Southeast Volusia Audubon produces garden habitat for birds


NEW SMYRNA BEACH, Fla. (AP) — In a calm corner of this Marine Discovery Center in New Smyrna Beach, between a scenic bicycle route and the glowing greens and blues of this Indian River, rests a youthful garden. But instead of fruits and vegetables, as well as flowers, the garden has a special purpose: fostering a more living room for birds.

“The national Audubon was asking its chapters to help save the birds,” stated Marsha Cox, co-president of this Southeast Volusia Audubon chapter together with her spouse, Bill. “And our chapter has a saying: ‘no bugs, no birds.’ So we wanted a way to bring in the bugs.”

After talking with all the Marine Discovery Center, that enabled them the room to produce the backyard, the Audubon chapter started searching for capital. And with the assistance of 2 $2,500 grants in the regional Audubon and Florida Power & Light, many in-kind contributions and dozens of hours of volunteer work, the foundational phase of the backyard is now complete.

“This is an excellent start. Everything’s looking so healthy,” stated Katie Tripp, president of the PawPaw chapter to its Florida Native Plant Society. “And it’s not just about making it look nice. You have to think about the birds’ life cycles, what they need throughout every stage. This isn’t just a garden, it’s a habitat.”

By utilizing plants indigenous to Florida that encourage healthful life cycles for birds and supply essential items such as food, color and nesting materials, the garden provides all of the requirements for them to flourish. From beautyberries and mulberries, to Simpson’s Stoppers and frogfruit, Tripp, that oversees the plants at the backyard, said there’s no lack of alternatives for the birds to select from.

Also from the backyard: walnut trees, that can host up to 50 distinct species of caterpillar, together with native cedars and junipers, peppergrass, Bidens alba and Florida privet. And because the crops grow and older, Tripp said she’s excited about incorporating more species, like milkweed and wildflowers, which may bring bees and butterflies into the area.

“As areas urbanize, they plant St. Augustine grass everywhere, which has insecticides. It’s created a real food desert for the birds,” she explained. “But with native plants, they don’t need to be watered as much. They’re frost and drought tolerant. They’re cheaper … That’s another reason why this garden is special. Once nature is established, it kind of takes care of itself.”

Not to mention, it’s been successful. Shrikes, warblers, doves, eagles and even a great-horned owl regular the backyard. The Southeast Volusia Audubon can also be expecting to see purple martins look.

“It’s like a treasure hunt every day,” Cox said.

Next about the schedule for your backyard would be always to make identification for those plants, in addition to signage describing why maintaining and growing plants indigenous to the region is healthy for the environment, instead of St. Augustine bud or non-native plants. Cox said she’s expecting to make workshops for homeowners or interested kids after the coronavirus passes.

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