Spring is advancing as it should – perhaps a bit cooler and wetter than the norm, but that is good for the garden plants at least. Bird migration has been somewhat retarded but at last the Warblers and their chums are coming through and some of them are dropping by the garden to say hi, grab a snack and to take a quick bathe in the “bird magnet”.

On the subject of the Bird Magnet waterfall – last week we asked if there was enough interest in the details of how it was constructed to make the effort of writing it up worthwhile … seems enough of you are champing at the bit and some even keen to use this as a summer project so further down this post you will find all that you need to know about waterfalls for birds.

Meanwhile – back to the past few days in the garden. At the beginning of the week we were still enjoying the presence of the Purple Finches who were regularly making good use of the feeders. A Blackpoll Warbler had a fine bathing session, not in the waterfall this time but in the concrete bird bath near the birch trees. Afterwards he spent a very long time preening his feathers in the birches. Later in the day four Magnolia Warblers were actively taking small insects and caterpillars from the very scruffy honeysuckle near the pond – we had been thinking of doing some serious pruning of this bush but clearly the birds enjoy it as a terrific resource so it seems to have been reprieved.

You have seen several pictures in past posts of birds in the waterfall … with the photo gallery lower down this post we have included a short video with three species of birds together

In one corner of the garden we have had a small raised vegetable area for some years. When we lived in England we had a huge vegetable patch and got into the habit of thinking that growing lots of food for ourselves was a good and required thing … well, that is so but here we devote more land to the birds and skunks and squirrels and raccoons and have truly produced only small treats for ourselves. So, we have made the decision to reduce the productive area to just enough space for garlic plus some parsley and other herbs. The rest of the site is being converted to yet another feeding station for wildlife – and also something attractive for us to look out at. This week we have started clearing the patch and are planting a variety of Winterberry bushes plus a couple golden leaved dogwoods. Should look terrific in a few years … not too many we hope.

Lilacs are now in flower and there are drifts of blue forget-me-nots around the edges of the garden. They will need to be tidied up later but we let them set seed first for future years. Our neighbours must be muttering about our untidy habits, but the front garden has yet to be mown as there are such a lot of violets still filling the place with purple and white.

Back at the waterfall, the Purple Finches have been bathing accompanied by Magnolia Warblers and several Tennessee Warblers (lots of them this spring). Towards the end of the week there were so many American Goldfinch (sherbet lemons) around we had to go out and buy more niger seed. Friday was remarkably cool and damp and we were quite surprised to see so many Chipping Sparrows and Song Sparrows taking sunflower seed – they do this regularly of course, but by this date they should be starting to raise young and be switching their feeding for a period to insects … but in this colder than normal May it is clear that there are fewer insects available than usual for many reason, of which climate change is but one.

Looks like a good set of fruit on the sour cherry tree … the Robins will be so pleased.

Now – the usual collection of photographs … 

… preceded by a short video and followed by our DIY instructions for the construction of effective waterfalls.

Featured Images

Katsura tree

The art of effective camouflage

Asian ladybird

Blackpoll Warbler


Click any thumbnail to open a gallery of images at full size

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How to make a Garden Bird Magnet Waterfall

Following last week’s piece about the “bird magnet” waterfall that has contributed so effectively over the years to the 115 species of birds on our garden list I have been asked for details of the construction. Below is a diagram showing the major components and some explanatory photographs, but basically this is what you need. It isn’t as complex as it sounds:

  1. A pond (of course) the bigger the better as bigger means less of a problem with algae, but small works for  birds too. What attracts them is the sound of moving water and somewhere to bathe.
  2. Using the soil dug out to make the pond create a hill at one end of your pond – a couple of feet high will suffice. At the top make a small pool some 8 inches to a foot deep.
  3. Line the header pool and the waterfall with stout pond lining fabric … you can get butyl rubber bonded to a felt-like membrane that is fabulous for attracting mosses and the like.
  4. Fill the header pool up to just below the water surface with lots of small river stones/pebbles plus a couple of larger ones sticking out for birds to perch on.
  5. In the main pond place a submersible pump – the more powerful the better, for an effective waterfall you need to be able to move lots of water. Run a pipe from this up to the header pool – the pipe should be at least 1.5 inches in diameter. In the header pool the outflow from the pipe MUST be at the bottom so the water rises before spilling over into the waterfall and returning to the main pond. The pebbles have two purposes – one is to give the birds something to stand on without having to swim and the other is unrelated to the birds … lots of pebbles create a huge surface area on which colonies of denitrifying bacteria will develop naturally; this will very effectively help to keep the algae population in your pond under control.
  6. Carefully install a flat stone or a slate to form the lip over which the water will spill into the waterfall. This must have a sharp edge for the spillway and be installed as close to perfectly horizontal as you can make it … I found that embedding it in the expandable foam from a spray can that you can buy from DIY stores made that quite easy.
  7. Check for leaks and anywhere water might escape – turn on the water and you are up and running. Having the header pool in the shade of small bushes and ferns make it less scary to birds.
  8. Sit back with your camera and wait for the birds to find your header pool, as they assuredly will.

Note – following the feedback and interest on the waterfall instructions I have added the above notes to the DIY page elsewhere on this website (https://sparroworks.ca/do-it-yourself/)