In this issue:  Learn how to create pollinator habitat, see the winning photo from the Make My Backyard Birdier photo contest, and check out the newest featured site.
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The Dirt: News from YardMap
Joining together to break new ground for birds
Late Spring 2014

Original photo by Ryan Hagerty, USFWS on Flickr.

Pollinator Habitat: 
It's the Bees Knees 

There's a lot of buzz about pollinator habitat lately, due to large population declines in many pollinator species, such as native bees, butterflies, hummingbirds, and bats. Pollinators play a critically important role in plant reproduction, and without them we wouldn't have much of the food we consume, including fruits and vegetables. Creating pollinator habitat in your backyard is a great way to address this important conservation issue while adding beautiful wildlife landscaping. The following are tips for creating successful pollinator habitat in your area.
  • Plant natives: they are the most beneficial to pollinators because native plants and insects have evolved together, developing specific relationships over time that are critical to breeding success and survival. For a list of pollinator plants native to your area, visit YardMap and enter your zip code. We'll provide you with the "Guide for Selecting Plants for Pollinators" from the Pollinator Partnership, in addition to other location-specific information, including local businesses that sell native plants.
  • Plant in bunches: the more, the merrier! A single native plant is nice, but a grouping of plants can provide so much more to many pollinators.
  • Plant variety: diversity is important. In addition to planting perennial flowers, include native bunch grasses, flowering shrubs, and herbs. Aim for a mix of plants that not only have different color blooms, but flower at different times throughout the growing season to optimize nectar and pollen availability. 
  • Provide nesting locations: incorporate bare ground, a downed log or snag (dead standing tree), or a nest house or block for bees and other insects to use. 
  • Provide structural diversity: include plants of varying heights, such as small trees and shrubs, tall grasses, flowers, rocks or downed wood, and bare ground. 
  • Go chemical free: eliminate the use of pesticides, which directly harm or kill insects, even days after application. Pesticides adversely affect birds and other animals that eat insects. 
And the winner is: "Chickadees in the Brush Pile" by Mary Maertz.

Make My Backyard Birdier
Photo Contest Winner 

We received many great photos of important habitat features for YardMap's Make My Backyard Birdier photo contest, but we've narrowed it down to just one winner. Mary Maertz, of Wabeno, Wisconsin, claimed the top spot with her photo, "Chickadees in the Brush Pile." We love this wintry photo for many reasons, the first being that it showcases brush piles, which are an important and easy-to-make habitat component for birds. Brush piles provide essential cover for birds. When placed next to a feeder, as Mary has done, you give birds a safe place to eat and to take cover quickly, if need be.  It also provides a respite from inclement weather, such as snow, wind, and rain. This photo also features not one, but two Black-capped Chickadees using this habitat hot spot. Can you spot them in the photo? (Click on the photo to enlarge.)

Mary writes, "We created this brush pile from fallen limbs several years ago. It receives a lot of use from the feeder birds, including the Black-capped Chickadees in the photo. I think they roost in the pile as they seem to come directly from the stack to the feeders in the morning. We have had a Northern Shrike unsuccessfully chase the chickadees in and out of the pile several times." As the winner of the photo contest, YardMap staff ecologists will work with Mary to develop habitat landscaping recommendations for her property. Stay tuned to an upcoming edition of YardMap's eNewsletter to read about the landscaping advice we provide and how Mary makes her yard even more bird-friendly. 
Anna's hummingbird sitting on a very funky nest. Photo by Kathy West. 

Funky Nests in
Funky Places Contest

Whether you find a robin's nest in your barbecue grill or a hummingbird's nest on a string of Christmas lights, your picture of a bird nest in a funky place can win big in the Cornell Lab of Ornithology's Funky Nests in Funky Places contest. With nesting season underway, this contest challenges everyone to get outside and watch nature in even the most unexpected places.
Entries may be photos, videos, artwork, poems, or stories. You don't have to be a bird expert or an expert photographer. People of all ages are welcome to participate as individuals or with a class, community center, or after-school program. Prizes include Celestron binoculars, Pennington bird feeders, Cornell Lab of Ornithology gift kit, and much more.
Entry deadline is July 1. Find more information about how to find nests, approach nests without disturbing the birds, and enter the contest at

Vote for a New Habitat Object in YardMap

apiary How about an apiary icon for your YardMap? Photo by smthng else via Flickr Creative Commons
We've been compiling your suggestions for additional habitat objects in YardMap, and the top four requests are: apiary/bee yard, flower box/container/planter, bat house, and bee house. Let us know which of these objects you would like to see added to our list of available objects to use on your YardMap by following this link and casting your vote:
Elaine Champion converted lawn into valuable habitat for wildlife by putting in numerous native plants. Photo by Elaine Champion. 

New Featured Site
in YardMap 

Elaine Champion's property outside of Baltimore, Maryland, is truly a labor of love. Aptly called “Haven” in YardMap, Champion has turned what was once .23 acres of lawn into young forested habitat that’s filled with native plants and brimming with wildlife. Her decision to turn her backyard into habitat was influenced by her love of wildlife as well as the desire to not spend her time constantly mowing her lawn. 

Ten years in the making, Champion's self-described "magical" backyard is overflowing with a variety of native plants, including pollinator-friendly plants, berry-producing shrubs, and lots of trees, many obtained from various nonprofit organizations. 

Click here to read more about Champion's efforts to convert her lawn into wildlife habitat. 


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The Cornell Lab of Ornithology is a membership institution dedicated to interpreting and conserving the earth’s biological diversity through research, education, and citizen science focused on birds. Visit the Cornell Lab’s website at

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