For more than 20 years, I have monitored bluebird houses in my backyard. In addition to their beauty, these birds are interesting to watch because they work so hard for their survival. My family looks forward to April when the males begin singing and flapping their wings to get the attention of the females. The bluebird couple begins to inspect the inside and outside of the houses, and within a couple of days, they select a house and work together to build a tidy nest of pine needles. The male feeds the female throughout the day while she sits on three or four bright blue eggs. When the nestlings hatch, both male and female constantly feed them and clean the nest. On one occasion, we have been fortunate to see the babies leave the nest. We have also fed the female bluebird on late evenings. Within a week, the phases of courtship, nest building and nurturing begin with a different bluebird couple. It is a pleasure to watch the birds, and it is also a relaxing activity.
It isn’t the only backyard bounty we’ve enjoyed in recent years, though.
In the spring of 2020, the pandemic nudged—or rather, pushed—us to expand our backyard hobbies, as well as to spend more family time at home. One boring afternoon, my daughter and I were sitting on the back patio, and I said, “We could build a butterfly garden.” Just a couple of months earlier, we were fortunate to have attended a free talk on butterfly gardens presented by the Louisiana Master Gardener Association at the Bluebonnet Regional Branch Library. We learned about the life cycle of a butterfly and the specific plants that attract butterflies. Then, in order to begin welcoming them to our yard, we used some large bricks that were left over from our back patio to build a raised bed, and later visited local plant nurseries to purchase milkweed, zinnia, marigold, salvia, pentas, lantana and a butterfly bush. The process has led to rewarding days spent observing the butterfly life cycle and seeing “our” butterflies flourish from spring to late fall.
Most of us can name some positives from the last two years of the pandemic. In our case, my family continues to enjoy our butterfly garden as well as the birds in our backyard. But our backyard blessings extend beyond the gift of nature to the community resources in Baton Rouge. Our appreciation and thanks go to the East Baton Rouge Parish Library system, D’s Garden Center, Wild Birds Unlimited, Louisiana Nursery and the East Baton Rouge Master Gardener Association.
Phyllis Leblanc is a nursing faculty member at Baton Rouge Community College. Her back patio was featured in one of the first issues of inRegister magazine, and as this essay reveals, she and her family continue to enjoy the outdoors.
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