The Mountain Eagle
Whitesburg KY

Watching birds bathe can be entertaining

I haven’t had an ornamental birdbath purposely erected on our place in decades, mostly because I came to the conclusion that they were breeding grounds for mosquitoes unless someone cleaned them out and changed the water every day. I have, never once, seen a fat robin or any other bird fly in for a bath and yell, “Oh lookey here, check out the free larva breakfast bar!”

Said larva tend to mature and fly away very quickly, at which point they become fighter pilots, armed with blood sucking, venomous, needles. They prey upon, spread diseases, and attack any human who dares to venture outdoors.

My wife is especially allergic to mosquito bites. Despite being armed and sprayed-down with a supply of Deep Woods Off that suggests she owns stock in the company, wearing longsleeved clothing, burning citronella candles and torches on the porch and yard, etc., Loretta usually has a few painful mosquito sores and blisters somewhere on her body from mid-May until late October.

I decided many years ago that our dry-weather yard birds could either find another place to bathe or suffer the indignity of poor personal hygiene if they intended for me to install a birdbath. It must have worked. Except for a few starlings and the occasional manure-specked cowbird, I have never noticed any dirty birds. And I’m convinced that the lack of a birdbath on the premises has saved Loretta many a mosquito wound.

Watching bird behavior doesn’t accomplish anything to save the world or make it a better place, but it may keep me out of trouble and it’s far more interesting than watching the grass grow or the rain gauge fill up.

Actually, given all the rain we’ve had lately, watching the rain gauge accumulate has not, recently, been as boring as you might suspect.

A few years ago, my buddy, Ralph King, gave me a huge rain gauge. The collection tube is just over 2 inches in diameter and about 20 inches tall. It has an incremental scale on the side that denotes rain accumulation in 1/8 inch increments. An inch of rain requires just over 3 inches of water to rise inside the tube and a red, floating disk shows how much rain has accumulated on the scale. It has rained so much and so frequently, of late, that I can actually see the little disk rising up the tube.

I use a few drops of Liquid Sevin insecticide to prevent it from becoming a mosquito farm.

You can get one at most farm supply stores. In the meantime, the one I have has never been used as a birdbath.

Meanwhile, back at the lack of a properly constructed birdbath, I find it entertaining to watch certain birds go about the process of cleaning up when there’s no bathtub.

Our resident tree swallows literally frolic in the shower. They fly straight up in the midst of a rain shower, go belly up and fall backwards to get their undersides wet, then light on a fence wire to fluff and shake themselves off, and then do it again, over and over and over. As many as a dozen barn swallows will be performing the same antics over the garden.

Red wing blackbirds often perch on the mailbox during rain showers, where they stand tall, lean back, and gently flap their wings to spray water onto their undersides. They fluff and shake themselves off, before commencing a ritual of preening that I equate to women plucking their eyebrows and applying make-up.

When the rain lets up, robins, wrens, bluebirds and even mockingbirds will, oftentimes, be found taking bath advantage of the short-lived puddles on our driveway or in the middle of Charlie Brown Road. Then they’ll find perches on the rock wall, fence line or nearby trees to finish up their grooming.

I find this incredibly fun to watch. I may have wayyyyyyy too much time on my hands, but, at the very least, I am easily entertained.

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