For fear of sounding like a stuck record – actually, who am I kidding? I love the bush and all the creatures that come with it and I’ll never stop begging everyone to share in this great love. It’s an amazing feeling when another living being that has no obligation to you (this is outside of pets of course, which are the ones waiting on your hand for their next meal) decides to move in, have a meal, or just pass through your space. Especially as a member of the human race I can tell you that I carry a huge amount of guilt on my shoulders, we are the ones responsible for the impending doom we’re currently facing, one which has arrived already for countless other species we’re supposed to be sharing this planet with.
If you were to arbitrarily research the source of trouble for any animal, let’s just say, for example, any endangered turtle, bird or even rhinoceros – I’d bet you the last dollar in my dry wallet that it’s human-induced. Whether it be hunting, trapping or traditional medicine, our hand has stirred the pot in the most horrible way for these creatures that have occupied this space for thousands (if not millions) of years before our hairy ancestors took a single breath. And the most widespread of these human scourges has undoubtedly been summarized in two words: habitat loss.
Yes, our population is expanding. Yes, we all need places to live. But must it really come as a trade-off? Must we destroy someone else’s home to make our own, without a scant thought of what was here before us? Sure, some folks say yes, who cares right, and I am not one to cast judgement, I am not one to say what is right and what is wrong. All I can do is tell you what I have done with my own space, based on my own conscience and awareness. And maybe, some may see the value in it. Perhaps some may not.
How can anyone combat such a ubiquitous problem that is the loss of usable habitat? Any change starts on the smallest scale. For me, it’s what I’ve done (or not done) in my own backyard.
Trees are a great start. They do most literally provide homes for many species.
Within the last year or year and a half or so, I’ve let so-called weeds grow. Yes, the demonized weeds, the plants that pop up in cracks and along the fencelines and in places that don’t align with the original landscaped ideal. What arrives naturally has been brought there by nature itself, and nature is never without purpose.
Of course, most of what you’re going to see at first is going to fall under the umbrella of “everyday” species. Carib Grackles are literally everywhere, from the mangroves to the middle of the city, so it’s no surprise to see them around. They do, however, form a valuable link in the ecosystem, picking off everything from caterpillars to centipedes.
Some species adapt easier than others, Ruddy Ground Doves consistently take advantage of human settlements, even without trees they readily build their nests in rafters and along pipes.
Other species may need a little bit of help. Fast-paced creatures like hummingbirds will never settle anywhere far away from food. If you’d enjoy seeing these jewels around on a regular basis, a little effort may be necessary. Ensure that nectar-providing plants are nearby and sooner or later they will be claimed by one of these high-octane birds.
I saw a small tree growing up on our fenceline, and decided to let it be, just to see what it’d become. It presently is about 20 feet tall and consistently produces flowers which are attended to by great numbers of insect pollinators, wasps, bees and beetles. Some weeks ago, it shed all its leaves, and I was fearful that its days were over. But within a few days, new buds started to appear, much denser than before. Who came to the party? A young Green Iguana, relishing the opportunity to grab some fresh bud. Sitting on my porch observing this iguana cling on to the swaying branches, nibbling at the fresh leaves taught me a valuable lesson, and put many things into perspective.
If there were three fresh leaves, the iguana would pick one off and leave two. It’d then move further along the branches and repeat, eating a single leaf here and a single leaf there. It then occurred to me that had that iguana possessed the mind and heart of a human, it’d eat all the leaves. What couldn’t be immediately eaten would be taken away, effectively killing the tree. And we say that we’re the intelligent ones right? Thank you, young iguana, thank you.
Not too long after I had that experience with the iguana, I encountered another reptile, a Brown Vine Snake – locally known as a ‘horsewhip’ – casually sunning itself on a palm, yes, a wild palm that somehow arrived in the yard all on its own.
The presence of a predator is a clear sign that all supporting players are present and well. A couple days ago I unearthed a small possum under some dead banana leaves. I was wearing gloves so I took the chance to grab it, which I did successfully. Tried to photograph it, but learned another lesson – a mammal is not a reptile. Reptiles will sit still with their limited energy and you might have a few seconds to snap a couple frames before they take off. This guy bolted as soon as I let it go, and all I’m left with is this story.
But a healthy yard is good for everyone, and if my neighbours don’t appreciate my efforts, well, cheers my friends.
(My friends = animals)