Wildlife viewing makes for good cottage entertainment, but to get those critters near your doorstep, you have to make it worth their while: Bring on the food. To create your own wildlife restaurant, the recipe for success starts with native plants. The greater their variety, the more likely the animal sightings.
“Biodiversity is an important part of the ecology of all wild spaces and should be encouraged,” says Chris Earley, an interpretive biologist at the University of Guelph arboretum. Swamp milkweed and Joe-pye weed serve as a dinner invitation to pollinators such as bees and butterflies, while serviceberries and mountain-ash berries feed foxes, chipmunks, and waxwings. Cardinal flower, wild columbine, and spotted jewelweed, on the other hand, are irresistible to ruby-throated hummingbirds. And when you plant flowers instead of hanging a feeder with sugar water, “you reduce competition over the feeder,” says Jan McDonnell, a biologist with the Ministry of Natural Resources and the Muskoka Heritage Foundation.
Buy seeds and plants from a nursery that grows its shrubs and trees from local seed sources. These plants are more likely to suit your cottage property and are less likely to be invasive species. Also, look for plants that match your soil conditions; the cardinal flower, for instance, prefers moist soil.
Of course, increased biodiversity means you may spot the odd bear snooping around, or a squirrel looking longingly at your attic, or have to shoo away rabbits feasting on plants not intended for their enjoyment. It’s nature, after all.
Birds: pine grosbeaks, evening grosbeaks, bohemian waxwings, thrushes, robins.
Mammals: chipmunks, squirrels, mice, moose, white-tailed deer.
Birds: northern orioles, thrushes, waxwings.
Mammals: chipmunks, squirrels, bears, white-tailed deer, moose, foxes.
Blackberries and raspberries
Birds: ruffed grouse, cardinals, catbirds, rose-breasted grosbeaks, scarlet tanagers.
Mammals: rabbits, raccoons, bears.
Birds: mourning doves, black-capped chickadees, sparrows, red-winged blackbirds, goldfinches.
Mammals: squirrels, chipmunks
Birds: cedar waxwings, ruffed grouse.
Mammals: chipmunks, squirrels