Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Sparrow Spa Day

Winter is slowly descending upon northern Utah, and despite warmer temperatures for the past few weeks the nights are positively chilly and I’ve had my birdbath heater in position for several weeks. After all, there’s nothing more pathetic than watching a house finch peck at a frozen birdbath and look at it as if puzzling why they can’t drink the ice, but fortunately my backyard flock of sparrows and finches has a ready supply of water.

Of course, they haven’t treated that water quite as I anticipated. Within days of putting out the heater, my birdbath became quite the spa getaway and the surrounding patio is frequently splashed from flocks of bathing birds - and splashed more because they are so skittish that no bath lasts longer than a few seconds. Now, it’s important to note that while the temperatures have been decidedly warmer than normal for late fall, the birdbath is in the shade on a north facing patio. The resulting 40 degree or lower temperatures there aren’t what I’d call perfect for a cooling dip at any time, but the birds, especially the sparrows, can’t seem to get enough. It’s hilarious to watch them juggle positions in the basin and along the rim of the birdbath, and I’ve seen as many as a dozen birds at once crowded around what becomes an increasingly shallow puddle.

Of course, this does mean that you’ll see me several times a week shivering on the patio as I refill the birdbath with a bowl from the kitchen – the outdoor spigots having been sealed for the winter some time ago. Cleaning the birdbath is also an ongoing necessity, what with the leaves, dirt, and other debris getting into it from so many eager bathers. Nonetheless, it’s a thrill to watch the birds enjoy their makeshift spa, and I can’t recommend enough that you get your own birdbath heater or fully heated model so you can invite your backyard flock for a fun spa day.

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