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The Sowash Residence, Montgomery, OH

Featured Site Created By 4800Laurelann

The Sowash Residence takes the task of attracting birds and wildlife very seriously. They’ve done this by focusing on native plants, adding water features, and developing diverse understory, midstory, and overstory plant structure on their property. The rewards can be witnessed in the incredible photos they’ve shared with us, which include pollinators, frogs, dragonflies, deer, and a diversity of birds. Their suburban home is an inspiration for anyone seeking to increase their native flora and fauna. Learn more by reading their story and exploring their detailed map.

What work has been done to improve this site for birds and other wildlife? How long did it take?

Side of house

Photo © Evelia and Randy Sowash
We’ve been making improvements to our landscape for 13 years and counting. We have removed invasive honeysuckle bushes and planted native plants from our region such as daisy, phlox, coneflower, White Pine (Pinus strobus), White/Paper Birch (Betula papyrifera), River Birch (Betula nigra L.) and many more. We put up several bird houses and roosting boxes. We have a few bird feeders and bird baths. In the summer, suet keeps the woodpeckers visible but the winter is when we see the migrants. In the summer, the Blue Jays demand peanuts. We have also spotted Ruby-throated hummingbirds nesting in our old growth maple trees.
jay peanut

Photo © Evelia and Randy Sowash

We purposely kept a few trees that are dying so the snags provide nest cavities for many birds. Red-bellied Woodpeckers, Downy Woodpeckers, and Northern Flickers stay here year round. We’ve encouraged volunteer native seedlings on our property–five or six Blue Spruce (Picea pungens) and Redbuds (Cercis canadensis) are now happily growing.

I personally love having different layers and heights of foliage in our landscape and I believe that is a great way to attract and protect many different kinds of wildlife.

For water management, we diverted excess overflow from a creek channel that dumps into a small retaining pond. There are five springs on the property. Kettering, Ohio is known to have many. We manage the two obvious springs that bubble. One we keep clear of plants and debris and is the mouth of a creek overflow. Birds regularly bathe there. The second spring, we planted with boggy native plants and created a surrounding creek.

pond

Photo © Evelia and Randy Sowash

Our Owl -March 23, 2011

Photo © Evelia and Randy Sowash
An external factor for bird diversity is the Raptor Center in Yellow Springs, Ohio, located about 30 miles away and they are responsible for rehabilitating and repopulating many of the large raptors we see. We have identified many, such as Red-tailed Hawks, Cooper’s Hawk and buzzards (aka Turkey Vultures). There are Herons, too, since there is a small lake nearby. We frequently hear the Great Horned Owls on winter nights and Screech-Owls all year long. They wake up around 7pm followed soon by the American Robins making a racket.

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?")

oriole

Photo ©
We have attracted more bird diversity. This year was our first Baltimore Oriole sighting! They stuck around for about a month and then they must have moved on because I haven’t heard their beautiful song again [Note from Habitat Network Staff: Many birds sing the loudest during breeding season]. I put out meal worms hoping they would stay but have only seen the Northern Cardinal feast on them.

Our favorite wildlife sighting from all our improvements has been the Indigo Bunting and the Baltimore Oriole.

Are there any tough decisions that had to be made regarding its management? How were they handled?

The hardest decision has been where to put plants and what types to choose. Our yard has a lot of mature trees and certain spots do not get a lot of sun. So we had to decide which types of plants would work in the best locations. Focusing on native plantings provided us with some direction and ensured we were picking plants that grow well in our region.