Monday, April 28, 2008

Who knew that ducks could read?

Last summer, during my rampage of trying to instill my children with a love of the outdoors and nature, I decided to make a pledge to bring wildlife to my backyard.
You have to understand that for me to actually INVITE wildlife to my personal space was a big step, since I’ve had such outstanding luck with animals even when they were not invited. (Think: snapping turtles under the porch, squirrels in my garage, birds in my house, rabbits in my dogs’ mouths, etc.) But the things we do for the love of our children, right?
So with my husband laughing at me all the way, I went to the National Wildlife Federation Web site and registered my little backyard as a certified wildlife habitat. To qualify for this prestigious status, you must provide the four basics needs for animals: water, food, shelter, and a place to raise their young.
And a small donation, of course. But that goes without saying.
For an extra fee, you can purchase your very own aluminum sign to proudly display. Besides being a great teaching tool for children, this sign serves many other purposes. It is a nice reminder to do your part for wildlife and keep those feeders full. It is also fantastic for explaining to your neighbors why your backyard is “au natural” and doesn’t look as nice as theirs.
But maybe it also serves as an invitation for wildlife, as in “hey! Check out the sign! This looks like a good place to move in – we’ve got everything we need right here!”
It happened just in time for Earth Day, when everywhere you turn and everything you hear is telling you to go green. Live green. Do green. Eat green. Be green. Put Kermit to shame.
In the midst of the greenness, while so many of us are grumbling about gas prices, a little something waddled into my yard, past my sign, and gave me another reason to be kind to the environment. There is a mama mallard (aka Millie) nesting in my flower bed, behind the lilac bush and directly against the side of my house.
She lays one egg each morning and then walks away, leaving her nest unattended except for the fact that we all find ourselves peeking out the front door dozens of times each day, completely amazed by this act of nature happening so close to us. Once she finishes laying all of her eggs (which can be anywhere from seven to twelve) she’ll come back for good and sit day and night, leaving only for a quick bite to eat, until her babies hatch.
The eggs will all hatch at roughly the same time and within a matter of minutes, Millie and her brood will waddle off to their watery home, which I’m hoping is the retention pond across the street. How neat it would be to see the babies swimming around that came from that hole in our mulch!
So even though Earth Day has come and gone, I’m glad I’m still doing my part to keep my own little part of the world clean and wildlife friendly. I’ve got a good quacking reason to do so, especially if it means an open invitation for critters just out my back door.
For more information on how to certify your own backyard, please visit www.nwf.org/backyard.

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