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Bird Bath Thanksgiving


 The new thing is how many birds are coming everyday.

As I write in my journal at the kitchen table in the morning, I can see the birdbath in the garden. Things are different this year.

I’ve been watching “bath behavior” all year and have observed many interesting things. The smaller birds of summer time like the sparrows and finches lift their heads after taking a sip, as though they are gargling. They’re competitive and rush other birds whose company they don’t appreciate.

At this time of year, however, they are outnumbered by bigger birds that may be migrating. (I’m not very bird knowledgeable.) Blue birds, western scrub jays, and the occasional gold finch have brought in flashes of color. There are many other larger brownish birds I don’t know and “creepers” that walk the coyote fence poles. Some of these splash around in the bath as though they are more accustomed to water, and a few of the small birds began to mimic this behavior in the shallows.

Now flickers and robins have arrived in large numbers, and they reveal an aggression and confidence that must have to do with their size. The robins are avid bathers, and a big dude monopolized the bath for a time one day. It sprayed water as though motorized, and then it settled right in the middle of the bowl for a while as though vacationing in the Caribbean. Lesser birds simply watched, whether with resentment, envy, curiosity, or simple patience I could not say.

The new thing is how many birds are coming every day. I provided a bath last year that was much less popular, and I don’t recall the robins and flickers. Sometimes there may be as many as seven or eight big birds flapping and shoving to gain a place on the rim. By midmorning I need to refill the bowl. Some seem to use it as a toilet, and so I have that reason as well to replenish during the afternoon.

The newspaper reported this morning that rainfall measured out at the Santa Fe Airport is less than half the normal of about 11 inches. I began to notice trees dying all over town this summer, and a study published recently in the journal Nature predicts the ongoing devastation of a mega-drought. Like all the other creatures, birds will have less and less to eat. I haven’t been feeding them because it was causing a pigeon and rodent problem, but I also know that the populations need to adapt to the amount of forage naturally available.

I check in with the bird bath many times during the day, and it has given me a new experience of pleasure. When you do something good, sometimes you need a thankyou as reinforcement. However, as the birds flock in to drink and splash, their eagerness lets me know what an important thing the bath is. I had no idea, and I feel blessed by the discovery.

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