Sunday, June 29, 2014

How to clean a birdbath

The simple delight that they generate is unprecedented.
I have my front-yard birdbath up against my home office window.  The birds can see in, but they are so acclimated to the situation that unless our dog rushes at the window, they don't mind the human and canine proximity.  They come and enjoy, every day at dawn and dusk like clockwork.  
I explained how to attract birds to a birdbath in this post.  If you live in modern suburbia, it's really a no-brainer.  We now engineer subdivisions to drain rainwater so efficiently that a residentially-installed birdbath will often be the only source of standing water for quite some distance.  Birds have little choice but to use them.

These shots were taken from inside my home, through my front window.  Camera info here.  
Other critters will visit the bath as well.  Here a brown anole does his best to look ferocious.  This particular species is invasive on the upper Texas coast, but anoles are generally indispensable in a southern suburban garden because of the number of harmful insects that they eat.  Brown anoles tend to remain close to the ground whereas the green Carolina anole will climb.     
However, if you keep birdbaths on your property, eventually you're going to have to deal with a build-up of algae and lime scale.
My back yard birdbath, looking rather yucky.  I keep an additional bath in our back yard because I find that, on hot days, birds will peck open my tomatoes to get at the water within.  In other words, they aren't so much interested in eating the tomato itself as they are in getting hydration.  Therefore, I offer them this option.  Those are volunteer tomatoes growing to the left of this bath.  
Even if you flush out your birdbath(s) daily with clean hose water, every couple of weeks you're going to have to scrub them to get rid of this gunk.  It's easily done, as this photo sequence shows.
Detach the bowl and set it on the grass.  Use a plastic bristle brush to remove the loose stuff.  
I use ordinary vinegar to remove lime deposits (it's cheap - about two bucks a gallon or less at the grocery store, and you'll only need about a cup for any given birdbath cleaning).  I add a bit of vinegar to the bottom of the bath, swish it around with the brush, let it sit for five or ten minutes, then scrub with the brush again. 
Repeat as many times as needed with new applications of vinegar until all the scale is loosened and/or dissolved.  You can't always see scale when the bowl is wet, but you can feel it with your fingers as you are scrubbing (it feels rough to the touch whereas the cleaned ceramic of the bath will be very smooth).  
Then simply replace the bowl and re-fill until next time.  
And there will be a next time.  

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