Our good friends, Sue and Kim Poley decided this past winter that it was time for a facelift for their Bubbler Pond. They had followed our lead years ago and found a preformed pond on sale in the fall of 2004. They started with that pond, one Bubbler rock and basin/cascade for their Bubbler, doing all the work themselves. They soon added a second Bubbler rock and cascade for it. Sue had diligently added native trees and perennials to help feed the birds as well. In March, I took some 'before' photos.
The water flowed through the two main Bubbler rocks, into the cascades and then into the pond. The water constantly re-circulated via the pump and a filter. They used a similar heater to ours in the coldest weather.
All of this was functional and had attracted many birds over time. Sue has documented a variety of species including Yellow-billed Cuckoo and Red-breasted Nuthatch in addition to many resident birds. She has also seen at least 18 species of warblers, including Golden-winged, Yellow-throated and in 2015, a female Black-throated Blue Warbler. So, their bubbler was working yet it was not aesthetically pleasing to them. Their situation reminded me of this quote, which I think can apply to a garden or water feature as well.
"Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful." William Morris
Why not have a thing be both useful and beautiful at the same time? Sue and Kim wanted to achieve a more natural and appealing look by hiding the mechanics of the water feature. It was time to call in some pros to help them. I recommended the company that we've had here to work on our large pond, Bauer Falls LLC. The Bauers were part of the initial crew that installed our pond ten years ago. (Disclaimer - I receive no monetary benefit from recommending them, I just love their work and apparently, so do the birds!)
Josh and Caleb Bauer have installed water gardens and pondless bubblers for other friends and also for the Brightside Demonstration Garden in the city of St. Louis. Here are a couple of photos from the Brightside Garden. What a great resource! You can learn more about it here:
Work on the new look of the Poley Bubbler Pond began the first week of June. The old pond was removed first, then the pond area was dug out to enlarge it. A shelf was added for a shallow stream bed. By Thursday, June 7, 2018 the transformation had begun to take shape. Following the original idea of having two Bubbler rocks, Josh prepared two new ones with larger holes. This really helps the water to 'bubble' as it comes up through the rock instead of shooting high. Josh uses a larger pump to recirculate more water each hour. One rock would sit in the main pond area, the second in the shallow stream bed. The water then flows over all the crevices in the rocks. The valves can be turned to adjust the flow if needed.
On Monday, June 11, it was time to test the flow by partially filling the pond. Yes, it was still a construction site, but it was time to get excited. Sue and I were beginning to understand how well this was going to work!
The men wrapped it up that afternoon. The water would take a day or two to clear, but that is par for the course. Sue and Kim love the new look as the rough limestone rock blends into their native garden style so well. The sound of the moving water effectively masks other noise and helps them relax when they sit on their adjacent patio.
Here's the schematic. The water is pulled through the Bio-filter and then pumped up through both Bubbler rocks and out another pipe from the Bio-filter, into the pond and then recirculates. This system refreshes all the water in the pond 3 times an hour. There is an overflow on the left side that ensures the water will stay at the current level even if there is a heavy rainstorm.
Here is another view of the stream bed or shallow pool area on the left and a couple close-ups of the Bubbler rocks.
So, the work was done. Sue had added some wonderful, stable branches from her collection for perches. At this point, it was a waiting game to see who would venture in first. I went back to photograph any activity on Tuesday, June 19. The birds were not used to anyone sitting outside and watching them, Sue usually keeps tabs from inside the back door. Carolina Chickadees, Mourning Doves and others came to the feeders and kept an eye on me, aware and a bit wary of the green hat with the big lens.
An Eastern Chipmunk was the first to get a drink.
Blue Jays, Northern Cardinals and American Robins were using other trays of water or bird baths that Sue had nearby.
A House Finch watched me, quizzically.
A young Brown-headed Cowbird finally came down and took a drink from Bubbler Rock #1. Sue had seen this bird there several times.
The bird went over to the bird bath where its adoptive parent, a Northern Cardinal, met it with some food.
A Common Grackle came down but left quickly when it spotted us. Yep, Sue's birds were not used to our presence out there. But another issue was obvious to me. I counted five other small bird baths surrounding the Bubbler Pond, nestled into the garden beds. It is really important to offer fresh, cool water in this heat. Perhaps it was easier for the birds to go to these rather than investigate the new Bubbler Pond? "Sue, I think it's time for some tough love!" I really couldn't imagine a finer water source than this new water feature for the birds and maybe they needed a bit of a push to come to it. Sue agreed and emptied some of those bird baths and turned them over. This would be less maintenance for her, too!
I returned on Saturday, June 23 to sit again and see what might come. Birds were in the surrounding Serviceberries and at the feeders. The water was beautifully clear and inviting with room for plenty!
There was one interested customer, a young male Northern Cardinal. Well, the bird came pretty close to getting in. Patience will prevail. As Sue tucks in more native plants around the Bubbler, it will look even more natural to them.
I mean really, how can they possibly resist?? Sue told me today that the Northern Cardinals, House Finches, Eurasian Tree Sparrows and Carolina Wrens have been coming in and getting drinks and an occasional bath. I think the new Bubbler has begun to win them over! The residents will soon be used to it and by August when fall migration begins, the place will again be a hub of activity.