Featured LIFE

Garden is a critter sanctuary 

Becky and Bruce Carlquist created a sanctuary in their yard which is popular with birds, lizards and butterflies. (courtesy of Becky and Bruce Carlquist)

Garden is a critter sanctuary 

By Kaila Mellos

Scripps Ranch couple Becky and Bruce Carlquist have been part of the Scripps Ranch community for as long as they can remember. When they moved into their home on Caminito Garcia in the 1980s, it was nothing but a lot with free range to design the garden of their dreams without knowing what other joys it would eventually bring them.

“There’s a lot of interesting plants here. You’ll learn more as you do it, and they’re [plants] fun to learn from. It’s just something we like to do, and it kind of grew on us so much it’s our hobby now,” Becky said.

The Carlquists have created a bird, butterfly and lizard sanctuary in their backyard over the years, with more than 35 bird feeders scattered around the yard now. Attracting mostly hummingbirds into their space, the couple has kept track of their little visitors.

“We have bird lists for all the birds we’ve seen here. We recently spotted a really different one for what usually comes here,” Bruce said.

From June to January, the couple sees many birds come through their yard to feed on the sugar water feeders they have placed around. They usually use multiple pounds of sugar each month to make sugar water, changing it every few hours on a hot day. In the past couple of months, it dropped to 30 pounds, which they suspect decreased due to the heat.

“The water is more important than the food. That is what is attracting them here more than anything else,” Bruce said. 

Though they haven’t planted anything attracting species specifically to their yard, they have many plants that are a food source for the animals.

“The orioles come now because of the worms on the tomato plants. That was really neat when we learned that, because we thought they would eat the tomatoes to get the moisture, and it turns out it was getting these worms,” Bruce said. “It kept going back and getting more and more worms, and I think the first time, it ate about a dozen worms. It keeps the garden great without having to spray anything.”

They have also noticed that the common backyard lizards enjoy eating worms from different plants. When that runs out, the couple bought mealworms to feed the second-generation family of lizards in their yard.

“We had caterpillars eating my Nicotiana plant with beautiful red, yellow and white flowers. When I would find them, I was throwing them away. But then I thought, well, maybe the birds would like them. So, I’d toss them, and the birds would fly away. And then there was a lizard out there, and I tossed him one of those caterpillars,” Becky said. “After that, he started following me through the garden. He’d come up between my feet, and he’d want some. So that’s how we started feeding, and now we buy the worms, beetles and all that stuff.”

The couple hopes to keep feeding all their critter friends for the foreseeable future to keep it a peaceful sanctuary filled with plants, flowers, birds, lizards and butterflies.