No-po-no-so-ro Sanctuary House, Windsor, VT
Featured Site Created By Ed and Kate Sharron
Improving our yards and landscapes for wildlife is fun and energizing! This Vermonter demonstrates this enthusiasm by making small and large changes to his property to benefit the creatures he shares his home with. He and his wife have added native trees, shrubs, and flowers, expanded the orchard, minimized the amount of lawn there is to maintain with his push mower and created brush piles. They’ve been rewarded in a multitude of ways from this important work.
EcoRegion: Adirondack-New England Mixed Forest-Coniferous Forest
Planting Zone: 5a
What work has been done to improve this site for birds and other wildlife? How long did it take?
My wife and I bought the house with a four-acre lot in the spring of 2012. The previous owners had done an amazing job with landscaping and had put in many ornamental trees and plants that bloomed from spring through fall. We thoroughly enjoyed the yard but wanted to make it an even more hospitable place for native insects, birds, and wildlife so we got to work just a couple of years ago adding a greater diversity of native trees, shrubs, and plants.
Our property is still very much a work in progress and will likely be as long as we are lucky enough to call it home. While this is a challenge, it also is very exciting to watch the transformation take place. So far, most of what we’ve added is still in the very early stages of establishment.
The property didn’t have a manicured lawn to begin with when we moved in, and reducing the area that is mowed even further was an easy choice – especially since I use a push mower so every little bit helps. We’ve added six varieties of apple trees (technically not native, I know), two types of crabapples, six blueberry bushes, and many native plants that you can see on our YardMap. I’ve also cleared trees in some areas to allow more light to get to our veggie gardens and orchard. When clearing, I’ve tried to leave a variety of species of trees of varying age classes and with good wildlife value around the property (Choke Cherry, Black Cherry, Basswood, willows, sumac, etc.). Trees that were too challenging to cut down with my chainsaw I “snagged” by girdling them to create some great bird and wildlife habitat. In the future I plan to clear about another 1/2 acre or so and create a native “pollinator meadow” just to the west of our fruit and berry orchard.
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?")
As noted before, this is still very much a work in progress, but even so, we have seen some changes in the short time since we’ve been making improvements to the site. The unmowed area by the brook was quick to take off, and we’ve seen all sorts of neat amphibian, snake, insect, and plant life utilizing the small patch: Garter Snakes, Leopard and Pickerel Frogs, Red Efts, mating fireflies, dragonflies, and Marsh-marigolds, to name a few.
A healthy milkweed patch has also started to take off in our orchard area and I hope Monarch butterflies will be able to find and utilize it soon.
Favorite bird or wildlife sightings?
We are lucky to live in a relatively wild area and have seen many bird and wildlife species. As far as birds go, some of my favorites have been Barred Owls, Cedar Waxwings (in our shadbush tree), Hermit and Wood Thrushes, Common Redpolls, Veery, many warblers, and a Fox Sparrow. I use eBird to log sightings and I know that we’ve seen or heard 56 species since we’ve been here over the past three years. I hope that by improving habitat we’ll see and hear many other species of birds!
As for wildlife, I have a trail camera that I’ve set up on our property in different places and I enjoy wildlife tracking – especially in winter. I’ve seen and tracked Fisher, American Mink, Eastern Coyote, Black Bear, Red Fox, and White-tailed Deer–luckily not many of these hungry herbivores on our property!
Are there any tough decisions that had to be made regarding its management? How were they handled?
I know it may sound silly, but it was a difficult decision to cut down a bunch of trees in our yard to allow more light to reach our meadow and gardens. Even though I know there are literally hundreds of acres of forest surrounding our property, I still feel a tinge of guilt every time I put a chainsaw to a tree that’s at least twice as old as I am. It helps that we heat with wood, so the logs turn into a valuable resource keeping us warm all winter long, and I leave some slash and brush around the yard to create more habitat in the form of brush piles. I’ve seen Dark-eyed Juncos and Song Sparrows utilizing the brush piles in the early spring.