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mulberry travel bag Cyber Monday A guide to helping our native animals with the heat this summer
IN AN INCREASINGLY urbanised environment, Grainne Cleary, a researcher at the School of Life and Environmental Sciences at Deakin University tells Australian Geographic that it’s important we make our backyards into little havens for native wildlife.
Grainne has spent a lot of time observing the wildlife that visits backyards: how they use it, how often they stay and what peaks their interests. However, when the sweltering Australian summer heat sets in water becomes the animals’ main priority.
“We know that a lot of animals use water in backyards especially in this increasingly urbanised world, which has coincided with huge losses of vegetation, meaning there isn’t a lot of shade either.
SEE MORE: How to attract your favourite birds to your garden
“What we’re finding out through the use of cameras is that a lot more animals are drinking from bird baths. A huge number of birds as well as frogs, lizards, snakes and even koalas are using these baths.”
Bird baths don’t have to be elaborate
Pedestal baths the one’s you see in those elaborate, well kept gardens can make the idea of having a bird bath in your backyard intimidating. However, Grainne says that you can make a bird bath out of almost anything.
“Some of my best birds turn up on the pots or old buckets that I’ve left out, which the birds will then use very quickly.
“If you don’t want to commit to providing water all the time but it’s a very hot day just use a pot, place a rock in it or put a stick across it so they can dip in it and come back out again. Any kind of pots, pans and bowls are fine. Birds are not fussy.”
Bird bowl placement
According to Grainne, when it comes to bird bath placement you have to think like an animal. “Where would I like to bathe or get a drink?” she questions.
“If you do provide water for birds don’t just place it in the centre of your lawn. You need to put it in a place where the birds can feel comfortable bathing.
“If you put it in the middle of a grassy area, with no trees or anything you might get your bigger birds, maybe an echidna, but we want to give smaller birds a drink as well.”
For smaller birds, Grainne says it’s even better if you can provide a rock for the birds to dry off on.
“When smaller birds get really wet they find it hard to fly really quickly. If you have a rock they can dry off on for a bit and then fly off, that’s great.”
Try providing as many baths as possible
“Think about putting a range of different types of baths out,” Grainne says. All different kinds of animals may want to take dip, and while birds have been known to queue for their turn, the odd snake looking to cool off may not be so patient.
“We’ve found that native bees use these baths. People can get upset about that because they want birds, but we need to look after the bees as well and you can have more than one bath.
SEE MORE: The secret world of bird baths
“It’s good to observe which birds are using what bath, which ones prefer something elevated and which one’s prefer something on the ground.
“You have your rainbow lorikeets, miners and honey eaters taking water from an elevated bird bath and owning that,” she says. “Then you have the smaller birds like the superb fairy wrens taking water from a bird bath on the ground, close to some vegetation. The important thing is to watch and learn.”
Bonus tip: Grainne says adding a little ice into the water is a great way to cool down the temperature and provide a little fun for the birds.
Regularly give your baths a good scrub
Keeping you bird baths in the sun is a good way to kill disease, but this also causes quick evaporation so checking the water levels from time to time is important.
On the other hand, Grainne says that for birds trying to escape the heat in dryer months, placement in the sun isn’t the best idea so giving a good scrub is the next best thing.
“Regularly give them a good scrub, with only a tiny bit of detergent. Stagnate water can get disease growing in it, so make sure you’re keeping an eye on it.”
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