“It will never work” “They will completely ignore it” “It will always be filthy”
That was Mr. Flora’s Patch’s verdict on the general usefulness of a birdbath. Eventually he gave in, probably because it was easier. On a sale day at the garden centre, I got my birds a bath and proudly installed it by the birch tree where the feeders hang. We filled it with water and sat in the patio, with an anticipatory stance that was probably enough to scare the birds away even if the new, unfamiliar structure wasn’t going to.
Within twenty minutes, 3 species of birds had tried their newly discovered, dedicated feature: the first one, surprisingly, was the pigeon (he is usually a bit of a scaredy cat); the second one was the blackbird (frantic as usual); the third one was the robin (always nosy that one…)
The unexpected entertainment factor is that every bird has its own bathing style.
The dove and the pigeon’s disparity
The prettiest bathers have to be the collared doves. They sit on the ledge and try one foot first. They look like a 1920s young lady in a rather stylish pale grey bathing costume with a little black collar for good effect, extending her pointed toes to test the temperature before risking a full bath. Compared to the fat pigeon who lands straight in the centre with a big flop that sends the water over the edge, the collared doves are the most graceful creatures on Earth. When several visit together and sit around the edge, they look like a live incarnation of Pliny’s doves. It is magical.
The robin’s little engine
The wildest is the robin. He gathers momentum first by standing on the rim, looking intently at the water in great concentration. Then he jumps right in, plunging his head under water before coming up in a great bust of energy, the beads of water rolling down the back of his neck and flying in great arcs from the tip of his wings. He flaps his little wings so hard that he actually uses them as a method of propulsion, sending him right across the bird bath in half a dozen strokes, turning at the end and swimming back to his starting point like a tiny feather duster gone mad. He then comes back to rest on the rim for a minute, taking a breather before going back in for another wild bath. When the night falls, he flies up to the birch tree above, exhausted and happy, ready to fall asleep in a wet fluffy ball and dream of being a flying fish in a dish made of stone and carved roses.
The blackbirds’ back crawl
As usual, the blackbirds, both Mr. and Mrs., are rather energetic. Unlike the tidal wave of the pigeons, their effusions are like a rainbow of droplets. They manage to shake every millimeter of their body all at once, making the most of the cool water on a hot sweaty day. They come out looking disheveled and disappointingly not much less stressed than they were before their swim.
The goldfinches’ day out
Yesterday for the first time the birdbath was invaded by a flock of goldfinches, chatting away noisily as they shared the pool Roman style, on what looked like an organised spa day trip for small colourful birds. Unfortunately they were moving so fast that I never managed to get a single picture of the group in focus. I expect that their exciting chattering could be heard in a two-mile radius.
The sparrows’ disappearance
The sparrows actually like to go underwater! They sit on the edge for a bit, evaluating the depth of the pool, then they take the plunge and completely disappear, flat on the bottom, until suddenly their little heads emerge over the rim. They make me feel like a lifeguard on duty, ready with my resuscitation kit! As several of them do this together, I wonder if they’re holding some kind of competition, Le Grand Bleu style…
There are still some inhabitants of my garden who have yet to get their feet wet: I have never seen the wrens, the blue tits, the great tits, the long-tailed tits or the greenfinches capering in there. I am keeping an eye out and will update the post if I catch them.
I wish the squirrel would have a go as well. I bet that would be funny!
I must admit, one of the arguments against the birdbath was justified: it IS always filthy and a bit of a chore keeping it clean, but worth every scrub of the brush for the constant spectacle it offers.
I shall finish with the rudest of them all (no surprise there!)