Incidental species spread the joy of nature

By Kevin Tate/Outdoors Writer

Sometimes the best of nature is that to be found in our own backyards.
By bringing our own slice of nature closer to our everyday lives, we can strengthen our connection with nature itself. To do this requires the same general practices typically associated with large-scale game and land management, though on a much smaller scale.
Butterflies, songbirds and other animal species both game and non-game alike require food, water, cover and a place for their young. Here are tips for creating these micro-environments from the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks:

Provide food
Planting native plants or hanging feeders in safe places are two easy ways to make your habitat the latest and greatest five-star restaurant for wildlife of all shapes and sizes. Native shrubs and trees offer foliage, nectar, pollen, berries, seeds and nuts many species of wildlife require. Native species are also well adapted to survive in their area according to climate, soil type, rainfall amounts and other factors. And because they are indigenous, they’ll usually require little maintenance and are already recognized by wildlife.

Supply water
Adding a bird bath to your back yard or garden may be the most effective and simplest way to offer water to your critters. During warm weather, be sure to change the water in the bird bath two or three times a week to discourage mosquito reproduction.
Create cover
Wild critters need places to hide to feel safe from predators and rough weather. Native vegetation including shrubs, thickets and brush piles are perfect for this purpose. If natural options aren’t available or practical, consider building a birdhouse specifically for the types of birds you would like to attract to your habitat.
Providing these places not only helps wildlife, it can also help your overall garden by bringing in other pollinators like bats and bees.

Offer shelter
Giving wildlife a place to reproduce is key to long-term improvement of habitat and allows your garden or backyard to host complete life cycles of many species.
From wildflower patches where butterflies and moths lay their eggs and small mammals burrow into the underground, to constructed birdhouses and ponds, a little bit goes a long way in creating and maintaining a little piece of the semi-wild all your own.