Saturday, June 21, 2008

Drought Takes Toll On Birds Too

When hot and sultry days of summer bring thirst to the South and salvia droops and impatiens hang their pretty heads, it is then we must be aware of the needs of birds.

There has been neither dew nor rain for days and a bird must wet its whistle if there is to be song in the red-leafed maple tree. So we turn on the sprinkler.

A bold robin is the first to come under the delightfully refreshing drops. He smacks his beak as if he's tasting the wet stuff. Evidently he's delighted with the taste. He fluffs his feathers, shakes himself like a feathered Elvis, then smacks his beak again. He moves into the pool, dimpled by drops of water from the sprinkler.

A female towhee flutters down timidly to sip the water. Acting as if she's on her lunch break, she stays but a moment, just long enough to take a quick shower. That darling of the yard, the chickadee, comes floating in and alights ever so lightly upon a rock washed by the flowing water.

The robin has moved farther into the pool, standing knee-high in the water and seems to close his eyes. A fat bee is droning on the begonias. The day is drowsy with noon.

Yellow eyes gleaming, a brown thrasher plunges into the pool, disturbing the sleeping robin, who, frightened, bolts away. Bathing and fluffing his feathers, the thrasher seems to be bold and self-assured. But wait, here comes a blue jay screaming his head off, followed by another. It looks as if he well alight on the thrasher and that's enough to make Mr. Bold Guy fly away through the shrubbery, leaving the pool to the jays.

Bathing, shaking wet feathers, preening . . . the jays take over for some minutes. One scolds. Not another bird in sight. Evidently the scold must be for the mate, who must be crowding him in the shower. They take another bath but use separate tubs this time. Now they are gone.

Empty of avian creatures for awhile, the pool soon plays host to a small band of house finches, probably mama, papa and four young. They bathe in the water, then one rises in a tiny welter of spray, scuds with tingling wings to the edge and perches there on the rocks, tossing a shower around him.

No summer day, and especially one with a pool of clear water, can get by without a visit from the troubadour, the mockingbird. He stands on the rocky edge, raises his tail and wings, pulls them down, then drops onto the silvery rocks barely covered with the gurgling water. Splashing and flashing, wetting himself all over, he finally hops onto the edge of the pool and fluffs his feathers.

Before he is through with his primping, house finches again descend on the pool, look it over, and without drinking or bathing, leave. Under the refreshing spray are two gray-bodied, pink-footed doves.

A noisy Carolina wren, poking in and out all the rock crevices around the pool, finds the little waterfall refreshing as he hops hurriedly through it, bursting into song as he flies away.

Hidden in the red-leafed maple tree, a robin is signing a song to the hot summer day.

Albino Crows Sighted