Be Your Own Birder

Introducing The Bird Bath Project

Every birder knows how vital water is for birds, and just how effective a bird bath, fountain, or even just a dish of water can be for attracting a wide variety of species. Even living in a relatively wet area – within a few miles of the yard I have a large freshwater lake, an tremendous saltwater lagoon, various smaller ponds, and multiple water retention areas that are reliable water sources – birds regularly enjoy the two bird baths I have. One is a glazed pedestal basin, the other is a small plastic ground bath.

I have, however, been longing for a new concrete bird bath. I love the stability and durability of concrete (even though my old one finally succumbed to years of freezing winters in a harsh western climate and wasn’t up to a cross-country move), but I’m also particular about designs. I prefer a natural, organic look or else simple geometry, and I don’t personally like the cherubs, toads, kittens, gnomes, or other accents found on many mass-produced concrete baths. I’ve also found concrete baths to be exceedingly expensive, and it bothers me to see sharp ridges and other poor quality workmanship on so many of the somewhat less expensive designs.

Then, wonders to behold, a neighbor down the street was discarding a concrete bath in the perfect design for me: a wood-look pedestal and a geometric basin with frosting-like ridges (I do love frosting). I first saw it at the roadside on my way to volunteer (I volunteer an hour or two at the local library each week), and was distracted all the while I was shelving books, hoping it would still be there when I returned. I was thrilled that it hadn’t budged, and spoke to the neighbor to be sure it was really being discarded. All for the effort of hauling it away (which involved two trips down the street, one lugging the heavier-than-it-looks basin, the other using a wheeled recycling bin to tote the pedestal), I have a new concrete bird bath.

The Bird Bath Project - Beginnings

Less than ideal, but ready to be restored! – Photo by Melissa Mayntz

“New” may be a bit of an overstatement, however. This bath has certainly seen better days, and its condition would put many people off. The inside of the basin is encrusted with old mold and algae, and needs a stiff cleaning, while the underside has a shiny layer of old superglue. The pedestal is topped with goop and muck, which reveals an interesting wrinkle to the project – as the pedestal and basin are not a matched set, there is no dimple or divot in the basin to keep it in place on the narrow pedestal. There used to be a different basin, as the pedestal does have the step intended to insert into a basin’s dimple, but without the proper corresponding basin, that step is too narrow to hold a heavy concrete basin securely. I will have to formulate a way to mate the two pieces together, but with enough flexibility to be tipped, cleaned, and disconnected for moving if necessary.

And so The Bird Bath Project begins, and is destined to include…

  • Removing accumulated expandable foam, glue residue, and other bonding agents that were previously intended to mate the pieces.
  • Deep cleaning the entire structure, including the basin and pedestal, to remove debris and ensure it is safe for birds.
  • Adding some form of connector to securely mate the two pieces to give it proper stability when in use, but still able to be separated if need be.

I’m excited about the prospects, and how the bath may turn out. Not only is it great because the bath was free (who doesn’t like free?), but it’s also recycling, keeping these two hunks of concrete out of a landfill where they’d sit for centuries doing no good for any wildlife. With the chemicals and goop on both pieces, it wouldn’t be suitable to add it to any concrete reuse program, but now it will have new life and be restored to bird-friendly glory. Stay tuned for regular updates as The Bird Bath Project continues!

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