Backyard Oasis

Last week I looked out the back window of my house and saw a baby robin hopping around back there. I have learned that this is normal and they aren’t supposed to be in the nest, so the best thing is to leave them alone. The mom will keep feeding them while they are on the ground until they can fly and feed themselves. It hadn’t rained in a while and I thought maybe that bird could use some water. I put a cookie sheet with edges on it on the back patio and poured some water into it so that there was a shallow source of water. I would look out there but didn’t see the bird drinking. I thought maybe that the bottom of the pan would be too slick and found a pan for a paint roller that had a little traction to it and had varying depth. But it was bright orange plastic and the bird didn’t go near it either. The next day it was supposed to be even hotter and would reach an all-time record of 106 degrees. I told Carol about what I was doing and she said I should put out a sprinkler because birds love sprinklers.

I put my old-fashioned harp sprinkler back there and set the water so that it was only going up maybe a couple of feet in the air (it wouldn’t even move back and forth). When I went back inside I noticed there was a bird already eying the sprinkler and ruffling his feathers like he was imagining taking a bath. Within a half hour a juvenile robin came hopping along. He could fly, just not all that well. He and his mother came along and would drink water off of the wet grass. It is probably the same one I had seen on my patio. Then a juvenile mockingbird and its mother stopped by. The sprinkler was right next to a fig tree in the back yard and the mockingbirds seemed to hang out there. They are territorial and I think they were trying to intimidate the robins away, but the robins are little bigger and there was enough water for everyone.

I called Carol to tell her that her idea was really working. She said that if a mockingbird had found the sprinkler, it would tell all of the other birds in their own language. I let the sprinkler run most of the day, figuring that it wasn’t using that much water and this isn’t something I plan on doing very often. Every time I would look out back, there would be birds stopping by and the juveniles weren’t ever far off. I saw the mother robin put some food in the juvenile’s mouth, so I think she may have helped lure him there with food. When I would go out, he would fly up into a tree, but then come back.

They liked the sprinkler and were able to drink drops off of the grass, but it seemed like it would be even better if they could take a bath. I put the roller pan out there, but they weren’t interested. Then I looked around for one of those concrete things that goes under a downspout, figuring I could put it out there backwards on the slope of the yard and  it would hold just enough water and still offer good traction from the concrete. But I couldn’t find anything but flat concrete splash guards around my house. Eventually I went to Home Depot and looked for some splash guards, but couldn’t find any. I asked a guy there who pointed out some plastic ones, but I thought those would be too slick. I asked if he had concrete ones and he said no. For some reason at my house there was a base to a birdbath that didn’t have a top, so I thought I could buy just the top. It was more than a splash guard would have been, but whatever, it was supposed to be hot for a few more days.

I put the bird bath top on the ground near the sprinkler and it filled up within a few minutes, overflowing down one side. The birds weren’t really taking baths, but they weren’t staying away either. Later on I turned the water off and then the bird bath became a lot more interesting to the birds and I saw a couple go in. As hot as it was, if I was a bird, I would just hang out in that birdbath all day. That night I dumped out the water so it wouldn’t draw mosquitoes.

The next day I had to go to work, but it was supposed to be pretty hot again, so I figured I would let the sprinkler run a little. When I got home the valve had worked itself mostly shut and there was just a small trickle of water coming from the sprinkler, not even going up in the air at all. I turned it up a little and all kinds of birds came to it. There were a couple of chickadees that wouldn’t get on the ground but would hang out in the branches above the sprinkler and let the water wash over them. They seemed to be doing it on purpose I also saw a juvenile cardinal and its mother hanging in the sprinkler. And the juvenile mockingbird hid underneath a fig leaf, using it like an umbrella to keep the water off. The oasis had become a big hit.

The next day I just left the sprinkler on in the morning while I was getting ready for work and let the birdbath fill up to last through the day. It rained pretty hard that evening, so everything is pretty damp now. I will go look for my birdbath base and see if I can set something up. One problem is the cat that lives next door. As long as there are a lot of birds around I think they will sound a warning when they see a cat, but if I draw a lot of birds, I will probably also draw the cat. The good thing about the bath being on the ground is it gives the birds a better view and the low branches give them a place to fly up to if there is any danger.

6 thoughts on “Backyard Oasis

  1. The “mockingbirds” are actually brown thrashers. I don’t know why I said mockingbirds. The fig tree near the birdbath started getting some fruit so there were a ton of birds out there this morning. I let the sprinkler run a little in the morning and little in the afternoon. As soon as I turn it on, a bunch of birds come up, so they are getting used to it. One of the thrashers even perched right on the sprinkler to take a shower.

  2. This is all a cover story. Ted is secretly watering his grass since there is a ban on grass watering. But no one is going to blame him for watering baby birds! (Brilliant.)

  3. I am not sure what rules are in effect right now. I think it is okay every other day between certain hours. I did water my front yard twice during the 100+ streak, but that’s it. I’m not a big yard waterer. The birds grow really quickly, so hopefully I won’t need to do this for long. I turned off the sprinkler yesterday and one of the birds walked up to it as if to see what was wrong. So I turned it on just enough for the water to arc up, and he took a shower. I think I have them trained.

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