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The WarblerFall

Friday, July 29, 2022

 What was your Pandemic Project? Did you clean closets? Learn how to make sourdough? Pick up an instrument? 

Mine was inventing the perfect bird bath, something so irresistible that it would draw birds from the woods into the yard: birds I don't usually get to see.  I've been thinking about this problem ever since I learned the Magnificent Bird Spa was no longer in production, which was sometime around 2011. Oh, have I had fun with this wonderful creation. There was nothing like it on a hot summer day! But now it's old and the resin-based material it's made of is getting more brittle every year.  I felt a need to find an alternative, for the inevitable time when it breaks. 

Every time I went to a garden center or a wild bird supply store, I looked for something like the Spa. I looked online, again and again, for years. I never found it. Somehow the manufacturers of bird baths have never gotten the memo from wild birds about what they like. I knew it was up to me to come up with it.

I wanted to invent a bubbling bird fountain that would be affordable and easy to clean. Much as I loved the Magnificent Bird Spa, it was expensive ($350 in 2007), and it was a pretty big production to take apart and clean the basin and its 8 gallon reservoir. There had to be an easier way to get water to my birds.

 I also wanted to build something that would appeal to small forest birds like warblers, vireos and tanagers: something smaller, shallower, and noisier. The sound of trickling water is how birds find a bathing spot. A light went off in my head when I found a large, shallow basin at White's Mill, my favorite garden store in Athens, Ohio. I bought two, brought them home, and commenced thinking about how to create a fountain around them. By midsummer 2021 I had it figured out, but I kept tinkering with the components until I got it just right. I set it in the shady bed below my studio window and was thunderstruck by the action it got that late summer and fall. Warblers, vireos, tanagers, gnatcatchers, kinglets--they were coming right up to the studio window, enticed by the trickling water music below.

Black and white warbler (imm. female)

A fall-plumaged scarlet tanager bathes.

An immature white-crowned sparrow takes a sip.

Those of you who read this blog or follow my social media feeds know that I share things that make me happy. Uncharacteristically, I kept this close to my chest, posted not a single photo of my perfect bird fountain anywhere. I knew I had something very special here, but I wasn't sure how to make it available. I had an idea that it would be worth paying a little something to access my plans. It took my awesome friend Kristi Dranginis (originator of For the Love of Birds Festival) to show me what I needed to do to make it accessible to everyone. I'd never even heard of a one-page website, but I have now!

And so I developed a pitch for my idea and condensed into an elevator speech. Then I wrote a script for the video and put together the plans for constructing the fountain, with detailed instructions and photos. And in September 2021, my friend Shila and I spent a wild afternoon making an instructional video featuring me demonstrating exactly how to make this bird bath. It was really fun, and I learned so much about how to develop, package and pitch an idea.  The whole experience was a crash course in online marketing, and it's really rewarding to see how it's being received.

I call it The WarblerFall. Because of the work and money I've put into developing the idea and its website, there is a modest fee to access the instructional video and detailed guide. I think you'll enjoy the step-by-step instructional video, which brings you right into my garden, and I guarantee you'll have fun making your own bubbling bird bath, at a very reasonable cost. The whole thing can be constructed without tools for under $60, but oh, the bathing bird beauty bang for the buck! Check it out at

 I took a bunch of photos in the last couple of days to show birds enjoying it.
We're moving into late summer migration time, and I am going to get absolutely nothing done because this water feature is right outside my studio window and there is literally always something going on out there.
It's prime WarblerFall time! 

The 2021 iteration of my WarblerFall was on the ground. And that is really best, if there are no marauding mammals around. But the chipmunks in my yard developed the intensely annoying behavior of trying to jump the birds while they bathed, so the new setup looks like this. 

I put a LOT of flat rocks in the basin to give pools of varying depths. I absolutely LOVE playing with the rocks to create the prettiest water music I can!

Take yesterday, July 28, for example. Phoebe and I were watching two cardinals bathing together, and not one but THREE Kentucky warblers showed up! 

They peered down at the fountain, chased each other through the birches, and suddenly a worm-eating warbler appeared, also attracted by the trickling water!

To see these glorious denizens of the deep woods drawn into my yard, only inches away from my studio window, was such an affirmation, such a thrill! This is why I had to share my invention. 

But it took a newly fledged brown-headed cowbird to demonstrate all the delights of the WarblerFall. 
First, it stood in a shallow pool, squatted, and bathed there. 

Then it tried another shallower pool

Escalating, it stuck its chest right into the flow. 

I have never seen a bird stick its head right into the outflow

but this little cowbird was living large. 

I can't wait to see what late summer and fall migration brings to my WarblerFall. On October 13, 2021, I had my first-ever ruby-crowned kinglet come to bathe! Her bath was too quick for me to capture, but I got the tiny customer right before she took a dip.

If you'd like to see what all the fuss is about, and watch me going all Bobby Flay on you with a rapid-fire two-minute pitch, check it out at  

I've also made a Facebook page
where some fun stuff happens.

Brass tacks. If you decide to take the plunge and purchase the WarblerFall plans, and you don't get a welcome email right back, CHECK YOUR SPAM FILE. Many email programs see the links in my welcome email and toss it into spam/junk. 

If you still can't find it, email me at juliezickefooseATgmailDOTcom
and I'll be happy to set you up.


You had me at "I wanted to invent..." I'm heading there now!

Thank you from all us DIYers!


This looks great! How often do you clean it? And how?

I clean it every three to four days, depending on use. I take it apart and scrub it well, then refill. One tip that saves lots of time is to stockpile more flat rocks than you need. Scrub, rinse and set them to dry in the sun--that kills algae--and replace with fresh sunbaked rocks each time you clean it. That way your rocks always look clean. If it gets gross and full of droppings, the birds won't use it, so keep it as clean as possible.

Thanks, Julie. I'll have to have some additional electrical outlets installed before I can do this. It's a great idea.

Also, regarding this site, I would suggest that when you have a link to other pages, like your FB page, have it open to a new page. Otherwise, your blog page is lost.



Wow thank you Bruce! That was truly helpful. I never realized that I could do that, but I figured it out by reposting the links and hitting "Advanced" and selecting "Open link on new page." Awesome. Thanks again.


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