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2010-05-28 digital edition

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2010-05-28 / General Stories

Creating a Texas Wildscape

As Texans, when we want wildlife to come to our gardens we often put up birdhouses and feeders. We should also remember that there are other wildlife species to enjoy besides the birds and butterflies. In nature, there are other items besides the plants, shrubs and trees available for wild animals to use. As landowners, we can incorporate some of these items to add for aesthetics on our properties. Rocks, logs, debris and ponds are all used to give your landscape a more rustic or natural look.

All wildlife needs water for some part of its life. Reptiles and amphibians are two classes of animals that depend on water for significant portions of their life cycles. Water features are easy to install and attract a variety of wildlife for us to enjoy. When planning your pond, you should remember that birds and squirrels need a gradual slope to drink from. This will also allow any juvenile frogs or toads to hop out as they develop into adults. To prevent overuse of chemicals to keep it clean and free of bugs, you should fill the pond with mosquito fish (Gambusia sp.), which you can purchase from any bait or fish store.

Filling your pond with aquatic plants such as Pickerelweed (Pondederia cordata) and water lily (Nymphaea odorata) will not only help filter the water but will also supply spring and summer flower blooms. These plants also provide areas for frogs, toads, and lizards to cling to and feed, and for dragonflies or damselflies to emerge. Floating plants such as Floating Heart (Nymphoides aquatica) will provide shelter for young tadpoles as well as damselfly and dragonfly larvae.

Frogs and toads require cool and damp places to rest between meals. In the Texas heat, cool and damp may be a problem. Plants arranged in groups that provide small shaded areas can be complimented with upside-down broken terra cotta pots or colorful dish bowls. These small microhabitats can provide just enough shade and moisture to attract small frogs. Placing these microhabitats near air conditioner drain hoses or other damp places that already exist are helpful.

The green anole (Anolis carolinensis) is a common component of the Texas landscape. This small lizard is regularly spotted on fence posts, on walls of buildings, or climbing up and down trees. Green anoles are commonly mistaken

for chameleons. While it is not a true chameleon, the green anole can change from bright green to dark brown and any combination in between. Green anoles, like skinks, eat a lot of insects and small spiders. The most common characteristic of the green anole is the dewlap beneath their mouth that when extended displays a bright pink. You will often see them spreading their dewlap and doing push ups on fence lines.

Ponds benefit many other wildlife that will use it for a drink. The opportunity for closer observation of squirrels and birds or the colorful flight of dragonflies and damselflies will be all the reward necessary. Seize the opportunity to attract these wonderful animals to your landscape. Not only do they benefit you by eating a lot of the bugs that you and I think of as pests, but will also make your evenings more musical with their night sounds.

For more information about Texas Wildscapes, please visit the website at www.tpwd.state.tx.us/huntwild/wild/ wildscapes/.

For more information about frogs, toads, and lizards of Texas, please visit the website at www.tpwd.state.tx.us/learning/

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