a garden is also a habitat

Cheryl from the blog Conscious Gardening recently asked about the birdhouse in my garden. Thanks for asking Cheryl. Here is my reply …

I have three nesting boxes: one designed for possums, one for owls and one for parrots. I got the nesting boxes from a very special place: Latrobe Wildlife Sanctuary.

The Latrobe Wildlife Sanctuary is a habitat restoration project that has been managed by Latrobe University in Melbourne’s north for 35 years. It was created from an old farm paddock. Now there are nearly 30 hectares of River Red Gum woodland. It supports kangaroos, possums, bats, marsupial mice and a range of bird species.

It has a wonderful plant nursery that sells plants indigenous to the local area. The nursery sells nesting boxes that have been designed to meet the specific needs of bats, birds and possums.

The project helps community groups to establish habitat gardens that attract wildlife by providing shelter and suitable plants. It also provides educational tours of the sanctuary and provides informative teaching materials about local plants and wildlife.

The Latrobe Wildlife Sanctuary project has given me and many others a sense of hope and optimism for the future, and the knowledge and skills needed for environmental healing.

Back to my garden: there was a possum living in the possum box, but recently after a very stormy windy night I noticed that the lid was up. I climbed up the tree and closed it, noticing the possum was curled up inside. The next time the lid was up I climbed up again and this time the box was empty. There are possums that still visit the garden at night. I know this because they leave their droppings and leftovers from compost snacks. I suppose they are from other gardens. They are welcome but I feel sad thinking that the possum that called my nesting box home may have come to a sticky end.

I bought and installed the owl nesting box after I saw an owl one night sitting silently on a branch. Since then I have not seen it, but I hope one day either that owl or another will take up the offer of a comfortable home with its own observation platform.

This year there have been lots of noisy colourful rainbow lorikeets on one of the flowering eucalypts. I attached the parrot nesting box as high as possible to the trunk of this tree. It was boarded up in order to prevent aggressive feral birds like Indian myenahs from moving in. These birds compete with native species for food and shelter. The logic of the boards is that only parrots are able to peck their way through. Nothing happened for about a year. Then a few weeks ago I noticed that the hole was open. Have the lorikeets found their way inside? I hope ...


  1. The Latrobe Wildlife Sanctuary sounds like a wonderful place to visit. I hope you have an owl taking up residence very soon. I have at least one Barred Owl that frequents the woods behind our house... I'd love to put up a nesting box for him!!

  2. What a wonderful wildlife sanctuary~~We have a local natives only nursery that is a fun place to go for plants that provide food and habitat for critters.

    We have owls in the wayback backyard and possums and raccoons frequent the garden. I hope your owl house has residents soon.


  3. Oh I hope you have an owl nesting. I think it is wonderful to create habitats for the creatures we share the land with in our gardens.

  4. All of that seems so wildly exotic to me. Possums needing houses? Parrots? It's so foreign to me. The possums we have do a pretty good job of finding homes for themselves. So far as I know, there aren't any parrots in the US. The conservation wildlife houses I see are usually for bluebirds and owls. You can also get bat houses, but that's usually to encourage them to nest in your yard and eat bugs so far as I know.

    Great post!

  5. 2010 is the International Year of Biodiversity according to the United Nations. In the UK you can access info at this website http://www.biodiversityislife.net/
    I bet there will be something similar where you are and what you are doing in your garden is very appropriate

  6. How nice to know there are all kinds of animals making your garden and yard a home. I would love to encourage more wildlife (except for the raccoons!). One day I'd like to make some birdhouses, toadhouses, bathouses,etc, but I know that if I were to do this now, it would set them up for certain death as my outdoor cat loves to hunt. One day...

  7. I read about bat boxes somewhere recently and was wondering whether we have local bats that would show up if I hung a box for them. How nice to have the Sanctuary to guide you in your wildlife sheltering.

  8. Do you ever get photos of lorikeets? You have a wonderful variety of animals in your garden. We have a barred owl that resides very near our home. He has quite the unusual call that I love hearing in the middle of the night! :-)

    I often wonder about putting out bat houses. They are very good at keeping the mosquito and other pests at bay!

    Looking forward to 2010 and watching your posts. :-)

  9. Liisa, you are lucky to have woods close by. My problem is that many of my neighbours have built large houses on their blocks and destroyed the gardens that were there, and the biodiversity.

    Gail, we have a local natives only nursery too. I guess the wildlife sanctuary is extra special because it is attached to a university and they do research there.

    thanks Noelle, if I see an owl I will scream it out on the blog!

    Notso, things people write from other parts of the world also seem wildly exotic to me.

    thanks for that PG. I didn't know 2010 is the Year of Biodiversity. That's good - we in the gardening blogosphere will be doing out bits.

    Wendy, good comment - feral and uncontained cats are a big problem for wildlife. I prefer dogs myself - Potter seems to cohabit quite peacefully with the creatures in the garden.

    vw, maybe they won't come, but it's worth a try.

    Shady, yes bats eat insects and are much better than chemicals for controlling them. Some large owls eat possums, but people don't seem to think of this for controlling numbers. I haven't been able to photograph the lorikeets because they are so high up and move, but I will keep trying.

    Cheers and happy new year and I hope the cold is not too bad in the northern hemisphere, catmint.

  10. Wonderful post! Thanks for answering my question. I have never heard of people protecting possums before, here in town (Austin, TX) they're viewed as horrid pests. I'm just afriad that they will harm my chickens, which is why I have a sturdy coop...but I'd never harm the possum. When I took my dog to the vet a few weeks ago she tried to talk me into a new vaccine against some disease that dogs are susceptible to caused by possom urine? I declined. Anyway, I have yet to have a visiting owl (screech owl) to my nexting box but am hoping for a winter resident soon!

  11. The Latrobe Sanctuary sounds wonderful, I haven't heard of anything similar near Sydney, but we do have the Cumberland State Forest Nursery. Our garden is different to all of our neighbours (none of them even have birdbaths, let alone nesting boxes) so we feel a strong responsibility to provide for the wildlife. I'd love to install nesting boxes.

  12. Hi Cheryl, I hope we both get an owl although the main local owl here is the boobook owl which is quiet and non screechy.

    Re, maybe you could buy them from the latrobe sanctuary? I don't know if they have a postal service? Or maybe ask them if anyone in Sydney sells their boxes?

    It's hard to maintain a wildlife-friendly garden when your neighbours don't do the same. Most of my neighbours hardly have any gardens now. It's like they see them as work and are not interested.

    Cheers, catmint

  13. The nesting places are great. I am just in the process to plant one more part of my garden with native trees,
    200 have arrived, I won't see the vegetable gardener for a while he will be digging holes! No more grass to mow.. hurray. Catmint have a wonderful gardening year...enough rain but not to much, a gentle breeze
    which brings now the wonderful scent of the flowering Murraya. Can you grow Murrayas in your garden?
    A happy New Year. T.

  14. Titania, thanks for your good wishes.200 native trees, the birds will be delighted! I'm not familiar with murrayas.

    ebastianLeclair, thank you for your comment which I used Google Translate to understand. "Difficulty is not a new concept, but rather to avoid the old concept." This sounds very wise.

  15. Hey Catmint! I've been out of the loop a bit, just now seeing this post! Thanks for the answer :) I made my own owl box from an old cedar fence and it sat empty for one year and I've had an Eastern Screech Owl now for 2 years running! They are the smallest specie in North America. I'd love to visit that Latrobe Sanctuary and see all your wonderful birds! We just recently took our second trip to the coast to see the fabulous Whooping Crane! Ya'll have the biggest bird though, I'd love to see the Cassawary (dunno if I spelled that right!) Cheers!

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