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Bird bath

April 8, 2020

I’ve been hearing birdsong a lot these past few weeks, and it reminds me that I need to shift myself from my usual lethargy and hook up the garden hose so I can fill the birdbath. It hasn’t been raining much, and I imagine the birds would enjoy a dip in the pool. I remember the summer of the drought, the summer when the grass became parched and thin, and cracks appeared in the hard-baked dirt in the yard. Cicadas droned in the heat, and thirsty-looking birds sheltered in whatever shade they could find. It was the summer I took pity and filled a birdbath, sometimes three times a day, to give the birds some respite.

The bath was made of concrete aggregate with a course, pebbly surface. The inside of the bowl was as smooth as a water slide. It tilted rakishly in defiance of my best efforts to level it in the leafy shelter of the wild honeysuckle near the dusty viburnum hedge. Because of its tilt, the birdbath had a deep end and a shallow end, just like a swimming pool.

I’d imagined that birds would come gratefully to sip the cool water I provided, but I was wrong, or at least partly so. The wrens and sparrows did indeed perch daintily on the edge of the pool, and they did dip their beaks into the water, but this was only after the robins came. The robins were always first to arrive, diving in almost before I’d finished filling the bath. One particular robin would cannonball in before the others and would splash around as exuberantly as a seven-year-old at the community pool, until the water became shallow and smelly and more than a little bit muddy. So, I’d fill the bath again, and the rest of the robins jumped in for their turn at the swimming hole.

Once the robins were busy preening themselves in the shrubbery, the littler birds ventured in to take their own small baths, and they’d drink a bit from the robin-polluted water. I imagined them screwing up their tiny avian faces in distaste, and I’d take pity, and fill the bath yet again. And, while the little birds were splashing their little splashes, and sipping their little sips, in dove the bully robin once again to splatter away whatever he could. I could hear the watery riot from the back porch, where I sat with my iced tea, watching the action in the birdbath.

The first few times this happened, I shooed away the robins, but to no avail. The robins came first, no matter what. So, I kept watch, like a lifeguard, over the birds’ swimming pool, and refreshed the water until everyone seemed satisfied. Eventually, the birds flew on to some other yard, leaving the birdbath a murky, shallow swamp – not at all like the peaceful oasis I’d imagined it would be.

I’ve since made my peace with the robins, and now allow nature to take its course. The robins come first, and who am I to intervene?


One Comment leave one →
  1. April 8, 2020 4:49 pm

    It’s the same here, Kathi. The robins are really exuberant bathers, and they muddy the waters, but the others wait patiently for them to finish and for the water to be refreshed. Sometimes, keeping them all happy is a full-time job. But t it always feels like time well spent.

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