At Garvies, a bird-friendly backyard garden is born


Despite decades of suburban development, the North Shore of Long Island is still blessed with sloping inlets, upland meadows, brackish salt water shores, and pockets of woodland that constitute habitats for a diversity of native plants and wildlife.

There are private and public organizations eagerly watchful for opportunities to protect, preserve and enhance the habitats, which support the more colorful of our animal neighbors. But who’s looking out for the simple backyard garden bird? It could be you.

On July 29, under unseasonably cool gray skies, that fact was highlighted at Garvies Point Museum and Preserve in Glen Cove, as the public joined Audubon members and others to celebrate the museum’s own Demonstration Bird-Friendly Garden.

Funded by the Vomacka family and created according to a plan created by Paul Giordano, under the guidance of the Garvies Point staff, volunteers and the society itself, the approximately 75 x 125-foot space has been converted from a simple tree-covered lawn to a haven for birds, featuring native plants, water sources, snags and brush piles.

The result? A colorful, diverse and meandering habitat under a canopy of trees that provides a very special home to the region’s backyard visitors.

“It’s small, but it’s a respite area,” said Jill Vomacka, North Shore Audubon Society board member and the person who donated the funds for the project in memory of her parents.

“It has been exciting to see the types of birds that have begun to come here to find food, shelter and cover,” added Kathryne Natale, former director of Garvies Point and currently president of the friends of the museum.

Five years in the making, the garden features plants chosen from a list of over 100 shrubs, herbaceous perennials, ferns, vines, grasses and sedges suggested by experts for such a project. The list ranges from common wild plants — like milkweed, mullein, plantain and joe-pye weed — to those which offer more splashes of color and style to the garden including coneflowers, phlox, loosestrife and even sunflowers.

According to Veronica Natale, the current director of the museum and preserve, the main focus of the effort is to provide a space that patrons can visit, see for themselves what can be done to encourage support of the birds and butterflies, and maybe even choose to do the same thing at home themselves.

Acre by acre, mile by mile, local residents have a golden opportunity to make their yards bird-friendly habitats for thrush, chickadee, sparrows, and hummingbirds and more, says the North Shore Audubon Society. And it’s as simple as providing food, water and shelter — the three things all animals need to sustain themselves and raise their young — in one’s own small piece of suburban paradise.

To that end, literature is provided at Garvies Point by the North Shore Audubon Society, offering suggestions for creating a bird friendly habitat out of any yard.

“We will even come to your home and do a consultation or evaluation,” noted Audubon President Peggy Maslow. “If your property qualifies, you can be certified, and receive a sign declaring your yard as a bird-friendly habitat.”

Visit for more information on the certification process.