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Felder’s Birdbath

Felder Rushing

Donuts on Cake

Motion is one of the most appreciated yet least planned-for qualities of gardening. Looking out the window on a hot summer day, our eyes catch sudden movements, pulling our attention into the unfolding scenes.

I’m not going to wax poetic about the subtle shapeshifting of shrubs and trees as they grow over the years, or the nearly imperceptible way leaves and buds of young, not-quite-flowering sunflower plants track life-giving Sol from when it rises in the morning until it sets late afternoon, or the dramatic unfolding of a night blooming cereus cactus flower.

It’s the little things that get me, like leaves fluttering to the ground, flashes of shimmering dragonflies and green anole lizards in pursuit of prey, and even an old possum setting off security lights late at night while quietly shuffling across the patio - all unexpected visual treats.

But among my favorite garden motions are bird antics. Glittering hummingbirds hovering near flowers or feeders, young fledglings hopping on the ground while learning to fly, and mockingbirds flaring wings in their unique “flush pursuit” of startling caterpillars to pluck from the lawn. And I was amused by a redbird’s incessant fluttering at his own reflection in a large mirror attached to a toolshed to make the garden seem larger; hanging a plastic flamingo there finally deterred him.

But those are not exactly planned for, they just happen in any well-rounded garden. To up more predicable action, I added an extra feature. As a certified garden wildlife gardener, I have everything required by the National Wildlife Federation for urban wildlife, including shelters like evergreen flowering and berry shrubs and even a rough woodpile and all the sources of food those provide, and, crucially, a steady source of water.

My main two water gardens with their splashy fountains are fine for furry critters, but birds, butterflies, and bees need shallow water with quiet edges. Which brings me to birdbaths.

Though I love my bottle trees and other folk art, I’m not a fan of cheap or flimsy; I want accessories that say Felder’s yard. Yet I don’t want to invest in a pricey birdbath, so, taking a cue from my ornithologist great-grandmother, whose large metal Bird Sanctuary sign and oversized home-made concrete birdbath dominated her garden, I made my own, too.

It was easy, and cheap. All I did was spread a plastic trash bag, topped it with a low, wide mound of dirt, and spread a two-inch thick slurry of moist ready-mix concrete over it. I’m sure that craftier folks would recommend better products to use for a smoother finish, maybe vinyl concrete patch, but the bag of ready-mix cost less than four dollars and will last for years.

There were some other steps, of course, like covering the dirt pile with kitchen wrap to keep the concrete from sticking, and halfway through the spreading process I tucked in some chicken wire for stability. After curing a couple of days, I turned it over, smoothed the edges, and let it dry a few more days before sealing, painting, and plunking some rock perches in it.

I wish I had put some seashells or marbles over the plastic dirt covering, so the finished bath would look fancy like I see in flower shows, but it looks rustic, and I set it atop an aged wooden log.

And it immediately began attracting a mesmerizing, flashy commotion of flitting and splashing birds, plus thirsty bees and squirrels, bringing motion, color, and drama to an otherwise serene garden scene. Plus, it’s a wildlife lifesaver.

The best part? It cost under five bucks.

Donuts on Cake
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