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San Mateo man dedicates his yard as a wildlife habitat
March 07, 2014, 05:00 AM By Samantha Weigel Daily Journal

Samantha Weigel/Daily Journal
Mike Pagano in his backyard full of fruit trees, shrubbery and fountains he uses to attract wildlife.

Mike Pagano has used his passion for nature photography and desire to support a healthy ecosystem and create a certified wildlife habitat at his San Mateo home.

The National Wildlife Federation recognized Pagano for his efforts in turning his backyard into a sustainable refuge for his neighboring wildlife by providing natural food sources, clean water, shelter and places to raise young.

“I think this whole certification process is supposed encourage that our yards are mini sanctuaries. They become an oasis for wildlife even though we’re in an urban society,” Pagano said. “Where everything’s paved over there’s less and less space for wildlife and we all appreciate wildlife whether you know it or not.”

He’s worked on his backyard for 15 years and in many ways it’s pretty typical, Pagano said. But he deliberately leaves his carefully chosen plants unmanicured because it’s more about attraction than appearance. He tries to keep it as natural as possible; he doesn’t use pesticides, he lets the birds take care of the bugs and he doesn’t buy fertilizer. He composts and mulches instead, Pagano said.

His plants are native to California and most are drought tolerant and sturdy in winter. He has a drip system and pretty much hand waters due to current conditions, Pagano said.

Many of his plants are nectar, fruit and seed bearing to attract birds, bees, butterflies, squirrels and even raccoons. Some of his backyard flora include fuchsia, salvias, rosemary as well as apple, orange and fig trees.

After retiring from his work in the print industry, he began to take up nature photography as a hobby, Pagano said. An avid golfer, he merged his two passions and now shoots photos for golf magazines, Pagano said.

But his favorite subjects are those he can attract in his backyard.

He sees a large variety of birds including sparrows, finches and his favorite, hummingbirds, Pagano said.

“They’re just incredible, they fly backward, they’re always fighting at the feeders, they’re very territorial birds,” Pagano said. “They’re the same birds that come here day after day, year after year, they’re the same birds. They raise their young here.”

He also has a tiered water fountain and birdbath because, Pagano said, “you must have water in your yard. That’s a must, birds have to drink like we do.”

Many of the plants and structures he has in his backyard are easy to come by and need minimal upkeep, Pagano said. Although his garden is aesthetically attractive, it’s truly about giving precedence to the animals and wildlife that use his yard for shelter and food, Pagano said.

The certification process was easy and he’s proud to have earned it; he hopes more will follow and give back to wildlife by providing miniature habitats in their own backyard, Pagano said.

“Anyone can become certified if they have the right combination in their yard. … lots of trees, shrubbery, water and plenty of nesting sites,” Pagano said. “Just to participate in this whole idea of preserving wildlife in our urban society. Our backyards are basically sanctuaries. Because of our urban sprawl, our bird and animals have pretty much taken to our backyards. Plus, just the enjoyment of enjoying nature.”

For more information about the National Wildlife Federation’s backyard habitat certification visit

(650) 344-5200 ext. 106



Tags: pagano, wildlife, backyard, birds, they, water,

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