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Conservancy kicks off Habitat at Home photo contest

A bluebird photographed by Amy Cecelia LoPresti Owens was one of the entries in the 2020 Habitat at Home contest. A bluebird photographed by Amy Cecelia LoPresti Owens was one of the entries in the 2020 Habitat at Home contest.

When you step out your door, do you feel like you’ve stepped into nature?

What do you see or hear that connects you to the rest of the living world? And what can you do to make your home even more welcoming for wildlife? If you have a yard, a garden, some woods, a stream, a neighborhood green space, or even some flower pots on a balcony, you can improve wildlife habitat at your home. And in Conserving Carolina’s 2021 Habitat at Home Photo Contest, you can share the wild things that you see at your place.

Conserving Carolina kicked off the photo contest on April 1 and it will run through May 15. The local conservation nonprofit is looking for photos or videos that show any of these three things: 1) native plants in gardens or landscaping 2) projects to improve habitat where you live, or 3) wildlife that you see at or near your home. Wildlife can include both small and large animals—so it could be a praying mantis or a black bear. You can enter as many times as you like during the six-week contest.

To enter, post your photo or video on Facebook or Instagram with the hashtag #habitatathome2021. It must be a public post. If you’re not on social media, you can submit entries by email to rose@conservingcarolina.org. After the submission period ends, a panel of expert judges will select five finalists. The contest winner will be chosen through online voting. The finalists and the winner will win garden-themed prizes.

However, you don’t have to be a world-class photographer to participate in the contest! In addition to the finalists selected by the judges, Conserving Carolina’s staff will be giving online shoutouts to recognize additional entries that do a great job of showcasing habitat at home. These could be great projects to improve habitat, special wildlife encounters, outstanding video entries, or outstanding youth entries.

“We live in a time when far too many wildlife species are in decline or even in danger of extinction," said Rose Lane, communications director for Conserving Carolina. "We need to turn this around! An important part of that is restoring habitat at home, since our homes and neighborhoods make up a large share of the overall landscape. Improving habitat is a hands-on way that you can do something good for the Earth and for yourself, too, because you’ll have more wild beauty right where you live. Through the contest, you can share what’s happening at your place and you can inspire other people.”

One way you can restore habitat at home is to grow native plants. The reason native plants are so important is that insects like to eat them. To gardeners, that may seem counterintuitive but insects are the basis of our whole food web. And many insects in their larval stage (such as caterpillars) are extremely picky. They will only eat their native host plants. Not only do some of those caterpillars turn into butterflies, but birds also depend on caterpillars to feed their young. Many other animals also depend on insects for food.

Other ways you can improve habitat at home include putting up nesting boxes, providing a clean water source such as a birdbath, letting plants and trees grow beside streams, mulching areas below trees, and leaving your fall leaves on the ground.

Finalists in the photo contest will be selected by a panel of expert photographers and gardeners. These include Kevin Adams, Kim Bailey, Bill Imhof, Annie Martin and Deni McIntyre.

The grand prize is a professional landscape consultation! You can win a two-hour consultation donated by noted local landscape architect, Mark Byington of Byington Landscape Architects, known for his emphasis on sustainable landscapes. He will meet with you to discuss ideas and solutions for your home or for another site you may be involved with, such as a school, a church, a community garden, or a neighborhood green space.

The other finalists will win prizes donated by New Leaf Garden Market, Raymond’s Garden Center, Spriggly’s Beescaping, Bee City USA – Hendersonville, and Milkweed Meadows Farm.

You can see all of the contest details at conservingcarolina.org/2021contest