There are many bonds between humans and other living creatures. But the most powerful bond of commonality is water. Life is sustained by water. Animals and humans need it to survive. Like humans, animals use it for cleansing and drinking. Amphibians, fish, reptiles, and some insects need it for reproduction.
Wild animals can get water from puddles, dew on grass, raindrops on leaves, and from the food they eat. They need a habitat that includes a plentiful supply of fresh, clean, accessible water. If the canals or lakes are steeply angled, they are near useless to many animals. And to butterflies, free-standing water is undrinkable.
During the blasting heat of summer, a good water source is critical for wildlife. Since we are rapidly approaching that time of year, I thought I would share some of my summer projects with you. I set up water habitats in my yard. It is quite simple and fun to do. Children love taking an active role in making the habitats that will soon give life to many different species.
Photo: krukus Photobucket.com
Dehydration becomes a life or death issue. Especially for small birds. Birdbaths are a great way to provide water for animals. Additionally, they provide focal points for landscape designs and endless hours of viewing entertainment. Birdbaths are easy and popular for providing water sources. They can be purchased or made at home. You can even look around for naturally formed baths. Hollowed-out stumps of trees or rocks with wells in them can trap sprinkler and rainwater.
As you look for a location for your water station, consider the presence of predators. Placement should allow the bathers safe haven from sneak attacks. Bushes nearby offer bird perches for preening as well as protection. But take care to make sure the shrubbery is not low and close enough to turn the bath into a birdie smorgasbord for the neighborhood cats. That really isn't a Kodak moment you want young minds to capture. The lower the bath, the more open space around it is needed.
Photo: kariccio Photobucket.com
A distance of 15 feet away from heavy shrubs is good for ground-level baths, but taller baths can be located closer. Baths with textured bottoms allow the birds firm footing. A simple way to provide this is to layer a smooth bottom with sand or pebbles. Keep the water in the bath shallow, no more than two to three inches deep in the middle with gently sloping sides. Contrary to popular belief, size is not important. But if they are less than a foot in diameter, they will be primarily used for drinking only. Baths that are 24 to 36 inches in diameter will encourage a number of birds to bathe and drink simultaneously and party sumptuously.
Be imaginative. You can use simple things like tin or foil plates, ceramic or plastic saucers, or a garbage can lid. Birds are attracted by the sound of running water. You can purchase kits or make your own device. Punch a hole in the side--not bottom--of a bucket or large can, fill with water and hang it above the birdbath. The size of hole should let 10 to 20 drops a minute dribble into the bath. Covering the bucket will keep out debris and slow evaporation. Freshen and replenish the water on a consistent basis. Scrub away algae when you see it begin to accumulate. Algae just loves bird-fertilized water.
These beautiful, winged creatures can not drink the standing water that a birdbath would provide. Fluids are acquired via their proboscis, the long, tube that resembles a hollow tongue. The butterflies often "puddle" by sunny, damp areas and draw moisture from the sand or mud. You can create a watering hole for these insects with an inexpensive coffee can or like container. Using earth or sand, fill the container, dig it into the ground and add water. Rocks can be added to the sides and middle of container to serve as landing pads.
If you are particularly skilled and have the finances, a garden pond with aquatic plants and vegetation around its edges is ideal for attracting animals that use ponds. Irregular shaped ponds provide extra fingers of space for greater variance of habitat and are attractive to a number of species. When planting a pond, you want to offer four layers of vegetation from completely submerged to completely exposed.
You can create a man-made pond or purchase any number of structures at retail stores. Be wary of pre-made ponds that are steep. They were designed for fish but can be customized for birds by adding rocks that sit above the surface serving as landing pads. Stones can also be added below the surface. And a nearby tree with overhanging branches will serve as perches.
Your water work project will give you pleasure all summer long as you dance with nature in her infinite cycle of ebb and flow. A healthy yard attracts healthy wildlife. Healthy wildlife will yield a healthy yard. Ah, water, the gift of life.