Habitat: Why it Matters

Habitat gardenBy Suzanne Langley, Executive Director

Before joining Birmingham Audubon more than three years ago, I completed what I refer to as an extended education in what matters.

My days were spent, for five years, watching and learning 42 acres of half prairie, half mixed hardwood/pine forest in the North Mississippi hill country. My property was largely isolated from neighbors and surrounded by about 10,000 acres of the same habitat mix that drained into the neighboring valley were the headwaters of the Coldwater River are located. The wildlife was abundant in this strip of undeveloped land.

While I thought I was taking a break from my career and limiting work to consulting here and there, I was really being prepared to learn the beauty of prairie after fire management and the plant, bird and other wildlife that benefit and thrive there. In the first year of working the management plan shaped by the Strawberry Plains Audubon ecologist and Fish and Wildlife Service biologists, I observed daily the connection between eleven species of native grasses and grassland bird species. In year one, I could stand on the screened porch hearing an occasional whippoorwill, Chuck-wills-widow and woodcock. My last summer there before moving to Birmingham, I had to close the windows at night because the whippoorwill had responded so well to habitat management that they were very loudly flying from prairie patch to prairie patch surrounding the small foot print of my home.

The return surrounding landowners and I received for following management plans for wildlife included the a return of snake and frog species that had not been recorded for some time. Soon our efforts and small community became known for trail walks, clean-up days, Great Backyard Bird Counts that covered hundreds of acres. We saw the evidence of how important conversation is to recreation.

The education in what matters for me was habitat is essential to the abundance and diversity of not just birds but all wildlife, plants, biophilia and what composes the ecological quality of our life as a species. Habitat is important to the recreation we enjoy from hiking, hunting, fishing, and birding.

It’s important that we all telescope out to the birds-eye view and consider the large habitats we set aside and protect in our communities and state and then focus in on our own back yards for how we can provide sections of habitat that also matter. We’re fortunate that Alabama has a program like Forever Wild to ensure our children and grandchildren are able to enjoy and benefit from habitat. We’re fortunate to enjoy some of the most beautiful state parks around. We’re also fortunate to have donors and funders who invest in programs like Birmingham Audubon’s Urban Bird Habitat Initiative.

So now you know where and when it happened.  Those five years spent learning the connection between my personal investment in nurturing a productive landscape and the species that became more diverse, abundant and healthier (including me) are when I became a habitat girl.1912515_699789430085426_7795896205208359871_o

My small one-acre plus yard in Birmingham is now the habitat I study.  I’m fortunate to live in a community that benefits from older tree canopy and the urban habitat provided through Ruffner Mountain Nature Preserve.   In a yard where you can hear sounds of the interstate and the nearby airport, I also hear red-headed woodpeckers, barred owls and see palm warblers, indigo buntings and cardinals. I’m just minutes away from Turkey Creek Nature Preserve, a Forever Wild property, and East Lake Park, a city of Birmingham public park.

I hope you’ll share your love and appreciation for habitat with your family, friends, colleagues and elected officials. Contribute to critical habitat in your own backyard. Most importantly tell the story of why it matters.

Contact Suzanne: suzannelangley@birminghamaudubon.org.