Making a Multispecies Community: A Personal Journey

Since the start of the pandemic, my partner and I have worked to transform our San Antonio, TX backyard to a wildlife-friendly space. It began with a small garden pond just outside of our dining room picture window.

Forgive the house, we’re in the middle of painting.

The pond has been a hit! We have mosquito fish that are friendly and keep the mosquito population down (at least in the pond). We also have pollywogs. Toads, rough earthsnakes, opossums, raccoons, neighborhood cats, and tons of birds visit the pond.

Wilson’s warbler
Cedar waxwings

After CPS (our utility company) tore up our backyard servicing the cable in the backyard and we began diversifying the lawn (it was mostly grass and false mallow) and planting a native wildflower pollinator garden in the back of the yard.

April 2021
June 2021: The garden cycles flowers through the season.

The garden has attracted all sorts of birds, bees, and butterflies. The garden is just past the pond and it provides a beautiful and lively sight even from the comfort of the house with a cup of coffee (a morning ritual my partner and I have).

The view from the dining room window.
Ruby-throated hummingbird feeding on larkspur
Tiger swallowtail butterfly

We have also added three bird feeders: one in the pollinator garden for seed, one in the pollinator garden for suet, and a window feeder on the picture window. For the moments when the white-winged doves aren’t trying to mob the feeder (which I have modified to deny them complete access to seed), it attracts goldfinches, house finches, cardinals, titmice, chickadees, sparrows, blue jays, and downy and gold-fronted woodpeckers. The suet attracts the woodpeckers, chickadees, and sparrows. The window feeder attracts all the small-bodied birds mentioned above.

Downy woodpecker
Carolina chickadee and house finches
Blue jay
House sparrow
Gold-fronted woodpecker

The work that my partner and I have done to make our small backyard appealing to all kinds of critters brings us so much pleasure but also speaks to ways in which multispecies communities can come together. We understand that we are both residing within the ranges of loads of native species that our houses and sterile human habitations disrupt. We are also along the path many migrating species that move in and out of the United States with the seasons. We feel a sense of responsibility to provide for the resident and transient species that our presence disrupts and the habitats that no longer exist because of sprawling urbanization.

In my research, I am interested in the ways that multispecies relations emerge from the ebbs and flows of everyday life; the ways that participants in these dynamic relationships contribute to their formation, maintenance, and dissolution; and the experiences of the participants as the relations play out. Community-making is one such relationship. Rejecting strict nature/culture binaries and looking for ways for ecological remediation through community-making and multispecies participation is one possibility for a future that works for more of us, human and beyond.

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