Today is your last chance to enter the National Wildlife Federation’s Garden for Wildlife photo contest.   As I poured through the photos of the story of our  2017 to current journey to restore our Bend, Oregon, front yard into a pollinator and bird haven, I found myself astonished how quickly our third of an acre has become a mecca for wildlife–now an officially Certified Wildlife Habitat.

Even when shades of brown and gold replace the shimmer of yellows, reds, purples, blues, and green of summer, songbirds are flustering within thick tangles of stalks and seedheads. While searching for photos on an October day, I watched a day-long parade of birds including Fox Sparrows, White-crowned Sparrows, Purple Finches, Spotted Towhees, and a Ruby-crowned Kinglet joining the familiar array of Mountain Chickadees, Pygmy Nuthatches, Steller’s Jays, House Finches, and American Robins.

finch drinking water with sign
Finch sipping water after I propped up our Certified Wildlife Habitat sign from National Wildlife Federation nearby. I hope the birds appreciate our yard is officially sanctioned. (Oct. 2019)

I thought you might want to revel in my discoveries, too, and perhaps be inspired to submit your own photos for the contest. I’m no professional photographer, but I do find joy in the visual along with writing. Here are the 20 photos I submitted in chronological order all taken in our front yard–beginning with fall 2017 to now, with an emphasis on native plants and their wildlife visitors (a category in the contest).

native plants in car--Sept. 2017
October, 2017: First purchase of native plant perennials from Wintercreek Nursery in Bend, Oregon–loaded up in the back of the Subaru.
Marina places plants- Sept. 2017
October 2017: I’m deciding where to plant the Wintercreek Nursery plants in this fenced-off small section of our yard to keep out our dogs (this used to be their favorite digging area!).
wwhole yard beginnings- horizontal may 2018
May 2018: Wildflowers coming up from seed and fenced planted area in center with more Wintercreek native plants. This used to be thistles, cheatgrass, dirt, and pesky old lawn grass. The fall planting featured before is not visible, but it’s doing well- close to the house.
Garden of poppies and more
July 1, 2018: poppy paradise and more!
Front yard July 2018 overview
July, 2018, garden view of the entire planted area (with hanging laundry in back!)
blanketflower with pollinator
July, 2018: Blanketflower (Gaillardia)  blooms attract native pollinators, like this one!
columbine with tiny insects
July, 2018: Columbine (one of the plants I put in by the house in October, 2017) blooms and attracts miniscule insects–look close!
california poppy with bumblebee
Bumblebee on California Poppy
Native sunflower with skipper butterfly
August 2018: Skipper butterfly on sunflower
native bee on blanketflower.jpg
Native bee on blanketflower
California tortoiseshell 2
April, 2019: California tortoiseshell butterfly visits blooms of our native manzanita that grows naturally here and we are fortunate to have in abundance without a need to plant! Spring blossoms are so important to pollinators!
western tanager yard May 2019
May, 2019—the second summer begins with a lovely few days of migrating western tanagers at our feeders and finding water plus sheltering trees nearby.
lupines june 2019 yard
June, 2019–look what’s coming in strong the second summer! A bounty of lupines, flax, and not nearly as many poppies–we just let everything come back up on its own, and then I waded in to pluck weeds–tricky to identify some of them.
yellow velvet beetle on ceanothus
June, 2019: Yellow velvet beetle on blooming ceanothus (another fabulous native shrub we are fortunate to have in our yard without needing to restore–just let them grow and prosper.
painted lady butterfly on yellow flower
June, 2019, Painted Lady on Orange Mountain Daisy (one of the Wintercreek Nursery plants in that corner of our yard by the house planted in October, 2017).
yellow jacket on penstemon july 2019
July, 2019, Penstemon with wasp.
Rufous hummingbird on columbines July 2019
July, 2019: Rufous Hummingbird among the columbines–a lucky photo with my Canon Powershot SX50. Again–this is in that corner front yard area planted in October, 2017.
Rocky Mountain Bee Plant with yellow jacket Aug 2019.jpg
August, 2019, Rocky Mountain Bee Plant with yellow jacket
pine siskin on sunflowers-september 2019
September, 2019, Pine Siskin plucking sunflower seeds (I had to lean out the dog door with my camera to snap this photo without disturbing the flock of siskins).

There  you have it! That concludes my submittal (including the finch with the certified wildlife habitat sign).  You still have all day to enter the contest (10, 15, or 20 photos). A modest fee goes to National Wildlife Federation to support conservation, like the Recovering America’s Wildlife Act, a critical investment in wildlife and habitats–from backyards to wildlands.

My final thought. There’s immense satisfaction in digging (ask my husband Wes!), planting, weeding, and poking around among native flowers and trees for the day’s fresh discoveries. I love the tangible rewards and the feeling that our little patch of wildness matters for pollinators and birds. Our yard joins a growing movement of tearing up lawn grass and reweaving the world one yard at a time. And guess what? Our fruit trees have never been so fruitful–apples, pears, plums, and even almonds. Why? Pollinators galore.

A couple more notes to share:  First, I am a huge fan of Doug Tallamy. Check out:  Bringing Nature Home.  Second, the Million Pollinator Garden Challenge shows the depth and breadth of this movement and why every yard matters (and yes our yard is on the list!).

penstemons yard june 2019