Monday, December 5, 2016

Recycling is for the birds!

Birds are loving their new birdbath. Male and female cardinals, Eastern mockingbirds and even little palm warblers regularly stop by to take a drink and clean their feathers in the shallow water.

Eastern mockingbird having a sip of fresh water

By all the activity it generates, you might think my new birdbath was a pricey purchase designed by experts in the birdwatching community. 

You’d be wrong.

Measuring just under a foot long, about six inches wide and a little less than two inches deep, my black Styrofoam ‘birdbath’ is nothing more than a repurposed piece of packaging material that originally contained asparagus. Asparagus is a vegetable my husband Ralph and I eat frequently but every time I unwrapped the spears from their cellophane covering, I was left with a sturdy piece of black Styrofoam that was no longer needed.

I knew I could recycle the Styrofoam or throw it away but the material seemed too good for either of those options. So I did what any frugal hoarder would do. I put it aside in an unused space in a cabinet. And that’s where it stayed until I had accumulated so many black Styrofoam platters that I no longer had room in my cupboard to fit any more. think I have enough?

Fortuitously, around the same time a nested stack of Styrofoam filled up my cupboard, a little birdie helped me hatch an idea.

I was standing by my desk looking out the window when I noticed a blur of bright red feathers splashing water in a puddle on a table where Ralph and I had placed several potted plants. Water that had leaked out of the containers had formed a small puddle on the tabletop that the bird - a male cardinal - was using as a bath. Fascinated, I moved closer to the window and watched quietly until the bird finished bathing and flew away. A few minutes later, I went into the kitchen to retrieve one of the Styrofoam platters and took it outside.

Creating a repurposed birdbath doesn’t get any simpler than this.

I merely placed the clean platter on the table, filled it with water and surrounded it with a few small garden statues and a piece of driftwood so it would look more natural and be less likely to blow away. A pair of cardinals discovered it the next morning.

Female cardinal checking out the birdbath

Since then, more and more birds have frequented my make-do birdbath. I don’t know if it’s the shallow depth that they like, the black color or the mere fact that they now have a puddle-sized protected place to bathe and sip water. The repurposed Styrofoam platter sits on a tabletop in the shade of a lush pink hibiscus. Birds usually land on the hibiscus first then fly down to the water. I regularly replenish the liquid, remove dropped blooms that land in the water and replace the Styrofoam every month or so with a new piece of packaging material. 

If you also enjoy backyard birdwatching but hesitate to spend money on fancy equipment, consider using a object you’d normally throw away. And if you don’t like asparagus, it’s not a problem. Many other vegetables also come pre-wrapped in Styrofoam platters. Veggies for people. Fresh water for wildlife. Less detritus for the landfill. A repurposed Styrofoam birdbath is a win-win-win solution all around.

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