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Image: A frog on a lilypad in a wildlife pond

Take Your Backyard from Wasteland to Wildlife Wonderland in 365 Days

It’s no secret that spending time in nature has a calming effect on humans 1. But how many of us are actually taking steps to encourage nature to thrive? Whether you live in a tiny home, in a skyrise apartment building, or nestled deep within a dense forest, there are ways that each of us can give a little bit back to the native wildlife that brings us so much joy. So what does helping nature out actually mean?

For birdwatcher and wildlife enthusiast, Stefano Ianiro, this idea of helping nature thrive manifested in the form of a man-made pond; A project that may have taken him a season to build, but ended up surprising him more and more as his first year as its guardian progressed!

Image: A frog on a lilypad in a wildlife pond
Source: Pixabay

If you build it, they will come.

Stefano had some good motivation for building his wildlife pond. As a birdwatcher and photographer, it was his way of guaranteeing he would have someone to photograph close to home. But, as a nature enthusiast, he also saw the environmental value in attracting native wildlife.

With wildlife habitats shrinking on a daily basis due to land development and climate change, many of our world’s overlooked species are competing for a place to live. By presenting them with man-made homes constructed from native plants and materials, we are giving them the best gift ever—a chance to thrive!

See it with your own eyes…

Stefano documented the pond-building process step by step. From tilling the field for future wildflowers, to creating a floating structure and transplanting cattails, you can watch the pond’s transformation unfold into a haven for all the local flora and fauna. But this transformation was not built without some challenges…at one point his pond was even attacked by a strange critter!

This video is really wonderful, you won’t want to miss it. Stefano is doing a lot of manual labor to construct the pond in the video, but for us viewers it is very relaxing to watch. Get ready to be amazed by all of the species his pond attracts!

Via: Stefano Ianiro 2

Remarkable isn’t it? Talk about making the most of your outdoor space! 

Stefano has a library of videos on YouTube filled with wildlife footage that will have your head in the clouds and your jaw on the floor. You can also find more of his striking wildlife photos on Instagram.

Discovering the magic of native habitats.

If you are a wildlife lover but you don’t have a dedicated patch of land to work with, there are still lots of options for you when it comes to building your own wildlife habitats.

Say you live in an apartment and have a small balcony or patio, bird feeders and window boxes filled with native flowers are a fantastic way to attract birds, bees, and other pollinators. Hanging Native bee houses and setting out shallow dishes of drinking water are also great ways to help bees thrive in a small space!

If you do have a backyard, but digging out a pond doesn’t sound doable, maybe you can build a dust bath area for birds like Stefano does in the video? It’s really fun to watch birds roll about in the sand, and this is a very low-maintenance way to support your neighborhood avian friends. If you want a really hands-off idea, simply mowing your lawn less can go a long way towards keeping biodiversity in your own back yard–you can learn more about that here!

For those living close by a forest or by a park, bird nest boxes are a nice way to encourage birds to visit and lay their eggs. And, if you have the means to install game cameras out in the woods, you’ll have endless entertainment watching all kinds of animals!

This video by The Roving Naturalist has more great tips on building your own backyard wildlife habitats. The host also expands on why it’s harder for some species to travel, and gives further examples of why native wildlife habitats are so crucial for our planet’s ecosystems. 

A lot can happen in a year!

Regardless of which kind of outdoor space you’re working with, there are always ways you can encourage life. It could be as simple as turning off your outdoor patio lights when you’re not home to reduce light pollution that confuses insects 3

It really doesn’t take that long for nature to take over. Just look at all the changes that took place over the course of a year at Stefano’s pond!

Why not give it a whirl this spring? You may even discover something unexpected and magical in the process—like Stefano’s sweet connection with the little gray cat who came to check out his pond. (The kitty’s name is Sparrow by the way, and he is now a happy house cat getting lots of love from Stefano and his girlfriend.)

So, as you are planning out this year’s garden, give yourself permission to play in the dirt a little longer and go make a habitat for something smaller than you. See how good it feels. Then sit back and watch the magic of nature do its thing! 

Keep dreaming, and notice the beauty around you,


If you’d like to dive deeper into the wildlife world, here are a few of my favorite articles from our archives for you.

What Are These Walking Jellybeans Doing on Your Plants?

Most people would overlook these candy pooping, clone birthing, walking jellybeans, but you are not most people! These little gals will have you turning over more leaves, getting more excited about the world, and letting curiosity be your guide!

Read Article Watch Video Listen to Podcast
Meet the 97-Year-Old Saving Thousands of Bluebirds!

Can one of us really make a difference? After hearing the story of Al Larson, there’s no doubt!

Read Article Watch Video Listen to Podcast

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  1. Millard, Elizabeth, et al. “Why Nature Sounds Are so Good for Health and Well-Being.” EverydayHealth.com, 9 Apr. 2021, https://www.everydayhealth.com/self-care/why-the-sounds-of-nature-are-so-good-for-health-and-wellbeing/#:~:text=New%20data%20finds%20that%20even,stress%2C%20and%20even%20lessen%20pain.&text=According%20to%20new%20data%2C%20listening%20to%20birdsong%20helped%20decrease%20stress.
  2. Ianiro, Stefano. “I Built a Wildlife Pond – Here’s What Happened.” YouTube, YouTube, 7 Dec. 2022, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4LvaX748pVI.
  3. “Light Pollution.” National Geographic Society, https://education.nationalgeographic.org/resource/light-pollution.
Image: Renee Laroche-Rheaume

Renee Laroche-Rheaume

Outreach Coordinator & Writer

Renee is a graduate of FIDM, and has held jobs in several industries such as apparel manufacturing, retail, professional office work, and even hospitality. Her creative outlook, wide variety of experiences, and desire to notice the beauty around us make her a great addition to the Goodness Exchange team.

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