While under stay-at-home restrictions, you may have begun to notice things you hadn't before: birds chirping, plants emerging, squirrels, rabbits or other wildlife scurrying about.
As the COVID-19 outbreak is keeping people indoors and closer to home, now is a uniquely good time to connect to those things that might have been background noise before and learn how to enjoy the wildlife near you, said David Mizejewski, naturalist with the National Wildlife Federation.
"It's as simple as just going outside and making it a point to look at things that you might have otherwise ignored," he said "Listen, smell — all of our senses can be used to really experience the nature around us, even taste."
Mizejewski shared four activities you can do to make your home more welcoming to the wildlife in your backyard.
Learn Bird Songs
Backyard birding is the perfect way to connect with nature during the pandemic. You literally just have to step outside your door into your yard, Mizejewski said.
We're in the beginning of spring migration, and there's a lot of species that are going to be showing up this week across Wisconsin — everything from songbirds, orioles, flycatchers, vireos, lots of different warblers, but also things like sandhill cranes and pelicans.
"Bird calls, to me, it's kind of like learning a new language, but once you start learning a word here and a phrase there, suddenly, you get kind of clued in," he said.
To learn them, Mizejewski suggested apps as a way to go. He said the National Wildlife Federation has a whole new series of nature guides, and it's not just birds.
"We've got them on mammals, amphibians — frogs are also calling right now," he said. "Think about apps like 21st century field guides."
Plant A Victory Garden
This is a great time to sow some seeds, he said.
People can plant them indoors, even if it's just in little paper Dixie cups and a little bit of potting soil to get them going.
"It’s a great thing to do with kids. And then once the weather is warm enough and you’re past frost, you can plant them in the ground or in pots and then nurture them and watch them grow," he said.
This whole idea of doing a pandemic victory garden is something that a lot of people are doing, he said.
"If you have kids, the life cycle of plants and the relationship between plants and animals can be part of learning as they're being homeschooled," he said. "And if you're trying to attract birds, you know what birds eat, they eat seeds, they eat berries, they eat insects. And our plants and our gardens provide those."
The world of local wildlife is broader than just birds, there are also tons of insects. And they’re a group of wildlife that can really benefit from what we call wildlife habitat gardens. They're the kinds of wildlife that can coexist with us in our cities and towns and neighborhoods.
Monarchs have kind of become the poster animal for what happens when we human beings get rid of natural habitat, specifically when we get rid of the native plants that wildlife have co-evolved with.
For monarchs, the caterpillars can only feed on milkweed, so plant some native milkweeds in your garden, plant some native wildflowers that are going to provide nectar to the adult butterflies and don't spray pesticides in your yard, he said.
Plant A Tree
It's always a good thing to plant a tree. Trees are wildlife habitat, they provide us shade, they can help us keep our houses cool and reduce energy costs. They, of course, produce oxygen and take in carbon dioxide, trees are just a good thing to do anytime.
"So maybe you have some acorns in your yard that you could now plant into a pot and make a little home nursery, that's a great thing that you can do now," he said. "You can also call your local nursery or garden center and see if they are operating and doing things like roadside pickup where you don't have to violate any kind of social distancing rules, but you still may be able to get some plant material and actually plant a tree."