My family and I love all the furry, feathery, slithery, fluttery visitors to our yard. Every spring the Pileated Woodpeckers return to the neighborhood and nest. Look on UTube for some great videos taken of these birds. Since putting up a large enough box for the Pileated, other critter families have taken turns raising their young in same box, including a rambunctious family of squirrels and a “hoot” of Eastern Screech Owls. One year a honey bee colony set up their hive but we lost them during that unusual cold snap a winter or two ago. During the time the bees were there they did not bother us once, even though the box is located right by our BBQ. Now when the Pileated Woodpecker returns as soon as the grill lid is opened we hear this scrabbling from the box 15 feet up, and a fledgling will pop a head out of the box and watch us grilling! Another box set in the back provides shelter for smaller Red bellied Woodpeckers who seem to “live” in it year round, this is probably not surprising since the box is a hop, flap and glide to the bird bath and sunflower seed/peanut holder I fill up every morning. If I am delayed in this obligation I can always rely on the blue jay brigade that will shriek at me from the branches until I get myself out there. I also hang little huts that I pick up at the grocery store for bees and lizards to shelter in. Keeping to permanent shrubs and plants that are Florida specific and drought tolerant provides shelter, food sources and saves oodles of water. We have birds of paradise, coconut and fox tail palms, wild coffee, blue and salmon colored porterweed, fire bushes and sea grapes that produce loads of berries for the birds. In the back part of the yard we have a permanent brush pile that I believe a box turtle lives in and I know black racers live under the shed and a red rat snake occupies a Queen Palm. Ever seen a snake climb a tree? A large broken clay pot turned upside down has a plant tray on top that I fill with water. I believe there are probably toads that live in the pot underneath, I don’t think I will put my hand in there and find out though. So when my neighbor, whose yard resembles the nature trail at MacArthur Park, put up a sign “Certified Wildlife Habitat” I was wildly curious how one would get certified. Turns out we were half way there already. To apply and join visit the web site of the National Wildlife Federation and, if you have water, shelter, places to raise young and food sources for wildlife, you’re all set. I can tell you it was a great source of pride for us when we put up our own sign that gives recognition on “the establishment and maintenance of an official wildlife habitat.” You can live in a pint size yard and still meet the guidelines, so what are you waiting for…….Get Certified! The local wildlife will reward you with hours of entertainment and enjoyment. Visit www.nwf.org for more info.