Southridge Court, Chelan County, WA.
Featured Site Created By Squilchuck3, Lisa and Mike Robinson
Homeowners in Chelan, Washington have chosen water-wise native plantings for their managed landscape. The process began over seven years ago when they purchased the property and began removing invasive species. The lesson they have learned? If you provide habitat the birds will come. With the increase in density and diversity of native plantings, along with installing habitat features, like a waterfall, and they’ve been rewarded with numerous bird sightings. To learn more about their process check-out the article below. If you are interested in Xeriscaping principles explore this link.
What work has been done to improve this site for birds and other wildlife? How long did it take?
We purchased the property and began making habitat improvements immediately. We started with bagging and disposing of invasive knapweed. We began building the house in 2008 and moved in during the spring of 2009. We’ve lived at the site for seven years, but Mike, my husband, was moving dirt around well before that. He sculpted the hill above the house with a road to divert any water coming down the small ravine and created the meadow above the house. We smoothed the area and raked on construction topsoil. Mike is a horticulturalist and understands how important topsoil is, and how hard it is to replace.
We planted that hill with a native grass mix. I also threw out all the wildflower seeds I had collected and we had a beautiful meadow for a few years. The grass seed was from Derby Canyon Nursery and the bunchgrass has since filled in. We water it just often enough to keep it green. The store-bought wildflowers dwindled out but there are native flowers we still see–blanket flower (Gaillardia), blue flax (Linum) and yarrow (Achillea millefolium). I’ve since pulled seeds from plants on the property to add lupine (Lupinus) and mariposa lilies (Calochortus). One of my favorite natives, arrowleaf balsamroot (Balsamorhiza sagittata), has refused to grow in the meadow, try as I may through seed spreading and planting transplants.
This meadow is frequented by a diversity of wildlife. The quail march through on their way to see what has fallen from the bird feeder and I have seen several species of birds foraging there. They especially seem to like the lupine.
We have a huge dry (not run all the time and uses recycled water) waterfall feature. It’s wonderful to see when the birds come bathe. When it is off, the water is stored underground in a 1200 gallon cistern. Squilchuck Creek runs to the south of our property, across the road, so birds don’t have to go far for water. My favorite waterfall show was when the magpies that nest up in the larger ravine above our property brought four juveniles down for what appeared to be their first experience with flowing water. They splashed and played. The parents grabbed the bread ends I’d tossed out and used them to feed their young between turns in the water.
We also have Say’s Phoebes nesting. They strategically use the corners of the porch to trap insects. They have built a nest under the front porch on a shelf hidden up near the deck. We keep our yard equipment near their nesting location so I try not to disturb them when I think they are actively nesting. One year they had a handful of chicks that perched on the tractor out back.
We intentionally chose to plant natives so that when we travel they’d be fine without extra water. I keep adding more plants so we do water while they are getting established. I planted a ton of red tubular flowers (Firecracker Penstemon (Penstemon eatonii),
–they will tolerate the cold winters and dry landscape–and the hummingbirds love them. We’ve had one Anna’s hummingbird winter over between my house and another one across the canyon two years ago. Each summer I put out five nectar feeders in addition to the flowers because the Rufous Hummingbirds are very territorial. We go through a lot of sugar in the summer!
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?")
We are attracting more birds, including hummingbirds. I love hummingbirds because they are so amazing to watch. One of my favorite moments last year was when a young Cooper’s Hawk came by. I don’t remember if it tried to hunt any songbirds or not, but it perched on a rock on the ground between two serviceberry trees and just looked around before flying-off. What a magnificent sight!
Favorite bird or wildlife spotting?
Any raptor. We had a Turkey Vulture fly past and land in a nearby Ponderosa Pine. Once a juvenile Golden Eagle slowly circled past. There is also a Red-tailed Hawk family up on top of the hill behind us and I see a Raven and hear it calling often enough to think it may nest on the opposite side of the canyon.
Are there any tough decisions that had to be made regarding its management? How were they handled?
The weedy lambs quarters have been a problem because I want it to go away! We failed to get topsoil over the top of the sewer drain field so it ended up with an enormous patch of weeds. On the plus side my first wren was spotted in this patch and it seemed to love the stuff. I try to pull lambs quarter but I never seem to get through it all. I throw seeds and all the cuttings from around the yard out there–and have some natives and grasses filling in. I even tried burning the dried pulled weeds. It’s an ongoing battle.