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Crazy Mad Spa-ful of Birds

Sunday, September 2, 2007

You'll have to believe me when I tell you this is not unusual. Two cardinals, an eastern bluebird, a tufted titmouse and a cedar waxwing, all bathing at once. The Word is Out on this bird bath, folks.

August at Indigo Hill is just flat-out ridiculous for birds. Especially when it's hot, and the fabulous Bird Spa is clean and bubbling away, and it's literally the only accessible water for about a mile around. It is deleriously, ridiculously good. I' ve been working on my book, perched on the drafting stool by the studio windows just so I can keep an eye on the Spa, and I barely get anything done for all the birds coming in to it. I spend much of the day dropping everything, grabbing the camera, talking to myself and laughing out loud at the things I see. Anyone who calls on the phone has to deal with the zip and zing of my camera shutter as I deploy it in the middle of a sentence. I don't care who's calling. If there's a pewee at the bird bath, they're going to have to listen to the camera.

It's hot out there, and when the birds get a load of that clean bubbling water, they literally start panting for it, like this lovely cedar waxwing. You can definitely see how that gape could handle a full-sized bing cherry.
There's really nothing I don't love about this bit of bird-attracting gear. It has it all--a capacious reservoir, a fairly easy-to-clean design, generous size, nice loud burbling sound, a powerful pump. The very best thing about it is the way it pulls woodland birds right into the yard; birds that wouldn't have anything to do with a feeder; birds that are simply thirsty and want to take a bath. Cedar waxwings, for instance, are not going to come to a feeder for any commercial food. They could be lured in with pokeberries, I suppose, but they aren't birds you can expect to come calling. And yet the Spa drives them nuts.

Take the eastern wood-pewee, a flycatcher related to the phoebe. (Take my pewee, please!) Ever see one of those at a feeding station? Not unless there's a bug he wants on it. But here he is, contemplating a quick sip or maybe a bath at the Spa right below him.
Same thing applies to red-eyed vireos. That's a mighty nice bird to see at eye level, from the comfort of your studio. When do you ever get to see pewees and vireos bathe? When you've got a recirculating bird bath in a sweet spot. I know, his eye doesn't look very red. That's another one of those bird names, like red-bellied woodpecker, that works better if you're a turn-of-the-century ornithologist examining a bird in the hand.

Notice how many times I've used the word "clean" in this post? That's because I've figured out that birds are infinitely more attracted to a freshly-scrubbed and filled bath than one that's got droppings and feathers floating around in it, or scuzzy algae covering it. They sit in the trees overhead, watching me give it its twice-weekly scrubbing with Ajax, sending me telepathic instructions.

You missed a spot over there on the bowl. There's still a patch of algae there.
Thank you, Mrs. Waxwing.
Are you done yet? Because I'd really like to take a bath now.
Going as fast as I can.
Would this cedar waxwing immerse those exquisite feathers in anything but a freshly-cleaned Spa? Nope, nor should she. And neither should Baby Wax. Awwww! Gotta love the striped onesie.
All photos, unbelievably enough, taken in a single afternoon, August 29, 2007. Weather sunny, humid, scraping 90 degrees. There are dozens more, but that's enough for one post. I am definitely going to melt my computer with all these pictures. And I just got back from the Washington County Fair, where there were fancy chickens and bunnehs and goats and plates of fried dough that looked for all the world like gutpiles. There. Used it on Sunday. Thanks for all your comments on the last one. Loved 'em.
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