Winter is a quiet time in the garden except for the soft whisperings of the ornamental grasses as they rustle gently in the wind and the fluttering of bird wings as they flit around in the shrubs foraging for seeds and berries.
The birds are hungry this time of year. We always set up several bird feeders on our deck and keep them filled throughout the fall and winter. Mostly we fill the feeders with black oil sunflower seeds but we also have a thistle seed feeder for the finches and suet feeders for the nuthatches, woodpeckers, and wrens.
The birds are thirsty, too! I am always amazed by the number of birds and other critters that make use of the big water bowl we have set up on the deck. We actually keep it filled all year long, but winter is a really important time to provide fresh water for the birds, as it can be difficult for them to find a source of open water – especially in the coldest areas of the country.
At times there have been so many birds perched on the rim of our water bowl that there is hardly room for one more!
This morning there were chickadees, tufted titmice, goldfinches, a Carolina wren, and a newcomer, a hermit thrush, sipping water from the bowl. The bluebirds usually show up a little later in the winter.
I’m convinced that this is why we get such a wide diversity of birds at our feeders. It’s not only the food but the water that brings them in. In fact, the bluebirds and so far the thrush never even go to the feeders – they just seem to come for the water. If we didn’t have this water source, I don’t believe we would see the bluebirds, thrushes, or even the robins on the deck.
The gray squirrels enjoy the water, too. We don’t like to encourage them to come up on the deck but there’s no keeping them away. The squirrel-proof feeders we got from my mom do quite well at keeping them out of the feeders but they seem to find enough seed that the birds have kicked out onto the deck to keep them satisfied.
There are many ways to keep fresh water available to your birds. One of the simplest is what we have done for our birds. We got a big rubber water dish and placed a bird bath de-icer in it to keep the water from freezing. It works really well and the bowl holds a lot of water. We put a smooth rock on top of the de-icer to keep it in place and this provides another place for the birds to perch and drink.
Another option is a heated bird bath. Different models are available; you can get one that mounts on a deck railing, one that sits in a stand, or one that sits on the ground. The heated bird baths are usually shallower than our big water bowl so they must be checked and refilled more often.
A bird supply store is a great place to find bird bath de-icers and heated bird baths. They usually have a selection of different options. You can sometimes find these items at a full service garden center as well. They can be a little expensive but if you really want to increase the diversity and numbers of wild birds around your home, it’s well worth the investment. This would make a great gift for the gardener or birder on your shopping list!