On this first day of spring, let us recognize and celebrate birds!
To begin, are you still thinking about where you might install a bubbler yet want to get some water ready sooner for the birds? Here is an older post that I did on more ideas for moving water. These features are easy to incorporate into your garden areas - and you don't have to limit yourself to just one! We have two drippers on birdbaths and two fountains in addition to the Bubbler and Pond. They are all visited every day during the warmer seasons!
Take a look here: Simple Ways to Add Moving Water for Birds
In a short time, plants will be emerging and it will soon be warm enough to fill those bird baths. This one is an antique that we level up in place on an oak stump, fill with pea gravel so the birds can see how shallow it is and start the dripper. The birds do love having easy access to fresh water!
This is the "Year of the Bird" according to the Audubon Society and National Geographic Society.
Did you know?
“If you take care of the birds, you take care of most of the big environmental problems in the world.”
—Thomas E. Lovejoy, Tropical Conservation Biologist and National Geographic Fellow
Here's a link to explain and help us understand :
To begin, in case you missed these, here are the links to Parts One and Two. (They will open in new pages.)
More than half of all the bird species in the world belong to the order Passeriformes, also called passerines or perching birds. They are the largest order of birds, numbering some 5,700 species and the dominant avian group on Earth today. They have four toes, three directed forward and one backward. They vary in size from small to medium or 3-46 inches in overall length and include all the songbirds. Passerines have evolved a great diversity of feeding adaptations and for these different food habits, various structural specializations have developed, especially in the bill and feet.
You can read more about passerines here: Passeriform
And here: What birds are passerines and why
Passerines need perches to forage from, to rest on, to build their nests on and to feed their young. They also are birds that are likely to come to water features. So, it helps to think like a bird in order to attract the most perching birds. We must look at the world from their point of view and give them what they need most -
At first glance, one might think that our Bubbler area is a bit messy with all those branches. If that's what you were thinking, well, you win the prize. It is intentional. It looks that way because birds LIKE it a bit messy! I have highlighted some of the most favored 'magic' branches on which small birds like to land. Most of these are sturdy enough for even larger birds like Blue Jays and American Crows. A sturdy branch, not a soft, mushy one is the best choice for a perch. Decaying branches are great for scattering into leaf litter so birds can eat any insects within them. These branches will eventually break down and enrich the soil. For a perch to support birds, it's just best to choose stronger branches that are stable.
Notice the branches laying on the large Bubbler rock. They are there for birds like this Black-throated Green Warbler. See how his front 3 toes and 1 back toe easily straddle the branch? This bird is comfortable clinging to it. After the warbler checked me out to be sure it was safe, it went to the Bubble of water.
Pretty soon, friends came in to join the bird for the party - two more Black-throated Green and five Tennessee Warblers! They lined up, watched and could hardly wait to have a turn.
Just to the right and above the two birds in that photo is the grapevine branch. A lot of birds land on it to look at the water from there and this is what they see.
They might pop in on the grapevine branch after feeding in the hydrangeas, like this female Black-throated Blue Warbler did last fall.
Now, behind that grapevine there used to be a more open area and the birds would stage from a viburnum a few feet away. Last fall, my friend, Wally George, brought me a gift of a small cedar tree that he had cut to be used for additional perches. Wally has had great luck with a cedar perching tree attracting birds to his own bubbler! Well, this one for me has become a perfect 'set of stair-steps' from the viburnum! I put it in a pot with gravel to support it and tried it in a few places to see how it would best work into the area.
Cedar is fairly rot-resistant. The next step was to mix up a small batch of cement with sand and gravel to secure the cedar. I emptied the pot and we lined it with a plastic bag, using the pot as a form. We positioned the cedar tree in the bag and then used a trowel to put the cement mixture around it and let it set up. After a couple days, I pulled out the cemented tree, dug a hole where the pot had stood and set the cedar tree into the ground. It still can be lifted and moved, but at least it now has a cement base to stabilize it and should last quite a while in the ground.
Many birds have used "Wally's Cedar" or the "WC". To name a few, here are images of a Carolina Chickadee and a Blue Jay which are local suspects and a Chestnut-sided Warbler that came through last fall. Gee, thanks, Wally!
Just behind the large Bubbler rock and next to the Basin is the small White Oak with Virginia Creeper climbing up its trunk. Birds like this White-breasted Nuthatch and Brown Creeper use it to approach the Bubbler after finding a meal of insect larvae in the vine.
From the tree, they move to another perch or the Bubbler rock to get a drink and help that tasty morsel go down the hatch!
There are many vertical living tree trunks for birds like these passerines and woodpeckers to use in the woodland area around the Bubbler. Together with the horizontal branches of living shrubs and selected additional perches, there are many places for birds to cling, forage for food and find their way to the water.
There are lots of ways for birds to access the Basin area as well. The small Blackhaw Viburnum to the left of the Basin is probably where I have photographed most of the warbler species that work their way down through the canopy. They can stay partially hidden in the shrub until they feel safe that there are no predators around. Then, they can move closer to the water to check the depth and drink or bathe.
These next three warblers are all in the small viburnum. The more common Yellow-rumped Warbler is often seen here in winter and in migration before it heads to Canada to breed. What a looker!
Only once have I seen a beautiful Cerulean Warbler here. This bird is on the Watch List - its population is in decline due to severe habitat loss.
The Golden-winged Warbler is also in this high-risk of extinction category and there are efforts underway to increase its habitat areas for survival. I have been very fortunate to see these birds a bit more regularly.
Indigo Buntings and others use the perch in the Basin itself to get closer to the water.
A Rose-breasted Grosbeak thought about bathing for a long time, resting near the water while it sat on the branch, nearly hypnotized by the sound of the water. I have seen this behavior often in birds that arrive in the morning after having flown all night to find our peaceful setting.
Now is the time to get ready for our Missouri spring migrants. I hope this post has given you some ideas on how to add more native plants and magic branches near your water features so that you may welcome more birds! It may seem obvious to most of you, but I think this bears repeating:
"If you build it, they will come!"
The birds have been a bit confused, first we were gone for 12 days and now this! We have had Men At Work giving the exterior of the house a facelift. The birds finally figured out that it's safe to come in again once the trucks leave in the afternoon. Weekends have been a bit better with more activity. On Sunday, I finally had a list of 20 species for the sunny, warm day.
Carolina Chickadees, White-throated and Song Sparrows came in to drink, rest and bathe in a somewhat relaxed mood.
A Mourning Dove preened on a branch behind the basin, a favorite place in the afternoon.
About 6:00 pm, I spotted a large bird that flew in low. It was one of the Barred Owls. We have been hearing them fairly consistently around dusk and through the night. It went to the sump puddle to take a few drinks.
The owl flew up to a small tree near the property line and I stepped out to get a couple more photos.
The light was going at 6:05 p.m. and I wanted the bird to feel welcome, so I stepped back inside. Then, the owl started calling and its mate flew in beside it! We both got to see them for the first time together this year. That was a great moment! We wonder if they have a nest and where it might be. Later in the evening, I checked the cameras and found that one of the owls had gone fishing.
I just couldn't tell for sure, but I think the owl came up empty. Perhaps they both were luckier with voles or rabbits!
Stay tuned for a follow-up post: Bubbler Water Features - Part Three
Here are links to the first two posts from late 2016 for reference and review:
Wow, we have now had over 30,000 visitors to our website! Thank you all for sharing our experiences with your family and friends, it's amazing!!
Margy and Dan
It's fun to go places but it's always good to get back home. The birds have returned, although I thought for sure I heard the Carolina Wren giving me a scolding for being gone!
Pine SIskins have come in to use the feeders on colder days. They were hopping around looking for food or grit to help digest their food last Friday, 2/9/18.
A species that has been challenging for me to photograph is the American Crow. They are very wary birds. I heard them come in one morning and stood very still behind the camera, just waiting and watching for them. However, a surprise came instead and perched nearby. It was a Sharp-shinned Hawk looking for a meal. This was my first sighting of the hawk this year and it didn't stay more than 15 seconds before zooming off to the west.
My patience paid off and one of the crows came down a bit later. I had put just a small amount of bark butter out for the Brown Creeper, and of course, the crow spied it a mile away. The bird was thirsty and drank at the basin, at 'the bubble' and even from the pond before leaving.
Even though we've gotten small amounts of rain, it has been the driest winter in 40 years according to my friend, Wally George. The birds aren't the only ones who are thirsty. On Saturday night, 2/10/18 there was a real party going on.
Even a Barred Owl came in on Valentine's Day. We heard a pair later that night, crooning together.
The Brown Creeper finally found some bark butter and the first Song Sparrow of the year came in to bathe and look for food under the feeders. One of the Yellow-rumped Warblers slipped in on a cold day, too.
It seems that the Bubbler is busiest on the day preceding a storm and on the icy day itself. A female Hairy Woodpecker, Red-bellied Woodpecker and a Northern Flicker made appearances on Sunday, 2/11/18. Temperatures dropped into the teens the next morning.
That day, this American Robin seemed to have the most sleet pellets of all the birds on its back .
By Thursday, 2/15/18 the high temperature here was 82.5 degrees, a new record. And less than 36 hours later, we had snow all morning. Gotta love St. Louis' roller-coaster weather.
More wet weather is promised this week to help break the winter drought. Birdsong is increasing, I'm seeing just a bit more color in the goldfinches and cardinals. Can spring be that far away? If one still needs a winter break, check out the birds that visit the Panama Fruit Feeders. The Live Cam is sponsored by Cornell Lab and the Canopy Lodge. Many colorful tropical species can be seen!