Sometimes you make this whole creating a habitat thing up and wing it. Often we try to mimic nature where it may not exist and spend quite a bit of time experimenting. While there are plenty of great ideas out there, it becomes a matter of what wildlife in your area needs, what you can physically add and what you can realistically maintain. A water feature isn’t something I can accomplish and it frustrates me no end on many levels. I try to adapt and offer a few of the benefits of a water feature without the actual water feature. Mud is one of them.
Anyone who has looked into gardening for wildlife will have heard about the benefits of providing mud in a habitat. Insects such as mason bees need it for their homes, butterflies will drink and ‘puddle’ from it and some birds, including my beloved Eastern Phoebe, use mud to build nests. Birds and insects that use mud to build homes often have other methods of producing it through dirt and spit, but anyone with water nearby has seen creatures utilizing moist ground around a shore. Mud is an asset in a habitat. (Now the bird nest issue concerns me a bit as I feel like a good rain and the babies are going to fall out as their floor dissolves but I’m going to trust that the birds know what they are doing).
Anyhow, I digress. I live in Georgia where it is hot for a good part of the year. Alright a big chunk of the year, and really hot. Mud isn’t easy to come by – this s a state with no natural lakes after all. We have a decent river but all in all it’s a dry state. One habitat feature I have unsuccessfully attempted to include has been a mud bath but have found it too unrealistic to maintain. Water evaporates within hours. I have even attempted to install bird bath misters and drippers over wide pans of dirt to keep it moist but the hose issues again, were unrealistic. While I do have bird baths, insects tend not to share small spaces with birds that will eat them. Plus it is mud I want, not water.
Then the other day I was watering plants. Some water got on an area of open dirt and instantly four swallowtail butterflies were on it. As a result I have decided to try again with mud since obviously wildlife would use a ‘puddle’ if they are on a spill so quickly. I have often watched butterflies landing on any wet spot on the ground.
Having tried several methods, I am going simple this time by filling up an unused bird bath with clay, organic matter and water. Nothing fancy or over-thought. This is placed near other water bird baths so when I clean them I can also add water to the mud bath. Hopefully doing that will make it a low maintenance feature. Next week is forecast in the upper 80′s to lower 90s with no rain which will quickly allow me to discover if wildlife has a use for my experimental mud bath.
When it comes to wildlife gardening, watch your backyard. Get silly ideas and try new things. Some will work and others will be ignored, but it will be interesting. Wildlife can be adaptable and resourceful so you never know what they will utilize in their efforts to survive.
Please let us know in the comments know about your experiments in a habitat, successful or total flops. Don’t be shy – we’ve all done some crazy stuff to attract wildlife. I know this as I am still obsessively trying to build the perfect opossum house and already had one neighbor ask what the bowl of mud is doing in my backyard.
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