Vashon Audubon encourages islanders to sustain wildlife with native plants

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Dana Schuerholz, Adria Magrath, and Jim Evans—environmental educators with expertise in birds, insects, and native plants—have been working with volunteers to create a demonstration garden at the Heritage Museum as part of the conservation movement to support birds.

While the Vashon Audubon Habitat Garden is designed to sustain wildlife with native plants, the trio also hope to motivate islanders to create habitat on their own properties.
Last September, the National Audubon Society released a report projecting that 350 bird species are at-risk of extinction in the United States and Canada.

“It makes a huge difference, almost immediately, to create habitat through native plants,” said Schuerholz. “This project is actively responding to the bird extinction problem.”

If islanders put in an increasing percentage of natives, they can be part of the solution.

On two Saturdays in January, the garden-builders and volunteers dug out invasive alien (non-native) plants and shaped the earth with mounds of soil. Vashon Green School students took a field trip to the site to salvage native ferns for replanting in the garden. On Saturday February 1, Schuerholz, Magrath, and Evans planted the garden with natives.

The “Grand Opening” for the habitat garden will be in June, said Magrath, in conjunction with Vashon Nature Center’s Wild Wonders, a natural history exhibit opening at the Heritage Museum that month. “The garden will remain as a permanent part of the museum grounds, and as a community resource that will support cultural education efforts around native plants and indigenous peoples,” she said.

Schuerholz is emphatic that the garden will be beautiful, have structural integrity and a diversity of plants and insects, so that it can maintain itself more easily. “A biodiverse garden is a happy, resilient garden,” adds Magrath, “and when there are insects, birds can get a high-protein meal. Even our resident hummingbirds can eat insects.”

Supporting birds long term really means supporting a whole ecosystem and planting plants they can use to survive, she said.

“We can do this—one garden at a time.”

Coming up: On February 19 at 7:00 pm, Vashon Audubon offers the second class in a series of three on using native plants to provide habitat for birds. Instructors Cindy Young and Jim Evans welcome bird lovers, gardeners, and climate change activists to join them at the Land Trust Building—as well as any islander with an interest in learning more about which birds live on Vashon and how to attract them. The class is free.