Friday, August 04, 2006

hummingbird feeder : Food, shelter, light hand earn habitat title for Chapel Hill home

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. - The house on Glenwood Drive for nine years has been home to the family of Rex McCall and Susan Elmore. The yard - well-tended if not well-groomed - has been home to scores of other, more elusive parents and children.

The yard's appeal to birds, bees and other animals earned it the designation of official "wildlife habitat" from the National Wildlife Federation this spring.

"Humans have had such an impact on the landscape," Rex McCall said. "We've really denuded and deleted a lot of the natural habitat. Just to be able to give a little bit of it back, that's one of our (goals)."

The couple and their 10-year-old daughter, Savanna - the last of their children still living at home - don't worry about raising the perfect lawn and keeping the shrubs neatly trimmed. But they still put a lot of time and effort into the yard.

"We try not to do too much cleaning up in the yard," Elmore said. "We want to keep it natural. A lot of it is just thinking in a different way and not having your yard so pristine."

It was Savanna McCall's idea to apply for the certificate, which now is posted near the street outside their home just a short step from a busy city thoroughfare.

To earn the federation's designation, awarded through a program begun in 1973, they must provide food, water, cover and habitat for a variety of insects and animals.

They had to document that the yard has three sources of food for wildlife. The family has a hummingbird feeder and have put out birdseed, suet and mealworms for birds. They've also kept dead trees in place so woodpeckers can tap into them.

They have birdbath, nesting boxes and a bat house.

Roxanne Paul, an assistant coordinator with the federation, said the organization also looks for at least two sustainable gardening practices, such as using native plants and cutting back on the use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides.

The McCall-Elmores fit those specifications, and also use a soaker hose for watering, leave plant beds intact over the winter and use fireplace ashes as fertilizer.

Paul said North Carolina has nearly 2,700 sites certified as wildlife habitat in the program, out of 69,000 such sites nationwide. The North Carolina Wildlife Federation is one of the national group's most active affiliates, she said.

"It's really been taking off the last few years," Paul said. "I think a lot of it is because almost everyone lives in a community where there's some development going on. Most people miss having as much natural habitat around, and it's a way that people can give back.

The sites include schools, homes and commercial properties, and range from city balconies to undeveloped properties with hundreds of acres. Paul's own one-acre property in Vienna, Va., also has earned the designation.

"You don't need to have an acre lot," she said. "It's really more quality than quantity."

Information from: The Herald-Sun,


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