Along with all the work on the house, I’ve had a bit of time for some bird watching. When said like that, I know it sounds a bit like foppishly painting a wall and observing the time it takes to dry. Well, sonny, I don’t just watch them, I video tape them and make snarky comments in an highbrowed, anthropomorphic way on the internet, so who’s the nerdy twerp sportin’ a bow tie now, eh?
By now, the migratory song birds have long moved on and the ones that have stayed and eat bugs for their summer food have made that transition. Just about everybody that comes to feeder now are dedicated seed eaters or birds that mostly eat bugs, but like people, won’t turn down a free, all you can eat buffet. Every now and then, a dedicated bug eater shows up and wonders “where’s the party?” We had a Western Kingbird, who is a no nonsense fly catcher, land, look around with a bit of puzzlement and fly off. Now and then a Robin wanders through looking for the odd worm.
Since it’s now hot, I decided to add a water feature to their eating area. The amount of bird traffic had been diminishing, and since the Mrs and I use this as a passive form of entertainment, upping our game would be a win win for everybody. I put out bids for a water hole/pool type installation and everybody came in way over the budget, citing regulations and safety concerns. You don’t need a 6 foot fence and security guard for a bird bath. Well, maybe you do in D.C., but here in fly over land, you can stick those OSHA standards right where they belong.
I decided to go old school retro, grabbed a horse grain pan, dug a hole in the ground and plunked the pan in the hole. I added a few rocks, so the smaller birds wouldn’t need water wings to splash around. Filled it with water and ran back to the house to watch as the whole neighborhood came to play in their new pool. I have to say, wild animals don’t take well to changes in their known environment. And a lot of birds are blessed with the brains of, say, a bird. Bird brained described well what went on for the next couple of days. We saw a lot of birds standing on their tippy toes, straining to see just what fresh hell had been plopped into their beloved feeding area. A ground based UFO, you might say, from their reactions.
That is until the Sparrows showed up. Now, I’ve never thought of Sparrows as any more than a nuisance but it turns out, they are the intrepid nimrods of the avian world. Flew right down to the new installation, hopped up on the edge and grabbed a beak full of water. Next thing you know, one of the Sparrow tribe was splashing around, making everybody else look rather foolish. Score one for the common house pest. A Blue Jay was next and that pretty much broke the ice for the rest of them. Except maybe the Doves. They were incredulous and not easily bought off on the idea that a pool in the dining room was a good idea. I mean, you have to wait at least 45 minutes after eating before going in the water or you’ll get cramps and drown, right?
Turns out, they were just embarrassed to be seen using the pool. I guess the winter diet put on a few too many ounces, and who wants to be bulging out of your feathers, where God and everybody can see it. However, when nobody was around, they would sidle up to the pool, look both ways to make sure they were alone, step into the shallow end, splash once or twice, then walk off like nothing happened.
The most extreme reaction to change comes from those tasty, psychotic tree rats, the Squirrels. Holy WTF Batman! I take it from observing them, that Squirrels do not have a great sense of smell, or anything else for that matter, except maybe over reaction. We’ve had lots of brand new Squirrels coming to the feeder and every one of them freaks in the same exact way. Suffice to say, if humans get recycled in the great scheme of things, and come back as an animal, my druthers would to not be a Squirrel. Just putting that on record early, in case its important later. After seeing the same hole in the ground with water in it, for about a dozen times, they will calm down enough to sneak a drink. Then, some country cousin shows up and it’s all aboard for the next train to Stupidville.
One of the side bennies to having food and water in the same convenient location, is when our more exotic neighbors show up for a drink and a snack. Ricky Raccoon showed up first and has been coming around just about every night. The Mrs asked why he puts his hands in the water, and I have been told, a long time ago, that Raccoons do not have saliva glands and need water to eat. Turns out, NOPE. They do, but might have special sensor hairs in their hands, or just like to fool with water. I had heard the whole no saliva thing years ago from my Biology teacher, and hear my trapper buddies saying the same thing, still. Turns out science told us wrong and we bought it hook, line and sinker. When has that happened before, hmm?
While we were gone on a mini vacation to the frozen wasteland of Minnesota, we had a visit by a Tom Turkey and little white tailed buck, who likes to lick the pool dry. I foresee a conflict with Ricky if this continues. All in all, it’s been a great addition to our entertainment venue. The outdoor neighbors will be well watered for the hot season and mark this place as a must visit attraction for next year. Which means, by adding a pool, I’ve added a considerable price uptick when it comes to selling the farm this fall. That, plus all the fresh Squirrel you can toss a lip around.
Now, have been in Real Estate, I know it pays to know who you’re marketing to. City folks, used to their sophisticated ways, might struggle to understand the attraction of having dinner type material, placidly eating and drinking, right outside the kitchen window. I guess if you have to explain it, it’s not worth the bother.