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Man's land certified as wildlife habitat

May 25, 2007|by TRISH RUDDER

BERKELEY SPRINGS, W.VA. - Joseph Gentile has always been interested in nature.

While growing up in Michigan, his mother taught him to take care of wildlife.

"One of my earliest chores was filling the bird feeders," he said.

Since moving to Morgan County in 1990, he has provided a refuge for wildlife on his property, but did not meet all the certified wildlife criteria until this year.

Earlier this month, Gentile's property became the 78,606th site chosen by the National Wildlife Federation as an official certified wildlife habitat.

His two-acre property attracts a large variety of birds, butterflies, and other wildlife including deer, possum, raccoons and squirrels, and a couple of varieties of nonpoisonous snakes.

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"It's not just bird feeders and bird houses," he said.

He had to cut out chemicals for weeding and feeding, and he does more composting for fertilizer. He also added a log pile to shelter larger mammals and brush piles to night shelter wild birds.

Gentile provides 32 bird feeders as well as roosting pockets and nesting cavities for birds. A small water pool is available for drinking and bird bathing, and a few salt licks are around for the deer.

He said he refills the feeders about every three days. Blue jays get a mix of corn and safflower seeds in their feeder, and they don't bother the other bird feeders, he said. Mourning doves and cardinals are attracted to a mixture of sunflower and safflower seeds.

Gentile said he has seen or heard 58 species of birds, and the feeders and shelters can be viewed from many areas inside his home.

"I've always wanted to record my surroundings," he said, and Gentile has kept a nature journal since 1990.

He listed rainfall and snowfall amounts, daily weather high and low temperatures, wildflowers, and the arrival and departure of different varieties of birds.

His journal shows the hummingbirds arrived on April 27 in 1991 and on April 24 this year.

"It's good, convenient record-keeping," he said, and it's all by hand.

He does not use a computer, does not watch television. He likes radio, news magazines and "lots of books."

Gentile is making his own hiking map of the Eidolon Nature Preserve in Great Cacapon, W.Va.

Mary Burnette, NWF spokesperson, said the organization's goal is to certify 100,000 sites by the end of the year.

According to NWF statistics, about 30 properties in Morgan County, 348 in West Virginia, and more than 82,500 in the United States are listed as being certified wildlife habitat sites.

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