Tuesday, September 08, 2009

One Yard in a Great Big City

It is an amazing thing. I can stand in my kitchen in the San Fernando Valley and eat a bite of lunch while watching a desert cottontail munching on a blade of grass and a young southern California alligator lizard hunting a bug. Both of these creatures are about fifteen feet away from me, albeit on the other side of the glass window.

I live in one of the world's largest cities, but this morning 10 species of native birds were in my yard:
In another month as the migratory birds start passing through, that number will increase dramatically. All kinds of avian visitors will drop in for a day or for the winter.

This morning western fence lizards, adults and juveniles, were hunting insects. An anise swallowtail butterfly was laying eggs on the citrus trees and a tiger swallowtail stopped in for a snack.

What is truly amazing is the same thing isn't true at my neighbors' across the street. Their grass may be green and thick, but few native creatures live there. Our yard didn't start out this way, we have gradually introduced more native plants and added available water to our yard. We are an oasis of habitat in the city.

If you gaze out the window of your car or house and think, Los Angeles is a pretty green place? I challenge you to look at a satellite photo. The green you see is the Santa Monica Mountains and protected land. Photos from space reveal that the greatest area of land in Los Angeles is comprised roof tops, streets, asphalt school yards and parking lots. None of these provide habitat for beleaguered wildlife.

Now, the Station Fire has scorched large tracts of wildlife habitat in the Angeles Forest (just north of Los Angeles). Animals large and small are searching for new areas to find food, water and shelter.

But, every year the city expands and evicts similar numbers of plants and animals. It doesn't have to be that way. A yard can be habitat for wildlife. A narrow strip of land around a parking lot or a school can be planted with natives to provide shelter and food. It might take a little work and a change of priorities, but it is worth it. Every year our species list increases. I don't have to turn on the television to watch a "nature show," its happening right outside my kitchen window.

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