Living Columns & Blogs

In need of some flying friends? Fill that bird bath

The pleasure of seeing some interesting birds, whether at home or when visiting the Northwest’s many outdoor areas, can be enhanced if their attraction to water is remembered.
The pleasure of seeing some interesting birds, whether at home or when visiting the Northwest’s many outdoor areas, can be enhanced if their attraction to water is remembered. skeyser@kcstar.com

Thanks to our cold, wet spring, the weeds took over various parts of the yard. One of those was the manmade waterfall and its stream that runs through the backyard. It’s a favorite place and provides many hours of pleasure — especially during the summer months. This past week the jungle was finally removed and there were instant rewards once the work was finished. The birds discovered its return almost immediately. The first surprise was a Bewick’s wren. These perky little birds are usually heard more than seen. This one seemed determined to explore every inch of the newly exposed terrain.

It darted into all the small places that are part of the waterfall. It took a long bath in one pool made to accommodate small birds. It flew from rock to rock making sure every inch had been explored and probed for those insects that seek out damp, dark places. The wren wasn’t the only insect eater drawn to the sounds of tumbling water. A vireo landed on a small log at the top of the main waterfall. It caught a quick bath and drink before a larger visitor dropped into the pool above the waterfall. Robins love to bathe and this one was no exception. He was oblivious to other birds exploring the newly exposed stream and pools. Towhees and song sparrows were equally interested but the hummingbird was the most entertaining.

Hummers enjoy bathing as much as any other bird. “Showering” is more to their liking but they will flutter and bathe on the edge of some bird baths. This one spent time flirting with the spray of water tumbling over the rocks. It doesn’t take much water to satisfy a hummingbird’s desire to bathe. Watching the little Anna’s bouncing in the air above the fall’s spray was great entertainment.

The pleasure of seeing some interesting birds, whether at home or when visiting the Northwest’s many outdoor areas, can be enhanced if their attraction to water is remembered. For years, one of my favorite places for taking a driving break was on the Olympic Peninsula and along the road to Solduc Hot Springs. It is found just inside the entrance and not far from where you turn off Highway 101 just west of Lake Crescent. There was a small waterfall but a wild one and one bird was always found searching for food right in the middle of the churning waters. Dippers are fairly easy to see when you are visiting or camping near one of the rivers or large streams that are so abundant in this part of Western Washington.

Walk along a large or not-so-large river’s edge. Keep your eyes following this shore line and it shouldn’t be long before you spot a dipper. They hop from rock to rock or fly low over the water to find more feeding areas. Then they poke and pry in shallow and active parts of the river. You can actually get pretty close before they fly off. Even then, if this is a good feeding area, they won’t fly far. While they are searching for aquatic bugs and insects, they do their deep knee bends. Hence the name, “dipper.” These aren’t water birds. They are actually passerines (perching birds) and they “fly” under the water.

Water, especially during the hottest days of summer, is a natural bird attractant and whether they are looking for a cool drink or a bath in your yard, or doing what comes naturally far from home, don’t forget to look for birds wherever an easy source of water is found.

Write to Joan Carson at P.O. Box 217, Poulsbo, WA 98370. Include a self-addressed, stamped envelope for a reply. Or send an email to joanpcarson@comcast.net

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