Creating a little wildlife sanctuary in your yard can bring delightful sights through the window and beneficial amenities to a variety of critters. It doesn’t need to be expensive or elaborate, and you can begin right on the patio. Food, water, shelter and a safe place to raise offspring are the basics.

If you have a large yard and want to plan for the long-term, consider shrubs, flowers and trees that bear small berries, acorns and seeds and provide nesting opportunities. For smaller properties, hang bird feeders up high and away from tree branches to deter cats and squirrels. You can begin with birdseed and a large bowl of water and see what happens. Scatter birdseed on the ground, place in a feeder, buy a block feeder and seed packs or hang a suet and seed ball.

Besides a birdbath, an ideal water source is a pond. Cindy Dole has a koi pond, which tends to attract blue herons to dine on the fish. “I have a motion detector ‘scarecrow’ for them,” she explains. It works like a light fixture with a motion detector, but this one sprays water when it senses movement. They can send water about 35 feet for a few seconds, startling and deterring any intruder. “That might be the gas meter reader,” she laughs, “but he figured it out soon enough.” For around $175, it’s worth protecting the koi in a safe and humane manner. Ponds bring in little reptiles and amphibians, dragon flies, birds, raccoons, hummingbirds, butterflies and more.

Butterfly bushes are perfect for attracting butterflies all summer. When the bushes get very large, as they do, cut them right down each fall to six inches, and watch them grow all back up again come spring. Add nectar sources to your vegetable garden, and plan your flower garden to bloom all spring and summer, so when one flower ceases blooming, another one blossoms forth. Hummingbirds and bumblebees will also visit for food and water, and if you have space, plant milkweed, a prime abode for monarch butterflies to breed. You can watch them evolve from caterpillar to cocoon to winged creature. It’s one of nature’s reality shows you don’t want to miss.

Shelter and breeding options include safe spaces where wildlife can bed down without great risk. Bushes or piles of twigs and branches in an area that is undisturbed are attractive to rabbits and small mammals. If you have a large yard, place all your tree and shrub trimmings in the same area to create a safe haven among them. Large dogs and deer, for example, cannot wend their way into a significant cluster of branches.

For a $15 donation and small efforts, you can receive a Certified Wildlife Habitat certificate from the National Wildlife Federation. Check out for all kinds of suggestions and tips on creating a safe wildlife habitat on your property or deck. This is one little way you can assist wildlife and conservation while you Improve Your Home, Improve your Life™.