas are wild animals.”
Natives such as this leadbeater possum can, with a little effort, become adorable tenants of your backyard
From creating bird baths to building a garden oasis, Darbyshire says there are ways to turn your own backyard into a little wildlife park and attract some interesting visitors.
Small yard? Not a problem!
If you’re thinking that you don’t have a big enough backyard, or even a backyard for that matter, Darbyshire still believes you can still attract some fun characters – even from an apartment building 14 storeys high!
“Recently, I was doing a presentation,” explains Darbyshire, “and a lady came up to me and said, ‘I have kookaburras on my 14th floor balcony. No one thinks that kookaburras can fly that high – it’s an apartment with a balcony. I’ve put a little bush out, they come and sit in the bush and I have kookaburras laughing on my balcony 14 storeys up.’ Isn’t that amazing?”
“And what you can do, of course, is to get your neighbours to help out,” Darbyshire adds. “So you might only have a small backyard but a few small backyards all put together, along a street or a road, could make quite a nice wildlife corridor.”
How to create a habitat haven
1. Avoid chemicals
An obvious way to attract native species is to stay away from using harsh chemical substances, such as chemical pesticides and fertilisers, which can poison many native plants and animals. Click here to read about more ways to create a chemical-free garden.
2. Bird baths
Add a bird bath in your yard or outside your balcony to draw in rosellas, grey fantails or maybe even a pink cockatoo. Of course, the type of native animals you attract will depend on where you live. But make sure to place the bird bath next to a dense bush to give the birds a shady spot and some shelter from the wind.
A bird bath is a fantastic and easy way to draw native birds to your backyard
“When planting, try to arrange flora of diverse heights together and position shrubs and grasses in dense clumps. This will provide shelter for smaller creatures and attract insects and lizards that large birds love to eat,” Darbyshire says.
The added bonus being that some of them could be your pest control, feeding on some unwanted critters in your backyard while adding a touch of class to your garden.
3. Native plants
Darbyshire recommends planting nectar-producing flora such as banksias, grevilleas, and bottlebrush to “add a splash of colour to your backyard” while at the same time attracting species such as wattlebirds and rainbow lorikeets. Get in touch with your local council to see what native plants suit your area.
4. DIY homes
You can also create homes for your ‘backyard buddies’, says Darbyshire, such as a ladybird house, a bee hotel or a nesting box.
“Sometimes you have situations where, for example, a possum has gone into your house, which is stressful for the house owner,” he says.
“But what we would provide is a solution to get the possum maybe out of your house roof and into a nesting box in your own backyard. So you can move a possum from being a potential problem to being something that you share your backyard with.”
“You can watch, learn and get involved… You can create something magical by just moving a backyard buddy into a tree and giving it a home.”
Nesting boxes such as these are fun DIY projects that will turn your backyard into a haven for native wildlife
These DIY projects are available on the Backyard Buddies website, which are fun, easy and cheap to make.
But what happens if you attract some unwanted visitors?
The more you create a piece of wilderness in your backyard, the higher chance of attracting all different types of species, including snakes.
“If you see an animal in your back garden that you’re not happy with, for example a snake, then what we would suggest you do is look on the backyardbuddies.org.au website, find your local expert in that area, give them a call and get them maybe to even remove the snake for you.” Darbyshire says.
Don’t try to touch any wild animals such as flying foxes, venomous reptiles or birds of prey as they are not used to being handled and may lash out. Avoid feeding them – though tempting as it may be – as these animals have specialised diets.
Instead, be prepared. Save a few hotlines in your phone and contact them if you happen to come across a sick or injured animal.
What animals have you come across in your home?