Where To Find Wildlife In Your Own Garden

We got an email recently asking if we really found the animals we photograph in our garden or if most of them are taken on 'field trips'. The answer is that around 98% of the animals pictured on Garden Guests were indeed snapped right here at our home ... the benefit of being in the tropics, being frugal with chemicals and living in a rural area.

Still, it got me thinking. I've lived in a few places, different climates and population densities etc ... and I have ALWAYS managed to find a critter or two. So I thought I'd do a post on what I've learnt about seeking out wildlife:

This post has been updated as we've moved into a new place - obviously, we then got a new garden - complete with all it's resident critters and transient guests. The post stands as it is - the pics have been given a nudge to reflect the new joint


A likely spot

There is no real hard and fast answer to this ...

Obviously, there's no point searching for a desert animal in the wet tropics. Though you might be surprised to learn that I've found some pretty amazing animals in the middle of large cities:

In Sydney I found two leaf tailed geckos hunting on the [outside] walls of the apartment block I was in.

And on the Southern coast of N.Z's N.Island I was fortunate enough to be diving when a mother and calf Orca suddenly appeared at the seal colony I was observing.

At the time I had no idea they even existed in N.Z waters!.

The rule then, is to look with an open mind [if that makes any kind of sense!].


Water means wildlife

There's nothing quite so frustrating as to be in the perfect place at the perfect time with the correct gear only to find all the wildlife have buggered off to the pub - the best laid plans and all that.

The only thing to be done is to rinse and repeat as often as required.

Eventually your subject will appear, (of course it'll appear right when your hands are covered in peanut butter, your car has just been nicked and your hair's on fire ...).

But hang in there.


Flying Fox's love our pawpaws

By now friends, family and even co-workers have gotten used to me suddenly leaping into the bush or screaming for them to pull over.

They then indulgently watch me doggedly lifting bits of tin and other detritus ... (I like to think I provide humour in their otherwise dull and lacklustre lives).

At BBQ's - one ear on the conversation and one on the undergrowth works for me.

Visiting a new place? - try to get out and have a bit of a look. I'm not saying you need to be all OCD about it, simply keep an eye out.

Above all, have fun and include other people in your interests if you get the chance.


This is Gregor - we found him underneath a pile of greenwaste - he now watches over the garden

If you're new to an area take the time to ask around regarding where you might find what you're looking for.

Oh sure, you'll get the odd look, but generally people are pretty helpful and the right question might save a lot of fruitless searching.


Don't be afraid to really get out there and let it all hang out!

When out and about wear neutral colours. Walk quietly and carefully, but most of all take plenty of time to observe.

I was once sitting near a small log that was being used as garden edging when a Yellow Faced Whip snake slowly stirred and slipped off; it'd obviously been there for some time - I just hadn't seen it.

And I can't tell you how many times I have been staring right at a creature and then, all of a sudden, I actually 'see' it! [the eye may notice something that the brain takes a while to recognise], or at least that's been my experience.


Remember to keep an eye out inside too eh?

As I mentioned above, we live in a fairly good spot for wildlife observation [these pics are of our garden], but remember, the images you see on this blog are a record of our successes - I don't imagine anyone would be particularly interested in seeing the dismal failures, [of which there are many!].

However, nature has a groovy way of finding a foothold in the most unlikely places. I think some people would be really, really surprised at just how many animals share 'their' space.

So here's a few tips that I hope you find useful.

Look up and under!

Look for frog/insect silhouettes on large palm or succulent plants. Lift a couple of rocks [do this gently, always lifting toward you]. Turn on an outside light and check on it periodically or better yet, use a fluorescent lamp and a sheet hung vertically to attract insects [and their predators].

Create micro-habitats by planting natives and provide a source of water. Even a tiny area can often support a multitude of interesting species.

Try to look around at different times of the day and night. A really good time is just after some rain and at dawn/dusk.

Remember too that many species are seasonal - so keep that in mind as you search.


I'm not much of a fan of this, in part because while you may attract animals you want in your garden, you may very well attract those you don't - and that can only be bad for all concerned. But also because some animals may become overly reliant on 'hand-outs' and thus suffer quite drastically should you move away or simply stop bothering.

Try planting food plants instead to attract insects/birds etc. Of course this is just my opinion - do what you think is right.

Well that's about it - there's plenty to find if we only take the time to look up from our gadgets and step outside - hope you got something out of this post and remember to take care :)

Become Famous - If you discover a new species of animal, you get to name it! Now that's what I call leaving something behind right?