The Saratoga Friends of the Library and the Community Garden Board hosted a free program entitled "Habitat Hero: Wildscaping 101" Tuesday night at the Saratoga Library.
About 16 residents showed up to learn how they could create attractive and efficient wildlife friendly areas in their yards.
During the hour-long talk Jamie Weiss, Habitat Hero Coordinator for Audubon Rockies, listed several preferred native plants that look good in a landscaped setting while providing maximum shelter and feed for local fauna.
Another benefit to having native plants noted was most native plants require much less water than turf grass so adding a wildscaped area to your yard can reduce your water bill while also being aesthetically pleasing.
Though Weiss' presentation leaned toward enhancing mainly avian habitat, Weiss detailed the importance of promoting food groups for local wildlife including insects, berries and fruits, nectar, and nuts and seeds. Weiss explained that 90 percent of herbivorous insects only feed on the plants with which they codeveloped and having insects available was an important part of a bird's diet.
Structural garden elements that attract wildlife was also discussed during the address. Available water such as a constructed puddle or simply-made birdbath was the first component listed as a feature needed to attract wildlife.
Shelter was the second requirement mentioned that attracts wildlife. Weiss noted several shelter and nesting options that could be added to a garden including plants such as sage or a "constructed" feature like a decorative stick pile.
Another wildlife-promoting feature touched on was the necessity of leaf litter. Leaf litter gives insects a place to thrive which, in turn, attracts birds who feed on the insects.
Bird houses were the last feature mentioned to attract wildlife. Weiss related there are optimal heights, settings and hole sizes to attract particular species of birds. For instance if you want to attract a wren you should put your birdhouse in a heavily vegetated area with a an inch to an inch and a-quarter opening, if you want to attract a Mountain Bluebird the optimum birdhouse should be in an open area, around 6 feet off the ground and have an inch and three-quarter hole opening.
Weiss also provided the Cornell Lab of Ornithology as a place to go and get these specifications. These were found by going to http://nestwatch.org/learn/all-about-birdhouses/.
More information about the Rockies Audubon Society Habitat Hero program can be gathered at http://rockies.audubon.org/programs/habitat-hero-education.