The Harker Heights Kiwanis Club met for its regular noon luncheon Tuesday and heard guest speaker Jane Tillman of Austin. She is the Capital Area Master Naturalist Habitat Steward Host of the National Wildlife Federation.

She told the group her passion is nature and getting children interested in gardening and realizing what beautiful animals we have in our own backyards.

The focus of her presentation was backyard wildlife with an emphasis on butterflies and birds.

“First the bad news then the good news about the many challenges faced by wildlife,” she said.

Wildlife, butterflies and birds are faced with challenging circumstances in areas such as the area where U.S. Highway 190 and Interstate 35 connect.

“We are using a lot of our natural habitat for growth and man-made environments,” Tillman said.

“We also bring in plants that are not native to our area and they like to take over and change our eco-systems.”

Another problem is the lack of water.

“The challenges that face birds, such as the whooping cranes, should give us a motivation to conserve water and not putting too many fertilizers on our yards,” she said.

In a handout provided by Tillman and produced by the National Wildlife Federation, it states that there are ways to create a bird-friendly habitat.

Those tips include: providing water year-round, installing native plants, removing invasive plants from wildlife habitats, eliminating insecticides in yards, keep standing dead trees and putting out nesting boxes.

In addition, build a brush pile in a corner of the yard, offer food in feeders, keep cats indoors, reduce lawn area and observe and identify the birds that visit your property.

Traditional American landscaping focuses on maintaining a manicured green lawn.

However, native trees, shrubs, ground cover, prairie or meadow patches, flower beds and attractively mulched areas are better environmental choices for people and wildlife.

There are reasons to reduce lawns including saving time and money that would be normally spent on mowing and fertilizing grass, providing habitat and food for wildlife, conserving water, reducing lawn mower pollution and decreasing run-off from fertilizers and pesticides.

According to Tillman, there are ways to reduce lawns and help wildlife, such as using native plant species as ground cover instead of grass, installing native trees and shrubs, creating a water garden or pond, creating a rock garden and using mulched paths.

The Heights Kiwanis will meet again Tuesday, but at a new time and location.

The club will meet at 11:30 a.m. at the First United Methodist Church of Harker Heights, located at the corner of Harley Drive and Cardinal Lane.

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