Type size - +
Personal tools
You are here: Home Pressroom Press Clips Bring on the birds and the bees, and butterflies

Bring on the birds and the bees, and butterflies

By Virginia Werner
Portland Tribune

It used to be the only critter spotted in Jinnet Powel’s North Portland backyard was an occasional chicken running madly about. Now it’s common — even during winter — to find cedar waxwings, golden crowned kinglets, chickadees, and bush tits, to name a few.

Bring on the birds and the bees, and butterflies

Photo Credit: PHOTO COURTESY OF RICH HATFIELD - This native bumblebee is foraging for nectar on native rosy plactritis. Homeowners learn how to use native plants to attract pollinators through the Backyard Habitat Certification Program.

It used to be the only critter spotted in Jinnet Powel’s North Portland backyard was an occasional chicken running madly about. Now it’s common — even during winter — to find cedar waxwings, golden crowned kinglets, chickadees, and bush tits, to name a few.

Powel’s yard has changed dramatically since 2010, when she became engrossed in the Backyard Habitat Certification Program, which helps homeowners restore native plants to their yards, providing miniature wildlife habitats that attract birds, butterflies, bees and other species.

A certified Backyard Habitat will not feature your typical manicured lawn or ornate hedge. Rather, it may recreate the ecosystem of a meadow, or resemble a rain garden.

Powel says she was inspired by forests she saw on hikes when she decided to reconfigure her backyard.

“What motivates me is not the look, but the purpose it serves,” she says. The program “has helped me pay attention to and understand local ecology, and what I’ve learned makes me want to keep doing it."

She transformed the side of her yard with butterfly bush, snowberries and red twig dogwood, noticing new species of birds and insects she had never seen there before. Her biggest surprise has been the ground-nesting bees that made use of the exposed, undisturbed soil on the edges of her rain garden and in her meadow plot.

Run by a partnership between the Audubon Society of Portland, Columbia Land Trust, and Friends of Tryon Creek, the Backyard Habitat Certification Program began in Southwest Portland and has expanded to encompass 2,500 properties in Portland and Lake Oswego, 945 of which are now certified. Gresham and Fairview are the latest communities to be welcomed into the fold.

There are five main elements to the program: removal of aggressive weeds and invasive species; nature-scaping with native plants; stormwater runoff management; pesticide reduction; and wildlife stewardship.

“I think that people want to do what’s right. Gardening in this way means more wildlife enjoyment for everyone,” says Nikki West, the Backyard Habitat Program manager at the Audubon Society of Portland. “I think this changes how people interact with their yards really positively.”

Researchers from Portland State University have been evaluating the contributions Certified Backyard Habitats are making to biodiversity. They have documented that the private decisions residents make in their backyards do make a difference to the birds and the bees. (See story above.)

A technician first visits the home to perform an initial assessment of the backyard, identifying problem areas. They work with the homeowner to create a plan of action, giving them a packet that outlines incentive packages and local gardening resources. West says it can take up to one year to become certified if following proper seasonal gardening techniques. This may require extensive landscaping, including the removal of invasive species. The age range of participants ranges, but West says that many are new homeowners and gardeners looking to partake in environmentally sustainable practices.

Native plants are necessary for insect survival, and although some people may not like seeing holes in their plant leaves, the presence of insects means there also will be birds. More than 219 species of birds pass through the region, including song sparrows, chickadees, robins and hummingbirds.

Powel is encouraging some of her neighbors to participate in the program, and volunteers her plant expertise for those who need help with naturescaping. Some participants have started sharing excess plants with others, putting them out near their sidewalks with signs indicating they’re free.

The program is set up in a way that it makes people feel successful, West says. “They do small things ... and they’re rewarded.” 

Read the original story
Document Actions
powered by Plone | site by Groundwire Consulting and served with clean energy