Thirty Days in the Garden: Dirty Jobs and Empty Nests

I’m not averse to most dirty jobs, but I always dread cleaning the fountain. It’s not so much the dirt and slime, but the challenge of getting it clean.

For the birds

Before placing the fountain in front of our living room window, I researched the best location. Wet wings slow the bird down after they bathe, so they suggest a nearby tree. The fountain is in the shade, so it doesn’t get too hot. Surrounding shrubs discourage easy access by a certain feline.

Tessa as a kitten

Or so they say.

What keeps the birds safe is what makes this job a challenge. The fountain invariably collects plant debris in the water and around the pump. In between an extensive cleaning, I reach into the pump cavity and clear away debris. I use a stiff brush to clean the sides and then refill the fountain with fresh water.

The deep clean is more involved. I cut power to the pump, then tip the heavy fountain to empty the water. It’s a balancing act, sloshing out the dirty water while keeping the fountain from tipping over. I pour white vinegar into the emptied fountain, then top it up again with water and let it soak. Vinegar is non-toxic, so it’s harmless to the birds. It does a great job cleaning out the nooks and crannies.

On the other hand, white vinegar is not suitable for surrounding plants. I can’t blast out the vinegar water with the hose, and I have to be careful when I scrub not to splash the nearby foliage. I usually bail out the vinegar water and pour it down the drain. Only then do I feel comfortable rinsing and refilling the fountain.

It’s worth it, of course, when you spot birds taking a bath, sipping from the bubbler, or hopping in the branches in the nearby tree as they dry off.

Ana’s hummingbird on top of bubbler

On the subject of birds, we’re seeing more activity in the garden. Mike called me to the kitchen window earlier this week to see a male house finch on the railing. When I leaned over the sink to get a better look, I spotted a nest on the patio drapes. Squeal! That was unexpected.

Bird nest sitting on the fold of the drapes.

We use the drapes during the hot summer months to block the evening sun. Off-season, the drapes stack together under the eaves. A house finch built a nest on top of the folds.

After that first sighting, she didn’t return. I’ve been worried all week that either we scared them off with our regular activity or that she met with a different fate.

It turns out that female house finches build several nests, then decide which one they want to use. I hope she chooses the one outside our kitchen window. Only time will tell.

18 thoughts on “Thirty Days in the Garden: Dirty Jobs and Empty Nests

        • WordPress drives me up the wall several days of the week. Some times my grammar/spell checker works, sometimes not. I’ll occasionally write a comment, only to see it unceremoniously dumped with the message “try again later.” Sometimes I can read comments, other times I get the dreaded spinning icon. I know the addition of the block editor sent many people to the moon.

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  1. I just got a bird bath for my birthday but haven’t placed it yet. Thank you for the information. I am thinking of taking my feeders done due to the salmonella. I hate to think of sick birdies.

    We have loads of feeder visitors but most in the fall.

    Hawks recently got some of the late juncos. So that makes me also think it’s time to put the feeders away.

    And we do have a bear in the neighborhood. It’s not visited here but other neighbors have had to remove their feeders.

    I love birds. Thank you for sharing your beautiful fountain.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Amy that is a lovely birthday gift. Someone really appreciates your love of birds. Amazingly, they survive a lot of what nature throws at them. We took down a seed feeder in our front yard years ago after finding the neighbor’s cat stalking them under our window. We now limit our feeding to hummingbirds. Nothing falls to the ground, so no worries in that regard. I’m sorry to hear about the juncos. I am *stunned* to hear about a bear. Oh my gosh, that is really something.


  2. That’s a lot of work – but worth it to see the birds bathing. We have a couple of garden ponds with shallow ledges around the outside so they are well provided with water.
    I wonder whether your finch will come back to nest on top of your curtains.


  3. Your garden is so alive! How special to have hummers bathing within view. You’ve got an awesome camera to capture a still too. I’ve been adding a product to our fountain that I got at the bird store. It doesn’t let the algae build up and is non-toxic to animals and insects too. I only empty it to clean at the end of summer. Given our summers are short, it’s probably the same schedule you’re on anyways, ha. Hope you’re visitor comes back to her nest so you can get a ‘birds-eye-view’ of all the action 😘 xK


    • I get so excited by nests, I always have. Many years ago I worked for a client with a beautiful black lab. As I entered his home one day, I starteled a Junco flying out of a potted shrub. I peered in and saw a nest lined with black dog hair. I got such a kick out of that, and so did my client.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Pingback: House Finch Happenings – Gardening Nirvana

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