Wednesday, March 11, 2009

The Gift That's Kept on Giving

Our wonderful friends, Flip and Shelley, gave us a bird bath for our deck railing at Christmas this year. We put it up about a week into January and waited to see what would happen.

Our history with heated bird baths in this yard was short, but not especially sweet, so we had some misgivings. When we first moved in two years ago, I'd put a heated bird bath on the ground not too far from the feeders. Within a few days, starlings had discovered it. Every time I filled it, a huge flock of starlings would descend within 20 minutes and bathe in it. Ten minutes later they would leave, presumably fresh and clean, while the bird bath had been emptied of most of its water...and the little water remaining was absolutely filthy.

For several days I tried to keep up with rinsing it out and refilling it with fresh water after the starlings left, but they would come back almost immediately and foul it again.

Finally, I just decided to let the birds fend for themselves. We have the draw out back and it usually has some open water in it, so I wasn't too worried. I just wouldn't be able to watch the birds as they drank and bathed.

Shortly after we put up this new addition in January, though, it started attracting more desireable "customers". At one time or another, almost every bird species that uses our feeders has winged over to wash the seed or suet down with a fresh, slightly warm drink of water.

Here are a few of those customers that I've managed to capture on camera:

The male cardinal - so vivid that no one else wanted to share the spotlight with him!

The social club (white crowned sparrows and a pine siskin), telling an immature white crowned sparrow who's waiting in line that it's just not his turn yet!

A Harris sparrow and a female cardinal, sharing a suspicious moment together.

I don't like feeding seed on or near the deck because of the undesireables that it draws, but this bird bath seems to be a perfect solution for bringing the birds in close enough to get a reasonable look at them. The starlings have come in onesies and twosies to drink, too, but they evidently want stable ground beneath their water for bathing, as that hasn't been an issue.

Thanks again, Flip and Shelley, for a wonderful addition to our backyard!

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