Lava Beds National Monument: September 2012
This morning I’m chumming for birds. I’ve got something even more irresistible than chopped fish or scattering seed. Water.
We’re at least ten miles from any surface water. The species that live here cope with doing with less. Kangaroo rats and mice can make do with the moisture in their food. Many of the insect eating birds get much of their moisture requirement from their prey. When there is dew, many birds sip one dew drop after another. I’ve seen a dozen robins after dew drops on a roof top in the early morning.
My chumming is simple. I hang a sandwich bag full of water on a low branch and prick it with one pinhole. Drip...... Drip....... Drip. Beneath the drip I place a pint container full of water and weighted down with a rock. Then I snuggle bigger rocks all around my pint bowl.
Our first visitor can’t wait for me to get set up. I spilled a little water next to the van. Already a Townsends’s solitaire sips eagerly.
Our second visitor is a surprise. I hadn’t noticed any California ground squirrels in the area, but here comes one. He, too, drinks eagerly.
Our third is a robin. Nine long sips before he flies off.
But then we wait. This is such a dry area, there aren’t many birds around to take advantage of my offering. When we go back to camp to I can’t resist trying again.
Half my job has already been done. There are more birds here and there is a campground faucet near me. When birds hear the faucet run they fly in hoping to sip a few drops of spilled water. My little pint is a bonanza in comparison. The drip of water catches their attention and in they come.
|A rare moment of peace. A Townsend's solitaire sits on the left, then a Cassein's finch, white-crowned sparrows and one robin.|
A thirsty Townsend’s solitaire is the first to arrive, but he is immediately ousted by first one robin and then another. Robins turn out the be the bullies of the pond. Half a dozen could drink at once, but there is so much squabbling amongst them that drinking is done in bits and pieces. They pay no attention when a white-crowned sparrow sneaks in for a drink, but woe on any solitaire who approaches.
But there is one bird that sends even the robins scattering. I hear a call I haven’t hear for two or three years. Four evening grosbeaks land in the juniper above me. After a quick check they drop down to the water and chase off the robins. The grosbeaks quickly drink their fill and then leave the robins in peace.