Bean Hill, Licking OH
Featured Site Created By ocnjasbury
Great things can happen when old agricultural land is converted back into wildlife habitat. The landscape comes alive with native grasses, flowers, shrubs, trees, and animals. As stewards of our properties we have the ability to create sanctuaries for ourselves and wildlife by making simple, intentional choices. This property reminds us of the resilience of our landscapes–what was once intensely monoculture can become dynamic and varied with time and a little energy. Make sure to explore the beautiful slideshow at the end of the article for inspiration.
What work has been done to improve this site for birds and other wildlife? How long did it take?
Bean Hill was originally part of a 30 acre soybean field with a small 15 acre woods adjoining it. When we purchased our 5.6 acres, there wasn’t a single tree or bush on the property. As soon as the house construction was underway 18 years ago, and grass was planted, we began laying out gardens and meadow areas. We learned about native plants and filled the gardens with perennials. Every fall we deadhead those perennials and broadcast the seed heads throughout the meadows.
With the help of a landscaper, we chose and sited trees and bushes that would offer food and shelter to a wide variety of birds. We set up feeding stations and nest boxes for the birds, and also set up a feeder in the woods for the wildlife. The meadows provide additional food and shelter for both birds and wildlife, and we’ve established several sheltering brush piles in the woods.
In the first year, we put in a 225 gallon pond to provide a source of water. Over the years, it has expanded into two ponds, one 750 gallons and one 2700 gallons, separated by a small bog pond. In addition to providing water for birds and wildlife, the ponds are home to dozens of koi and frogs.
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?")
The property has been extensively photographed; thousands of photos capture Bean Hill’s evolution from a featureless farm field into a place of beauty and interest. We take seriously the charge to be good stewards of the Earth and its creatures, and the reward is living in harmony with nature in our own sanctuary. Our greatest source of pride is when visitors remark on the sense of peace they feel from the moment they arrive at Bean Hill, and say that being here “restores” them.
Favorite bird or wildlife spotting?
Originally we were city people, so moving to a rural area, and having woods adjoining our land, afforded us the opportunity to learn about and enjoy a wide variety of birds and wildlife. No matter how many times we see a Downy Woodpecker, for example, we never stop being delighted by the sight. If we had to name a favorite, though, it would be the Redwing Blackbird. It’s our first harbinger of Spring, and the sound of that distinctive whistle in late February or early March always brings a smile.
Are there any tough decisions that had to be made regarding its management? How were they handled?
The most difficult decision we ever had to make was when we found a large colony of brown field rats had settled in around the house foundations and beneath the deck. After much research, we admitted the population was too large to be dealt with humanely. We didn’t want to resort to poison, not only because of the danger it posed to other creatures, but because we didn’t want the rats to suffer. Bringing an exterminator into our “sanctuary” was ethically and humanely very painful for us, and we are thankful we’ve never had to repeat it.
**Habitat Network Staff Comment: Brown rats (Rattus norvegicus) are a non-native (usually) urban pest that can make their way into your homes and businesses. Without natural predators or disease to control their populations they can become a nuisance, potentially spreading disease and causing damage to stored crops and structures. In areas susceptible to rats, keep compost and brush away from buildings and structures while maintaining a healthy ecosystem that will attract natural predators of rats (such as raptors and small mammals).