Townsend’s Warblers dip in the birdbath. (Margo Hearne/Haida Gwaii Observer)

On the Wing: In a Forest Garden

“Birds are everywhere and most are coming into the birdbath.”

It is the life. Birds are everywhere and most are coming into the birdbath. Just this week a family of Brown Creepers crept in, had a splash and stole away. They are shy little birds, not given to consorting with humans. It’s so great to see fledged young as they line up for the tub. A family of dashing Townsend’s Warblers waited while a chickadee group had their fill, and then in came the Golden-crowned Kinglets — those tiny flashes of grey and yellow. Siskins scooted in next, so daring and assertive that they drove the rest of the gang away. A Song Sparrow, bigger than all the rest, then took over and spent some time splashing around and keeping others at bay.

The secret of the birdbath’s success seems to be the garden’s combination of large spruce, second-growth hemlock, low cedar, berry bushes, and garden plants. It’s not so much a monastery garden as a forest garden. Although we live right next to the highway into town, it’s still quite private and sheltered. It can even be calm during a brisk northwesterly, summer’s prevailing wind.

The birdbath’s structure is simple. It used to sit on a solid foundation, more of a fountain really, but it didn’t seem to work so we removed the bottom part and half-buried the container under a spreading cotoneaster bush. We then put a hose above it that dripped steadily and slowly. The noise from the drip draws in the birds, especially in dry weather and, although we haven’t had much sun so far this summer and July isn’t always the sunniest of months, the birds keep splashing around. Climate change is playing tricks with the weather. We just get a slight temperature increase in the morning and maybe a warmer afternoon. Sad to see so many forest fires in the U.S. burning up the good earth. Rain is a good thing in moderation.

The Black-billed Magpie has shown up again. It seems to like to be where people are, and this time it was seen by Marg, Mary, and Julie who had taken a run out to see the new Totem in the Forest by the Hiellen River. The magpie was flying around the pole, hale, and strong. It’s quite a way from the playground at Chief Matthews School in Old Massett where it was last seen. Could it be the same bird? These large birds are frequently seen around Fairbanks in Alaska so there might be more than one on island.

All is quiet in the sanctuary. The geese aren’t back yet and most of the ducks have gone. A small flock of Sandhill Cranes moves through the grass and the nesting pair are still there, although the chicks have yet to be seen. Swallows continue to flick over the mudflats — most have fledged by now and the young ones are in the air. The Swainson’s Thrush continues to sing in the evening; it too loves the birdbath and hovers delicately near it until all the other birds have gone.

It is the life.

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