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Birding Focus: Interesting stories of our feathered friends.

Northern Cardinal, at bath
© George H. Harrison

American Robin, at bath
© George H. Harrison

Baths of Summer

At no other time of the year are backyard ponds and bird baths more important, nor more active, than during August. A combination of heat, dryness, and the addition of young birds to the population make this month an exciting time to have a bird bath.

Any kind of bird bath will work, from one that is a bowl or dish on a pedestal, to a multiple-tiered, recirculating pool powered by a pump. Though still water is fine, any water that moves will be more attractive to birds, because they can hear the water moving from some distance.

One of the most common mistakes made with bird baths is deep water. Though birds may be able to drink from the edges, they will not bathe in water that is more than a couple of inches deep. This problem can be easily solved if a rock is placed in the water to create an island of shallow water. Even better is an island that is partly above water, so that the birds can land on that and then wade into the shallows for a bath.

Regardless of the kind of bird bath, it should contain clean water. In August, that means replacing still water daily, and moving water every week or two. Topping up the pools regularly will also help.

Bird baths in August are great fun. Imagine three or four juvenile American robins splashing in all directions. Or a pair of orioles or bluebirds drinking and bathing at the same time.

-- George H. Harrison