Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Robins Have Dirty Butts…

…Or maybe they’re just avian perverts. Of all the birds that visit my fountain, robins are the only ones that hop into the top segment and waggle their rear ends around over the water spray. They spend a lot of time there, and they make a lot of noise. I start to giggle and snort a little when I speculate, so I’ll stop there.

This is my fountain this year.

Whenever I take a picture of my stuff, it always looks much worse through the lens of my camera than it does through my glasses. I’ve checked to see if the lenses of my specs are rose-colored, and I don’t think so, or maybe my photography skills leave a lot to be desired. I look out at my fountain and think, “Gee, that looks nice today. I’ll take a picture of that.” And then I come inside, look at the picture and think, “Man, I really need to deadhead those petunias, pinch back the impatiens, haul out the power washer and hose off some algae, and … I didn’t realize that stupid immortal weed was back again!”

Anyway, this is one of my favorite places to sit and ponder during nice weather. I like the flowers, damp mulch smells good, sunlight doesn’t hit the corner near the fountain until later in the day, and I feel slightly hidden from view sitting in my plastic Adirondack chair behind the fountain. There’s only one hitch. Birds scream at me. A lot. They want me to get away from the fountain because they’re thirsty, their toes are hot, and their butts need a dip.

Eventually, being hollered at by birds, and thirst, makes me come back inside. I like watching their antics through my dining room window. I get a small variety of birds, all of which are interesting.

First, the most frequent visitors are the Donald Trump blackbirds. They remind me of him with their arrogance, bossiness, and the way they yell at the other birds. They’re all business and attitude. No more than two at one time will perch on the fountain, slurp, make sharp, barking chirps at any other waiting birds, and finish slurping. They turn around and face the yard before leaving, as if surveying their real estate holdings.

Then the Naughty Robins arrive. They wait their turns pretty well, pecking through the grass and the mulch for worms, and only one at a time uses the fountain. First they have a drink, then they hop into the bathing section and hose off their butts, flap wildly around, dousing their wings, and chirp in glee (or ecstasy). They might bathe for upwards of two full minutes. They calm down perched on the side, have another drink, and flutter off on their daily business.

Finches show up for fly-by drinks all during the day. I get beautiful yellow finches, which look like escaped canaries, plain Jane house finches, and purple finches with their slightly scarlet breasts. They don’t dawdle, but they do perch in my hanging flower baskets, waiting their turns and chattering with one another, as if they were ladies waiting to be seated in a tearoom for a little cake and coffee before going back to shopping. The blackbirds try to intimidate them by screaming at them, but the finches merely look mildly irritated and go back to gossiping. I’ve seen frequent groups of five finches at a time having a drink at the fountain.

Early in the morning and just at twilight, Little Old Lady Mourning Doves arrive to have a turn. I call them that because they behave like little old ladies meandering and dawdling through a day at gift shops. The doves are patient, sitting down in the mulch and absentmindedly preening themselves as they let the other, more aggressive birds go ahead of them. They may occasionally coo at one another. Sometimes it looks like they’ve decided to take a little nap while they wait. When they finally amble over to the fountain and lurch up onto the lowest tier, they rest and look around, as if trying to remember why they’re there at all. They never go on the top tier, preferring to cool their toes in the lower tier of water and gaze carefully around. They’ll kind of smack their little beaks, preen a tad, and then take a long, considered drink from the fountain. They cock their heads, as if trying to determine the vintage, have another sip, then hop down and amble away for another mulch nap. Two might occupy the fountain at the same time, but that’s unusual, and they’ll look at one another as if the second dove has committed a birdly social solecism. They’re done when they’re done, and not a moment before.

Twice a day, my yard fills up with birds, as much as wild birds will fill up anything. I’ll get a whole cluster of blackbirds stomping around screaming for water rights, finches perched on anything that will hold their weight and chattering up a storm, robins worm hunting, and doves patiently nestling in mulch heaps. The noise can be really annoying, mostly due to the blackbirds’ shrieking.

There are different waiting stations – out at one edge of the yard is a pin oak with a bird feeder, and lots of birds hop around underneath of it, pecking for seeds. My perennial coneflowers, columbine, and balloon flowers seem to be equally favored with the hanging plants for finches. And there’s mulch all over the place, which suits all of them. It’s fun watching them wait, take turns, and entertain themselves while waiting. It’s not something I’d have thought wild birds would do until I saw it happening myself, but the fountain offers them a fresh, cool, clean source of water, and they like the environment as much as I do.

With all that use (and evaporation), the water level drops an inch or two every day. I hose out the fountain and add “safe” treatment enzymes in the evening. Sometimes there are unhappy surprises. A week or two ago, I thought there was large leaf in the fountain, but it turned out to be a baby bird, which had somehow fallen into the fountain and drowned. I looked all over for the nest, but couldn’t find it.

The fountain was a graduation present to me from myself. When I finally got my long-sought and much-delayed college degrees, I knew I wasn’t going to throw a party, nor was anyone else. I didn’t even really want a cake or punch. I wanted… a monument. Not much of one, but something tangible to mark my achievements, something to lay my hands on, something I’d see often, as a self-esteem booster, something I could enjoy for many years. I shopped a couple of garden supply houses and looked at all kinds of fountains, fancy, whimsical, ones that sat low on the ground, spectacular arrangements with five tiers, things with faces and fairies and frogs, but none of them suited. All I could think of when I looked at those was “I’m going to outgrow liking them, and besides, I have no interest in scrubbing out those crevices over and over and over.” Then I saw this one, and the tag on it said “organic design” which I think is code for “looks kinda like something in nature.”

It cost me $400 dollars, I had to get men to help me set it in place, and I spent an extra $100 on a new pump two years ago, and a heater for it for winter months 4 years ago.
I have enjoyed it every day for 6 years, and I intend to enjoy it every day for at least as many more years. It’s exactly the kind of monument I wanted – it’s unobtrusive, practical, fun, needs maintenance, and it brings me modest, comfortable joy.

While I did tell family members that it was a graduation present for me, I never told them it was a monument. I don’t need anyone else to be proud of me, I just like being proud of myself; it’s enough. Just like my fountain. And it’s only fitting that a comparatively modest reminder for me be enjoyed, pooed in, and used as a love bath by birds – it adds just the right amount of humor and goofiness that appeals to me.


Brigitte said...

Ah! Dirty-butted robins are just what we needed to bring lightness and cheer to the day. ;-)

Anonymous said...

Oh, Joan, I've wanted a fountain for years and years but can never find one that "grabs" me. Yours is lovely because of what you've done with it.

Hubby has started to plan how he's going to run the plumbing, so I'm getting closer, but I still have to find one that I like or build it myself (something else I've considered for eons).

Yours seems to me to be the perfect momument and once again you amaze me at how perfect in an "I'd never have thought of that!" way your choices are.

As I inch ever closer to becoming a fellow fountain-ist, I'll think of you!

Rennagayle said...

As a fellow bird watcher extraordinaire, I couldn't resist posting. I spend far too much time watching the antics of the local birds in my birdbath. Alas, I don't have a fountain....yet.

Do you s'pose maybe those Robins are French...and female? Maybe they think your fountain is a bidet. ;-Þ

BoS said...

Thank you all for your nice remarks. It's a lot of fun having a fountain, and the robins make all my family members laugh. I feel particularly environmentally friendly in the winter because it's often the only source of unfrozen water around for the wee chirplings.

I hope that you two who want fountains will find the ones that are just perfect for you and get as much enjoyment from them as I do.

And, I do think the robins are using the spray as a birdie bidet, probably.

Today was a big day for the goldfinches; it was like an invasion of them -- I wonder if they are on their way somewhere?