December 7, 2017
The old fountain
The old fountain
We’ve lived in our present home for thirteen years which more or less coincides with the life of this column.  Although there is no direct correlation there, the concrete front yard fountain which came with the house provided many hours of pleasure with avian observations over those years and was certainly the inspiration for more than a few columns.

No telling how old the fountain was, but its location under the large overhanging Russian Olive tree made it perfect for both bathing and drinking by neighborhood birds of all shapes and sizes from Cooper’s Hawk (twice) to Anna’s Hummingbirds (daily).  Weather had taken its toll though, and it was beginning to crumble around the edges, and its size and weight made periodic cleaning a difficult task.  Replacing it became a matter of when, not if, and when came this past October.

Our new fountain is a nice looking pewter colored resin composite, lighter weight and much easier to clean.  It is slightly shorter but has the same number of basins and a bubbler at the top, just like the original.  What’s not to like?  Well, the birds, most of them so far, have answered that question with their absence.  The depth of the basins seems fine, but the lower ones are too narrow for the larger birds to land.  In the two months since setting it up, we’ve had only hummingbirds, Lesser Goldfinches, and House Finches.

Our initial reaction was of course disappointment.  But wait, we’ve eliminated three species of larger, common birds—Mourning Doves, Boat-tailed Grackles, and European Starlings--which were responsible for “trashing” the fountain with feathers and droppings, and the quail and winter visiting White-crowned Sparrows never used it anyway.  Then again, we’re guessing our thrashers, woodpeckers, and lovebirds may never get comfortable with the new one.

The best story surrounding the old fountain developed several years ago when an appliance repair company sent out two elderly Hispanic gentlemen to fix our refrigerator.  They did excellent work and, upon leaving and noticing the ripe olive fruit all over the yard, they inquired if they might come back sometime and harvest our olives.  We pointed to all the birds flocking to the fountain and explained that we had not had the tree “fixed” because we wanted the fruit for the birds.

Early one morning a few weeks later we heard voices in the yard.  There was a truck in the driveway and, to our dismay, the two old repairmen were setting up ladders and arranging pails.  Uninvited.  English was not their first language, and obviously something had been lost in translation.  Or maybe they just couldn’t believe anyone would let all that good olive fruit go to the birds.  We’ve always figured with water and food right there together our avian neighbors would visit often and regularly.

The new fountain issue is still under consideration.  One suggested solution is to buy that new sofa someone has wanted, but I don’t think putting the old sofa out in the front yard would attract the birds.  Okay, that’s a non-sequitur, but my solution is to prioritize the birds, get another fountain with wider basins, and put the old new fountain out in back.  Stay tuned.  We’re still hoping the lovebirds will adapt to the narrower basins so I won’t be sleeping on that old sofa.

The New Fountain