Backwoods Paradise, Ojai, CA
Featured Site Created By Bruce Vincent
Bruce Vincent, a retired ecological educator, has a lot left to teach on the subject of his property in southern California. He and his wife, Alexi, spend a good deal of time watching the wildlife come and go in their strip of coastal oak woodland. Whether observing a California Quail’s nest tucked away near their favorite sitting area, or watching raptors vie for a perching spot on the tall snag, there never seems to be a dull moment in this wildlife “paradise”.
Bruce’s yardmap is also acting as a hub of habitat information that can tie in with other citizen science data. For example, he has documented the birds that visit his property using the Lab of Ornithology’s eBird project. You can see this list by clicking “Visit on the map” at right, and then opening the site’s infowindow to the “Birds” tab. Bruce has also recently joined the Lab’s NestWatch project, for which he monitors and reports on the nesting birds he finds. By cataloging the plants and habitat features of his property with the help of YardMap, Bruce is gaining some insights into which specific enhancements seem to bring in the birds. He notes that providing water has been successful in attracting many small songbirds, as well as a Cooper’s Hawk and a Western Toad (for a list of other non-avian guests, read his welcome letter to virtual visitors). Supplying varied nectar sources, such as agave plants and nectar feeders, has attracted both Anna’s and Black-chinned Hummingbirds as well as Bullock’s and Hooded Orioles to his home. Read on to learn more about this unique property, and as Bruce would say, “Welcome to Paradise!”
What work has been done to improve this site for birds and other wildlife? How long did it take?
This is a totally wild site that is a major wildlife corridor on the eastern edge of the city of Ojai in California. It lies about a mile north of Soule Park, a top birding spot in the valley. The only improvements we really made were the addition of six birdbaths, five hummingbird feeders, two oriole feeders (seasonally), and a few more shrubs on the north side. These we placed near our home to bring the birds in closer.
The property is in a strip of Coastal Oak Woodland with Oak Savanna on both sides. San Antonio Creek is 500 feet east of here running from the north side of the valley to the south side–which is what helps make it such a great wildlife corridor.
- Note: a wildlife corridor is an area of habitat connecting wildlife populations separated by human activities.
What are some successes that you've seen since the improvements were made? (alternatively, "What are you most proud of, or excited to share about this site?")
Obviously, in a dry environment, the water brings in more birds than you might normally see. Even birds that don’t regularly forage in the yard will show up for a drink and a bath. The birds all seem to have their preferences for which bath they go to, either on the ground or in a tree.
I added some hummingbird-friendly plants to the north yard, which was mostly bare. The feeders are also great fun, especially at “last call”–the Anna’s Hummingbirds just have a free for all! (As an aside, I don’t understand why my hummers can’t get along. I see them at other peoples’ feeders, and they seem to tolerate each other. However, it does make for some great birdwatching.)
We also have birds specially adapted to this dry environment, such as Greater Roadrunner, California and Mountain Quail, Red-breasted Sapsucker, Hooded Oriole, California Thrasher, and many others!
Are there any tough decisions that had to be made regarding its management? How were they handled?
My neighbor’s cat, before it died, was a big hunter, and we witnessed the deaths of many little critters. That was a real challenge for us. The realization that pets would not work in this environment is hard on my wife. She has always had cats, and she really misses them. Even dogs will push the wildlife away from being really close.
But instead of cats and dogs, we get a constant stream of mammals, with coyote, bobcat, and deer using the corridor! They are like wild “pets” that I get to enjoy each and every day. I feel truly blessed to be the caretaker and “appreciator” of this very special place.