Your family may be making those fall outdoor chore lists as daylight hours shrink, temperatures drop, and the urge grows to "batten down the hatches" in the yard and garden. Here's another "to do" list from your local wildlife family that you may find easier to check off:
• Leave some "dead heads" on your flowering plants to provide seeds for birds and other animals
• If you must rake leaves off grass lawns, just pile them under some shrubs, bushes or other nooks and crannies to provide homes for those insects that birds love to eat; leaves make great mulch to help your plants, too!
• Keep that dead or dying tree right where it is (unless, of course, it's truly a hazard to you), so birds can feast on the insects in the rotting wood or make winter roosts or dens in its cavities
• Give yourself and your mower a rest for at least a portion of your lawn so birds and other animals have a patch of taller grass to hide and forage in
• Save just a little of that dead bramble thicket for birds - it makes great winter cover and they don't need much! Fall is a good time to plant shrubs, so replace invasive, non-native Himalayan blackberry and English ivy with native plants of higher wildlife value like blackcap (native black raspberry) or red raspberry; native currants or gooseberries found in your area; or native roses such as Nootka or baldhip.
• Pile up any brush or rocks you clear around your place to give birds another option for nests and dens
• Take it easy on yourself and let go of the "perfect" garden image; wild animals like less tidy, "fuzzy" places because there's usually more food and shelter there
• Get yourself a comfortable chair, sit back, and congratulate yourself on having made a home for wildlife and a haven of relaxation for yourself!
For more information on Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife's Backyard Wildlife Sanctuary program, see: http://wdfw.wa.gov/living/backyard/