Fifty Species Goal

Wildlife Garden goal: to add 50 new species to my yard list!

Are we still doing New Years Resolutions? Is it too late to get in on that?

I hope not, because that’s kinda the point of my post.

Last year’s resolution was to finish the Patio That Shall Not Be Named. I finished it last week with two whole days to spare. This victory has filled me with great fire and resolve and also a desire not to make any more resolutions that hinge on moving large quantities of stone.

My resolution this year is to find 50 new species in my garden to add to my yard list.

Now, that seems like a lot. If I was relying on birds, it’d be an impossible number—the bird list for the yard is a whopping 67 species, which is really pretty good for the location and associated lack of waterfowl options. But my yard list in general stands at over 300 species in my wildlife garden, heavy on the insects, and I’m determined. If the species are out there, I will find them! If the species are mysterious, I will ID them! (or send them to experts who scratch their heads and go “I dunno, could be one of these…”)

My secret weapons are the websites Butterflies and Moths of North America, and Bug guide

And also a hefty tome titled Mushrooms Demystifiedwhich is an exhaustive (and surprisingly funny) field guide and can also be used to club any intruders into the garden into submission.

For it is the fungi that are my hope. I know the ID of exactly three fungi in my wildlife garden, two of which are slime molds. But I am knee deep in mushrooms around here, and just the other day, I tripped over this freaky little fellow:


This is Clitocybe nuda, the wood blewit. That bizarre growth off the side is probably where something bit a chunk out, and it regenerated a new spore cap on the spot.

“My god!” I cried, staring at this mutant growth, “this is in my garden, but what is it?! I am surrounded by mushrooms and I don’t have any idea what they are!”

Some very nice friends online were able to ID it for me. I ordered the field guide on the spot.

Are there fifty different mushrooms in the garden? Maybe, maybe not. But between all the moths that will wander in and various odd bugs and the occasional new bird, I think I can get to fifty more species for my wildlife garden yard list.

Of course, there’s more to it than merely being out there with binoculars and a camera at the right moment (although that’s most of it.) It’s not enough to be looking. You have to provide a place where stuff will show up. All the various principles of wildlife gardening—food and shelter, open water, lack of pesticides, cover and diversity—come into play.

Now, I could devote some time to talking about WHY I like keeping a yard list, but it comes down pretty quickly to “I want to know what’s there. And I want to know this is working.”

Fifty species is both a whole lot and hardly anything at all, placed against all the vast numbers of species that we share the world with. Every one I find makes me think “Wow. Another one, on this tiny little patch of ground…” It makes me think that my little garden is helping by providing something–a home, a meal, even a temporary rest-stop–for all this crazy life all around us.

And that’s a resolution that keeps me going for much longer than a single year.


ETA: And about ten minutes after I wrote this, a Blue-Headed Vireo appeared in the garden for the first time. It’s a little out of normal winter range, but given that so many parts of the normal range are getting blasted with icy weather, I’m not surprised it showed up here! I’m gonna take that as a good omen for the year.

Note: The 50 new species goal was achieved in just a few months!

Want more ideas for your resolutions? Check out Wildlife Garden Resolutions for lots of tips about easy steps you can take for wildlife in your garden

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  1. says

    What an admirable goal! I’m thinking could I even find 50 species in my small garden? But then I look at my bird and insect lists on (where I guess I keep my “garden list”) and yeah, maybe I already have 50 and you know, a little more show up each year. It is absolutely amazing how much life can live in a small space with just a little bit of effort – no pesticides, a few natives. How fun to think of reaching a new goal each year! And I just finally bought a dragon and damsel fly field guide … I just looked up the Blue Headed Vireo. Nice looking bird. Hope he/she doesn’t eat anything before you count it! Happy New Year!

  2. Susan says

    Your post struck a chord: last year I started a list of all the plants I have discovered on our property (10 acres in rural SE Michigan) and I was amazed at how many there are. And I am not even including insects or animals or mushrooms! One thing at a time, I keep telling myself. I just love finding and learning the names of the creatures and plants that live here. When I think of how in years past (even though I was interested in wild flowers) all that green shrubbery that grew along the roadsides was, well, just green stuff and now I know most of it. So gratifying. My goal this year is to continue taking out the invasives and to plant more native shrubs and plants.

  3. says

    Yard lists are great and I need to start one, lol. I sure wish I had 10 years ago before our yard transformation. I attended a talk this week about gardening for wildlife and the presenter did just that, showed the number and types of birds before converting her yard and after. Pretty amazing results!.I’m confident that your goal is achievable Ursula.
    Heather Holm recently posted..Book Release: Pollinators of Native Plants

  4. Alaina says

    I will need to order that mushroom book!! I have a whole lot of pictures of odd ones that i have no clue on identifying…
    Is there a website you can recommend for identifying them?


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