Backyard Water Tips
By Marci Hayden
Keep a dependable source of fresh clean water in your yard—it’s one of the most important things you can do to benefit backyard wildlife. Without it, critters will dig up plants searching for moist tubers, climb fruit trees for juicy treats, and bite into ripening tomatoes or other veggies – just to get a drink. Fresh clean water is an attractive and cooling feature in the yard for us to look at, too.
This needn’t be an expensive endeavor. Any large, shallow and fairly flat-bottomed container, preferably with sloping sides such as a thick plastic dish or painted ceramic pot, meets the needs of most yards. We have a simple standing birdbath in our yard located in a shaded prominent spot which attracts lots of attention during the day from all sorts of birds and squirrels (who knows how many raccoons and opossums visit after dark). Since our birdbath gets so much traffic, the water gets soiled and stale rather quickly and I need to give it regular attention all year round.
First make sure to keep it clean. Simply scrub out the container from time to time with a good stiff cleaning brush that you keep separately for this purpose. Don’t use anything at all except your elbow grease to clean wildlife water sources. If algae growth takes over or bird droppings darken a light colored plastic, that’s just the way it will go! Don’t ever resort to disinfectant cleansing products or bleaches of any kind! Just a quick scrubbing every few days or even once a week will remove the debris without poisoning the critters in the yard.
Then make sure to keep it filled. 2 or 3 inches is all that’s needed. Anything deeper will scare away timid little birds who may be too fearful to take a sip. If the container isn’t shallow enough, position a large decorative rock or even a brick to create an area with a lower-water level as well as a landing spot among the deeper water. This way critters and birds of all sizes will be welcomed.
Don’t forget, when temps climb high the water level can diminish dramatically overnight and you’ll need to fill it up often; in hot weather, this may be daily. Careful planning suggests that you locate wildlife water sources near to a hose outlet.
Bath time! While you may only intend to keep your feathered and furry friends hydrated, they may very well enjoy an occasional dip and flutter. If you place their water source within your vision from different vantage points in your yard, as well as within sight from inside windows, eventually you’ll get to glimpse bath time antics. Of course, this will only serve to remind you that their water needs to be refilled. Immediately after baths birds prefer a sunny perch, on a nearby branch or any other structure in the sun, to dry off and fluff up.
Beware! There may be cats lurking in the tall grass. All the neighborhood cats love to watch birdbaths. They can watch birds all day long and never tire. Let’s just not give them a chance to pounce on such easy prey. Recommendations are to keep birdbaths off the ground, and in an unhidden area with plenty of visibility so birds can keep their eyes on who’s approaching. For wildlife water sources that are to be set directly on the ground, the safest spots are open unobstructed areas with quick access to easy getaways and clear flight paths to tall trees or building structures.
Add a wildlife water source, one of the best ways to enhance your garden and attract birds, insects and other creatures.