Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Birding with My Boy; Dipping in Duval

Remember that classic opening to ABC's Wide World of Sports?  It's that proclaimed that they covered the "Thrill of Victory and the Agony of Defeat."  They were talking about birding.  Really.  This past week proves it.

Part 1: Birding with My Boy

My favorite sighting of the day

When  I took up birding, those around me tended to look at me like I'd grown an extra head.  I suspect they figured that "this too shall pass."  Well, it didn't.  Fifteen years later, I'm as avid about birding as ever.  And so it was an enormous surprise and pleasure for me recently when my son expressed an interest in going out birding with me.  I expect it was really "one last day with my dad before I move to California" and not an true interest in birding, but heck, I was thrilled.  And so it was that on the morning after Christmas, Robbie and I headed out La Chua Trail on Paynes Prairie for his first birding trip and to start his official life list!

I wanted his first bird of the day to be a good one, so we hustled down to a spot I had staked out, set up my scope, and peered into a hole in a tree.  There was a beautiful Barn Owl staring back at us.  How's that for a Number 1!?

We checked the edges of Sparrow Alley and found very little, so we headed toward the boardwalk.  We examined and talked about a Green Heron hunting the edges of the creek, a Little Blue Heron standing motionless, a Cattle Egret pretending to be a Snowy Egret, and an Eastern Phoebe flying out to nab a bug and then back to its perch.  It's amazing how exciting it is to share even the most commonplace birds with your rookie birder son!  Then he whispered, "Dad, over here."  It was a perfect male White-crowned Sparrow.

Once on the trail we got a look at several young Black-crowned Night-Herons and a Belted Kingfisher that posed for us (right).  After looking at the many alligators basking in the sun on the banks, we continued along the trail.

Just a few feet off the path was what I believe is a juvenile Cooper's Hawk (below).  It didn't seem to mind the photographers and birders who stopped to gawk.  Once we reached a bit of open water we saw a few Ruddy Ducks.  We also added Sora and Virginia Rail to his list.  Eventually we got to the observation platform and a nice (if distant) view of a female Vermilion Flycatcher.

Unfortunately, it was getting late.  He had brunch plans, and I had things to do.  We hustled back in, chatting about each of the birds we had seen.  I promised to give him an ABA field checklist with his 40 Florida birds marked off.  Filling out that checklist later in the evening was such a pleasure, and he was genuinely pleased the next morning when I gave it to him.  He's off to his new life in California now, but this trip would be a memory for a lifetime, mine and I hope his too!

I believe this is a young Cooper's Hawk.  Any opinions?

Part 2: Dipping in Duval

The Snowy Owl is very high on my wish list.  I really want to see one, but sometimes the fates conspire against a birder.  Such was the case this week.  Early on Saturday I saw a post on Facebook that a Snowy Owl was hunting among the dunes at Little Talbot Island State Park (LTISP), about two hours from my home.  The urge was to hop in the car and go immediately.  But that was the day my son was driving alone and non-stop from Gainesville, Florida, to Austin, Texas, in a Budget Rental truck.  I had promised to stay close to a phone, and he said he would keep me informed as to his progress.  So I sat home, studied for my planned trip to Oregon, and waited.  Despite the truck failing to start once, all went well.  He sent his last text to me at 1:53 AM (Eastern) and I got to bed at 2:00.

The Dunes on Little Talbot Island
I awoke late the next morning to the sounds of torrential rain.  I checked out the radar and it seemed that the storm was taking direct aim on LTISP.  I was exhausted from a night spent well past my bedtime, so I decided to risk waiting one more day.  Then late Sunday night there was an ominous posting.  The Owl was seen late in the day flying south, across the water to another park where the search would be much more difficult.  I had a bad feeling about this ... but a Snowy Owl ... I had to go.

I left the house the next morning at about 4:45.  Along the way I wondered, would that owl return to the hunting grounds it had fed upon for two days, or would it take up residence in a new spot.  I tried to recall stories of Snowy Owls in irruptive years.  Didn't they often hang out in one spot for a long time?  After some discussion, my friends and I decided to go to the original site and try there first.   We reached the park before opening time, and mine was the second car in line.  When the gates opened a small caravan headed straight for the south parking lot.  Soon birders were spreading out to search the dunes.  There was no owl.  We walked south to the tip.  No owl.  We walked north until we were in sight of the upper boardwalk.  No owl.  Other birders were also searching carefully.  No owl.  I checked the listserves and the Birding Florida Facebook page.  No one had seen the owl that day.

Black Scoter
Plan A was a failure, but there's always Plan B.  If I couldn't find the lifer, I'd try for a state lifer.  There had been reports of a Harlequin Duck at Fort Clinch State Park just to the north of where I was.  We headed north, hauled out the scopes and started the long walk to the end of the pier.  There was a small collection of birders including Gainesville legend John Hintermister.  I asked if there were any signs of the duck.  John just shook his head.  I gazed out at the water, casting only a brief look at what I thought was a common local sight.  "Ruddy Duck," I said unenthusiastically.  "Black Scoter female," said John.  I whipped around and of course he was right.  That was the best look at a Black Scoter I've ever had (right).

We waited, talked, laughed and told birding stories, but there was no Harlequin.  Soon the talk turned to lunch. We decided on a local Subway and started the trek back toward the parking lot.  As we walked, I looked to my right and saw a duck flying in.  I knew this duck.  I had studied this duck before my Alaska trip and had looked at it again just the night before.  "Hold on!" I yelled.  "There it is!  It's the Harlequin!"  I turned to birders in both directions.  I yelled, I whistled, and I waved and pointed.  The duck landed about fifty feet off the pier, but immediately began swimming in closer.  Others ran to the spot.  Binoculars were raised and cameras aimed.  It was too close for a spotting scope.  We shook hands, high-fived and praised that duck to the heavens.  "That's a great bird right there.  A great bird," John said.  A veteran of six decades of birding, he lit up like a boy at Christmas.  That's the joy of birding.

Harlequin Duck

 Our last goal for the day was neither a lifer nor a state lifer, just a good bird.  Three Snow Buntings were down at Huguenot Park.  There was time, and if fortune smiled on us, we could add the bunting to our Duval County lists.   We stopped at Subway, ate a quick lunch, and drove south.  Huguenot is a great shorebird spot - one of the best in north Florida - especially on the inlet side at Ward's Bank.  It was here a few years ago that a Greater Sand Plover caused such a stir.  The park attendant told us that the buntings had been seen in Zone 14 and we drove there immediately.  There were no buntings to be seen.  However, we knew that they had been seen at the north end of the beach earlier in the day.  We drove out there and searched carefully.  Nothing.  We took another look on the inland side.  Nope.  Then I ran into another Gainesville birder.  He told me that just an hour earlier a Peregrine Falcon had chased the buntings across the inlet into the Mayport Navy base.  When it happened, we were at the other end of the park. Another Duval Dip!

Little Talbot Island State Park

Red Knots.  Not Snow Buntings, but still a great bird!

Another look at the Harlequin Duck

Thursday, December 19, 2013

AAS and a CBC

Bubba and Scott talk while others check out the auction items.
I'm very fortunate to be living in an area with a really active chapter of the National Audubon Society.  The Alachua Audubon Society (AAS) is filled with terrific people and expert birders.  It runs one or two field trips nearly every weekend from early September through late March.  It sponsors the June Challenge, a friendly birding contest that has spread to many states and a few countries.  It also sponsors a number of educational/informational activities including presentations, classroom learning kits, and a Backyard Birding Tour.  It's all fantastic stuff, but it sure can keep me busy.  Several of you have been nice enough to inquire about the lack of a blog entry in the last month.  I blame AAS.

Our Holiday Social and Silent Auction was so much fun.  There were probably about 40 people, lots of great food, plenty of holiday libations (I enjoyed the wine!), and too many laughs to count.  The auction offered some really interesting pieces of art, some books, framed photos, massages, birding tours, and so on.  I got out bid on the bird-by-boat trips around Cedar Key, but was successful in getting the Madge and Burn book on Waterfowl.  During the party I was approached by three people who wanted to ride with me to the next week's field trip, so I ended the night with a full car as well.

Purple Gallinule at Circle B Bar Reserve
The following week I led a field trip to Circle B Bar Reserve in Polk County near Lakeland, Florida.  It's a 272 mile round trip, and I was really pleased to have Felicia Lee, Glenn Price and Sharon Kuchinski with me to share the ride.  We talked about everything from birding in California to educational testing in Florida.  And we laughed a lot!  The time whizzed by.

The trip itself was very successful.  We were joined by a local birder, Cole Fredricks, who acted as our guide, and by Dave Goodwin, president of the Florida Ornithological Society.  We spent about three hours walking along the wetlands and ponds, tallying about 56 species.  There were more Limpkins that I've ever seen in one spot, including a couple of moms with their fuzzy little babies.  There were a few spectacular Purple Gallinules, lots of Roseate Spoonbills, a gorgeous Green Heron, and many more.

One of the Tour yards.
I mentioned that AAS sponsors a Backyard Birding Tour.  It's a terrific event that is the brainchild of Ron Robinson.  Each year we feature six homes, each of which has yards and gardens specifically designed to attract birds.  Volunteers at each site talk a bit about the specific plants, water features, feeders, etc, that the homeowner uses to bring in the birds.  This year we also have volunteers from the Native Plant Society and the Master Gardener program who will be at two of the sites to share their perspective.  For $10, you can spend a great day touring yards and learning how to attract birds to your own place.

One of the tasks that must be done to prepare for the event is to create a good map and set of directions to each site.  We also need to decide where to place directional signs that can guide participants to out-of-the-way houses. To that end I joined Ron one afternoon to drive the route, check the directions, and plan for the signs.  I'm so glad I did.  Ron is one of the world's really good people.  I enjoyed the two hours immensely.  We talked non-stop, laughed quite a bit, and found that we have had a lot of similar experiences.  Again, the time flew by and the task got completed.  I'm really looking forward to the Tour on February 8.  (You can buy tickets at Gainesville's Wild Birds Unlimited starting on January 1.)

Lincoln's Sparrow on Kanapaha Prairie
And then there was the Christmas Bird Count.  For my non-birding friends, the CBC is an annual event that occurs all over North America.  In short, there is an assigned territory, and on a specific day a bunch of birders cover that territory as thoroughly as possible, listing every bird species that we find and counting every individual bird.  Here in Alachua County, our team (Team #7 led by Rex Rowan) starts at 4:00 AM counting owls and ends when it gets too dark to see at night.  It's an awesome and exhausting experience, and I love it.

This year, we began in a rainstorm that didn't let up until late morning.  The rain and wind hampered our search for owls.  Where we usually get three species and six to nine owls, we got one this year.  On more than one occasion we were caught away from the car in a heavy downpour.  Two of our team members were in a canoe on a local lake during the worst of the storm.  I got soaked to the skin once. And yes, I had a ball!  Once the rain cleared up, the birding got better too.  I was fortunate enough to photograph a Lincoln's Sparrow and a Grasshopper Sparrow, two birds I see infrequently and had never caught on film.  Our team also found a Snow Goose in a cow pasture, a Common Goldeneye in a retention pond at a post office, and a White-winged Dove and seven Baltimore Orioles in a single yard ... after a Sharp-shinned Hawk left its perch in a tree above the feeders.

So December has been a busy, busy month with the Alachua Audubon Society, highlighted by a terrific party, a very successful field trip, and a memorable Christmas Bird Count.  But throughout the month, the constant has been the great people I get to call friends.

Dave Goodwin (in the yellow shirt), Cole Fredricks (center in shorts) and some AAS fieldtrippers.

Grasshopper Sparrow at Kanapaha Prairie

Limpkin and her fuzzy young'un

Roseate Spoonbill at Circle B Bar Reserve

Sunday, November 10, 2013


What do birders and police checking out a suspected drug dealer's house have in common?

That's right ... stakeout!

Most birding expeditions fall into two broad categories.  First there are the ones spent on foot exploring a habitat, whether woods, prairie, marsh, beach or lake, searching for as many birds as possible and maybe the one or two cool birds that have been seen in an area.  And there are the trips spent birding from a vehicle, perhaps in a car while you check out the fields and farm ponds of an area or maybe on a boat on a pelagic trip looking for birds rarely seen from land.

A LONG distance iPhone shot of a Peregrine Falcon
But then there's the oddity that is the stakeout.  A stakeout begins with excitement.  Word comes of a great bird, maybe a lifer or a state lifer that is worth both effort and patience.  Rarely does it happen that the stakeout bird is in your back yard.  Rather, it often involves travel.  That has its own excitement ... or maybe just the tedium of three or four hours (or more) in a car.  Finally you get on site and you immediately look for the bird, eager for the thrill of seeing the target species.  But if it isn't right there, the waiting starts.  And the waiting can go on for hours.

Last week, those of us in the southeast had a rare opportunity.  A Townsend's Solitaire was found at Honeymoon Island State Park off Florida's Gulf coast.  Only the second record of this species ever to visit Florida, this bird ought to be hanging out in the Rockies.  I was stoked!  This would be a lifer for me, and I wanted it!  Yet for a few days, a combination of factors kept me home in Gainesville.  Finally, on Thursday, the Big Red Van made the 150 mile trip to Pinellas County and a state park I had never visited.  The trip down was uneventful other than a bunch of funny stories and the usual talk of birds.  At one point one of us saw some Limpkins in a retention pond, but the rest of us missed them.  Too bad.  We couldn't stop; we had a bird to see.

We pulled into the park at 8:30 or so, found the reported location of the bird, piled out of the van and looked up.  No bird.  Well, not exactly.  There was no Solitaire, but there was a Peregrine Falcon.  Not a good sign.  Walked up the path a bit, checked out every tree top, snag and bush.  No bird.

Lifer #448, a Townsend's Solitaire
We waited.  And waited some more.  No bird.  Memories of a nine hour stakeout waiting for a Lazuli Bunting that never showed started to weigh on me.

Maybe forty-five minutes later, we decided to split up.  Two of us would change locations a little by moving off the path and back toward the parking lot.  We checked cell numbers and two of us moved away from the others.  On the way to the parking area I heard a guy say that he had seen the bird earlier in the week feeding in a tree across and beyond the parking lot.  I wandered in that direction and put my bins on the tree.  It appeared to be a cedar, and it was loaded with berries.  If I were a Solitaire, that's where I'd be.  We continued in that direction until we heard a whistle.  Someone was calling to us from just in front of that tree.  We scrambled over to them, and there it was - a Townsend's Solitaire - a life bird!

An Anhinga at Brooker Creek
I grabbed the cell phone and called the others.  But within a minute the bird obliged them by flying over to their area and perching up in the open.  We all got great looks before it flew back to the cedar.  We followed it and watched the bird for another hour or so.  Wonderful!  Simply wonderful!

The morning was nearly gone so we left the park and stopped for a celebratory lunch at the Island Outpost.  For the most part, the food was terrific.  I had a jerk chicken sandwich that was outstanding.  But I have a special note to the staff there:  if the menu lists specific ingredients for a sandwich, that's what you put on it.  And if the error is pointed out, just fix it.  Read your own menu!

Anyway, we decided to spend the rest of our time at a place we noticed on the way in.  Brooker Creek Nature Preserve is a Pinellas County nature education center, and it's terrific.  Before Thursday, I had done all of my Pinelas County birding at Fort DeSoto, so while I had lots of birds on my county list, I was missing some common woodland birds.  Brooker Creek turned out to be a treasure trove.  I picked up a nice set of county birds including Hermit Thrush, Tufted Titmouse, Pine Warbler, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, Ruby-crowned Kinglet, and Belted Kingfisher. 
A Common Yellowthroat near the Brooker Creek bird blind

Eventually, it was time to start back to Gainesville, but we had one more stop to make.  Remember the Limpkins seen earlier in the morning by one of us?  Well, if we could relocate it, that would be a Pasco County lifer for the rest of us.  We were almost back to the interstate when we found the right shopping area with the shallow retention ponds.  Remarkably, about 8-10 Limpkins were still there!

That was a fitting end to a really great day.  There were county ticks in three counties, a really delicious meal (for me, anyway), lots of laughs and conversation with good friends, and (of course) the Townsend's Solitaire, my 448th lifer.  That's what I call a successful stakeout!

Another view of the Townsend's Solitaire

Blow this up - you might see a woodpecker's tongue!

Pygmy Rattlesnake at Brooker Creek

Friday, November 1, 2013

Beauty and the Birds

Be sure to double click on the photos to appreciate the beauty of Paynes Prairie
Without a doubt, I go walking on LaChua Trail on Alachua County's Paynes Prairie State Preserve for the incredible bird life.  In recent years, the Prairie has given us a Nelson's Sparrow, a Goove-billed Ani, a Bell's Vireo, a Vermilion Flycatcher, a Harris's Sparrow, and the list goes on and on.  Every hike along the trail holds the potential for something spectacular.  And yet, sometimes I just get distracted because there's a problem when you go birding on the Paynes Prairie -- it's too darn beautiful!

Alachua Sink
I was born and raised among mountains, and I grew up thinking they are the gold standard of natural beauty.  Back then I would have dismissed a prairie as a bunch of grass and nothing of interest.  I could not have been more wrong.  Paynes Prairie is a gorgeous place, and in late October its colors shimmer in the sun, its scent wafts over me in gentle breezes, and its vistas make me pause for a moment, forgetting that I am out there to chase some bird.  I can't possibly do it justice in words, and I'm no photographer.  My camera is not an expensive one, and I have no training in photography at all.  Still, I hope I can give you a sense of what it's like to walk LaChua Trail in the fall.

The air was cool and crisp on Monday morning.  The temperature was in the high 40s when I stepped onto the prairie.  In front of me was a rainbow of colors.  The greens, golds, browns, and reds of the vegetation sparkled under a blue sky.  I had to stop for a moment and take a photo or two.  Meanwhile, the day's first sparrows darted behind me.  I missed them all, but there would be others.  The photo above shows some of the color, but none of the motion.  The Prairie moves like a flag in a gentle breeze making the colors shift and wave a welcome to its guests.

A boardwalk runs along a creek bed and out to an observation platform overlooking Alachua Sink on the prairie's nothern edge.  Often the water level is well below your feet, but now it reaches almost to the platform.  Here a Little Blue Heron was seeking breakfast.  Across the water, a Belted Kingfisher was feasting on something she had pulled from the sink.  In the grass just beyond the deck White-crowned Sparrows (right) sang a greeting to the morning sun.  Further up the trail, juvenile Black-crowned Night-Herons hid among the bushes while others tested the water's edge.  Normally a waterfall gushes out at this spot, but on that day the entire water control structure was under water and only the rush of the current hinted at the rapidly flowing water below.

Scattered on the opposite bank were about twenty of the nearly 100 alligators I was to encounter during the morning.  Alligators are cold blooded critters, so the daylight hours often find them basking in the sun's warmth.  Usually, the prairie's water level is such that the gators are well below the trail.  Now, high water levels had driven the gators up to the edge of the trail.  One big old boy slept on the trail's edge.  We had about 30 feet of clearance, so we got around him easily enough, but more than one nervous glance was sent its way as we skittered by.

Now we were on the main leg of LaChua Trail, and wild flowers lined the trail with water just beyond them on both sides.  I don't know plants and wild flowers at all, but I love their beauty and sweet perfumes.  More than once I stopped to take pictures and breathe in the air around a bush exploding with color.  Often more than one type of flower grew together in a wonderful maze of colors.  I can't understand how some people walk on by, never noticing nature's art show just a few feet away. 

In the distance a Northern Harrier skirted just above the vegetation looking for that one animal that wasn't paying attention or had gotten too slow to react.  Then dive! A brief thrashing of bushes ... and then a morning snack consumed at leisure.  As beautiful as nature is, here was a reminder that it can also be quite brutal.

You know, I think I need to hush up for a moment and just show you some of the pictures:

And among the flowers were butterflies like this Gulf Fritillary:

Near the canal I found this spectacular Green Heron:

Eventually my path was blocked by an alligator that was not content with the sun on the bank.  It moved up onto the trail where it was still crawling about looking for the comfy spot for its afternoon nap.  I turned around.

During the walk back I had the privilege of being present for the alligator version of chest thumping.  Something stirred them up, and they started growling.  Describing an alligator's growl is daunting.  It's a primeval sound straight out of the era when dinosaurs roamed the earth.  It's incredibly deep and overwhelmingly powerful.  Its water-vibrating, earth-shaking, skin-crawling power is at once startling and thrilling.  Gators on both sides of the trail - just a few yards away from me - thundered away for about 15 minutes. 

By this time the sun was high and the sky a bright blue.  Back at the site of the submerged water control structure, a young Black-crowned Night-Heron wondered if it should test the waters where the alligators ruled:

This Snowy Egret had better pay attention!

Meanwhile, this Pied-billed Grebe ignored the growling:

Local birders know that Paynes Prairie is one of God's gifts to us.  If you haven't been there, make an effort.  You won't be disappointed.

Let me leave you with two more pictures.  The first is of a Savannah Sparrow; the bottom one is of a female Belted Kingfisher.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Birds in the Mist

For several weeks I've been thinking of writing a short blog about using water to attract birds to your yard.  It's not that I have anything really new or different to say.  No, all of my advice will fall under the common sense category.  Rather, such a blog would just really be a great opportunity to publish a bunch of cute pictures of birds playing in the water.

The truth is that water will attract even more birds to your yard than your feeders will.  I've been doing Project Feederwatch for about seven years.  In a typical two-day span I'll get 15-18 species in the yard.   Over the Feederwatch season, I'll get a total of 30-35 species.  While the species that show up at the feeders remains remarkably constant, the additional birds that show up are attracted mostly to my bird baths and mist spray.  In short, it's the water that brings them in.  For example, only rarely will Blue Jays take seeds from one of my feeders.  However, they show up daily in my bird baths.  The Blue Jay on the left is a good example. Click on the picture to see a larger version.  You can see that the bird's backside is shaking and water is splashing all around it.  The Jay is having fun, and I love to watch the spectacle!  The Northern Flicker below NEVER comes to feeders, but it loves the water.


So, you want to put a birdbath in your yard, but what kind should it be?  You can spend a lot of money on fancy bird baths, sculpted bird baths, and decorative bird baths.  However, the birds really don't care about all that.  Once I took the plastic lid to a garbage can, cleaned it up, partially buried it in the ground and filled it with water.  It had a bird in it within fifteen minutes.  I used it for years until I ran over it with a lawnmower.  I also bought a stone two-piece birdbath comprised of a pedestal and a basin.  Squirrels and other critters kept knocking the basin off the pedestal.  And spilling water softened up the ground enough for the pedestal to keep sinking into the ground.  Finally, I dropped the basin to the ground and threw the pedestal away.  The birds kept coming.

This Brown Thrasher is getting the full spa treatment.

On the other hand, do you really need a birdbath at all?  A few years ago I bought a long, narrow hose with a blue attachment that emitted a gentle mist.  It was a great playground for birds.  They loved the mist and I often felt they were playing as much as bathing in the water.  It was so much fun to watch them.  Then I noticed that the hose had sprung a series of leaks.  Small fountains of water were being "wasted" on the lawn!  I tried several kinds of repairs to no avail.  Regretfully, I gathered it up, tossed it away, and began searching for an alternative.

Big Mistake!!

Another, smarter person had the same experience.  She saw the hose with multiple leaks as an opportunity.  She wound the hose through the low-hanging branches of a live oak tree and created an extremely successful spa for birds.  It has a pool, a mud bath, several showers, and the equivalent of a theme park's worth of water sports.  Here's what it looks like:

You can just see the blue mist spray in the upper left hand corner.  The rest of the hose winds through the branches and leaks everywhere.  Look at the dip in the hose on the right.  Here's a close up of it:

In this configuration, water cascades through the leaves, drips from the branches, and pools on the ground.  I don't know if it's the sight of the water or the sound of it dripping in the pools, but the birds LOVE it.  She can turn on the water, and within minutes there are birds frolicking everywhere.  Here are a few pictures from "The Spa."  In the first, check out the birds in the queue waiting for their turn.  One Cardinal is in the shower, another is just behind, and a Summer Tanager waits patiently:

Eventually, the Tanager got her turn:

Another important aspect of The Spa is that the over-hanging branches and the canopy of the huge oak offer a protected area.  Birdbaths that are in the middle of an open yard may be tempting for birds, but they also expose birds to their predators.  This Pileated Woodpecker (below) seems quite relaxed.

This Swamp Sparrow couldn't find a swamp, but the mud bath seems to be doing the trick.  Click on the photo and look at the large version.  You can see droplets of water on its back.

Meanwhile, a House Finch had moved into the pool.

You want warblers?  Here's a Black-and-White Warbler drinking from the rivulets between the pieces of bark.

And a Northern Parula enjoying a cool shower.

On a recent weekend, the spa also hosted a Chestnut-sided Warbler and a Bay-breasted Warbler.

Of course, when I say ALL birds need water, I mean ALL birds:

Suddenly, there were no other birds to be seen.  But once the Cooper's Hawk left, The Spa reopened for business:

So, folks, if you want to see lots of birds in your yard, use moving, cascading, pooling water.  You'll love the results and you'll be entertained for hours on end by the birds in your own version of The Spa.