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Water for the birds

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Old Thursday 26th February 2004, 14:46   #1
Elizabeth Bigg
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Water for the birds

Recently we've been monitoring the pond area and the little cascade - the water bubbles up in a small pool at the top, and falls into a lower pool before returning to the pond. A favourite spot for drinking is the ledge where the water runs out of the top layer. Looking at the playback pictures, the following diiferent species visited to drink between 8am and 9am - wood pigeon, starling, blackbird, robin, siskin, goldfinch, dunnock, house sparrow and bluetit. The robin was the only one brave enough to take a bath! (Minimum temperature overnight was -4.4C and it was still below freezing at 9am).

Addition - I've just realised that I have a photo of the cascade. A picture is rather better than a description, I think.
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Last edited by Elizabeth Bigg : Thursday 26th February 2004 at 14:52.
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Old Thursday 26th February 2004, 15:33   #2
snowyowl
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My pond is 9x9x4 (at the deepest part). Some day I would love to re-build it just to correct the errors that I made in design and construction. The reason that I don't tackle it is the size of some of the sandstone rocks that I used. Most of them formed part of the original basement of the house and when one basement wall had to be replaced with concrete blocks, the stones from the old wall were dumped in different spots all around the farm. I gathered them up and built my pond. The larger blocks are about 36"x30"x24" and weigh a a lot. I dug the pond by hand and moved the rocks by levering them onto a small stone boat and towing them behind my pickup. I moved them into position with crowbars and come-alongs.
I would love to put in a stream with waterfalls but just can't seem to come up with the motivation to move all of the stones and perenials.
Meanwhile the pond works well for plants and fish. The pond freezes for the Winter and thaws out in the Spring. Some of the original fish are still in there since I put them in back in 1998 and the population has grown from 9 to about 50. The reason that I'm not happy with it is mainly that the steep sides on the pond make it unfriendly for birds or wildlife. I also didn't get it as level as I would have liked. I've disguised most of the lack of level with judicious plantings of trailing plants. Maybe I'll build a ramp to help the birds and frogs.
My other water feature is small and incorprated into the rock garden. It has a water pouring into a bowl that I carved into a sandstone rock which in turn flows into a half barrel. The bird definitely use the bowl.
Meanwhile in Winter I use a rubber livestock feed pan with an electric immersion heater for the birds.
Sorry, didn't mean to ramble on this much!
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Old Thursday 26th February 2004, 15:53   #3
Elizabeth Bigg
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Hi Dan - that sounds like a lot of hard work!! Our pond was completely redesigned two years ago, as the first one was not well planned. We did it the easy way, and had it done by a specialist company - the only possible way, since my husband has a very long history of back problems. It is just a wildlife pond, so there are no fish - and this means the newts and frogs have a breeding area to themselves.

I'm interested that you can ensure a water supply when the pond is frozen, and this brings me to a question for you. In this country, we are always told of the importance of water for the birds to bathe, as well as to drink. It is said that bathing is necessary for them to keep their feathers in good order - so how do your birds keep their feathers in good condition, because I'm sure they won't bathe in the sort of temperatures you have. Presumably their feathers would just freeze into a solid block of ice?

Last night was really cold, by our standards - the minimum was -4.4C (around 24.1F)!
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Old Friday 27th February 2004, 13:35   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Elizabeth Bigg
I'm interested that you can ensure a water supply when the pond is frozen, and this brings me to a question for you. In this country, we are always told of the importance of water for the birds to bathe, as well as to drink. It is said that bathing is necessary for them to keep their feathers in good order - so how do your birds keep their feathers in good condition, because I'm sure they won't bathe in the sort of temperatures you have. Presumably their feathers would just freeze into a solid block of ice?

Last night was really cold, by our standards - the minimum was -4.4C (around 24.1F)!
Hi Elizabeth!
I have my Winter water dish set up so that birds can bathe in it if they wish but I've never seen one use it that way during the cold months. I suspect that the answer is that snow falling on them plus preening takes care of the problem but I don't really know. It is a great question and perhaps someone will supply us with an answer. Meanwhile, I'm going to do a little research and see if I can find a scientific answer.
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Old Friday 27th February 2004, 13:37   #5
Elizabeth Bigg
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Quote:
Originally Posted by snowyowl
Hi Elizabeth!
I have my Winter water dish set up so that birds can bathe in it if they wish but I've never seen one use it that way during the cold months. I suspect that the answer is that snow falling on them plus preening takes care of the problem but I don't really know. It is a great question and perhaps someone will supply us with an answer. Meanwhile, I'm going to do a little research and see if I can find a scientific answer.
Thanks Dan - I'll look out for it.
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Old Friday 27th February 2004, 18:25   #6
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Hi Dan.
we get a lot of our starlings still bathing even in our cold weather, they still need to keep their feathers in good condition they seem to bathe mostly just before going to roost, they have a good allover soaking shake themselves down then go into the hedges to preen themselves, most birds have a small gland at the base of their tail where they extract small amounts of oil which they spread along their feathers, it gives them a good all weather protection. this practice also rids the feathers of parasites, and puts the feather barbules back into place. hope this is of some interest. bert.
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Old Friday 27th February 2004, 19:52   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Elizabeth Bigg
Recently we've been monitoring the pond area and the little cascade - the water bubbles up in a small pool at the top, and falls into a lower pool before returning to the pond. A favourite spot for drinking is the ledge where the water runs out of the top layer. Looking at the playback pictures, the following diiferent species visited to drink between 8am and 9am - wood pigeon, starling, blackbird, robin, siskin, goldfinch, dunnock, house sparrow and bluetit. The robin was the only one brave enough to take a bath! (Minimum temperature overnight was -4.4C and it was still below freezing at 9am).

Addition - I've just realised that I have a photo of the cascade. A picture is rather better than a description, I think.


Hello Elizabeth I have just dug out my new pond on the lines of all wildlife one end is very shallow to allow all birds and the rest of wildlife means of escape, I have only just filled it with water on Monday so I am told to let it settle for about one week and guess what it's done nothing but snow &rain, when it clears up a little can get my bog plants in. all the best . wal-m
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Old Friday 27th February 2004, 21:42   #8
Elizabeth Bigg
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Originally Posted by walt-m


Hello Elizabeth I have just dug out my new pond on the lines of all wildlife one end is very shallow to allow all birds and the rest of wildlife means of escape, I have only just filled it with water on Monday so I am told to let it settle for about one week and guess what it's done nothing but snow &rain, when it clears up a little can get my bog plants in. all the best . wal-m
Good luck with the pond - ours certainly helps the wildlife. When the old one was drained, about 40 frogs were rescued and kept in a huge container - but they didn't think much of the new barren pond, and most of them hopped away immediately, but there are a fair number there now, two years on. It's amazing how the original pond was colonised - we didn't introduce any frogs, and there are no ponds nearby - but they arrived.
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Old Sunday 29th February 2004, 07:44   #9
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We have a small pond in our yard where the birds -- especially the robins and juncos -- will bathe as long as all the ice is removed. I've seen both spp bathe when the air temp is below 10 F. Like you, Elizabeth, I can't believe their feathers don't freeze before they get dry, but they seem to manage and the robins positively LOVE the water in all kinds of weather.

BTW, I've watched juncos and house finche take "snow baths." I guess some spp take dust baths, so why not snow, too?
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