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The Making of the Meadowlark Blind at the Ljósmyndir Ranch Part 4 – Food and Water

September 17, 2021
© Jim Miller – Red-winged Blackbird (Agelaius phoeniceus)

The last part of the equation when it comes to the blind is food and water.

Food, more or less, is easy. A blend of food that matches the dietary needs of the birds present in the area will get the job done. However, food in the form of seed is not highly effective when mobile protein (insects) are present. Most of the birds on our property in Elbert County, all things considered, would rather have grasshoppers and other arthropods than seed. And this summer it became very obvious that there was plenty of six-legged meals available.

Regardless of insect availability, keeping a ready supply of fresh food is very important. Birds are creatures of habit. If they know food is going to be present, they will come when it is the best choice for them. If the feeders go empty for extended period of time, then there’s less of an incentive to come out.

In late Spring, keeping the food filled was a challenge. At best we’d be able to get out to the property once a week. Some weeks that wasn’t often enough and the feeders would go empty.

As summer got rolling, that was less of a problem. That mobile protein was available. With that food supply present the birds weren’t coming for food so the opportunities in the blind were diminished.

That’s where water comes in. A good friend of mine in Texas who has now probably setup blinds on a half dozen properties swears that the sound of dripping water will get birds that won’t come for the seed to come in if only to see what is going on. Of the blinds that I’ve been to that are most successful, only the Rocking R6 does not have a drip setup. However, Butch’s ponds are deep enough and filled all the time so the birds know that a steady drink is only a short flight away. Otherwise dripping water is the norm throughout.

And speaking of ponds, the dripping water has to go somewhere. On a couple of the Texas state park properties, that place to go was nothing more complex than cattle troughs where water from a water feature drained into and there was a pump at the drain that would push the water back to the water feature. Pedernales Falls SP didn’t use a cattle trough, but it did also use a system in which water was recycled back to the top of the feature.

Alternatively, at La Lomita on the private ranch side and Crescent Bend Nature Park on the public side, a slow drip in a shallow pond was used. The flow of water was slow enough so as to not overflow the pond, but fast enough to keep a reasonable amount of water in the pond at all times. And by shallow pond, I mean probably no more than 3-4 inches deep at the deepest with a shallow enough slope into the deep in of the pool that the birds could walk in and drink or bathe, whatever their pleasure.

We chose to go with the shallow pond experience for our initial attempt(s) at bringing water into the environment, but with an understanding that it would go through a couple of iterations before we truly got it right. And our understanding was dead on. The first pond went in, we filled it with water, and we sat back and watched. And what we found was that with the first pond we made the slopes into the pond too steep, making it awkward for the birds to go in and drink or bathe. We learned our lesson and the second time around was nearly perfect.

The biggest stumbling block that we ran into at our ranch was that we don’t have a readily available source of water present. No well has been dug on the property. Getting a water truck into the property at first would have been darn near impossible due to the nature of the entrance onto the property. Nor is there a structure large enough to have enough roof space that would allow for rainwater of any consequence. No ready source of water meant no effective drip. Area of improvement for next year.

For the short term, the answer was haul our own in and go without a drip. Throughout the summer I have transported 25-30 gallons of water each trip out to the property. And by 3-4 days, the little shallow water feature is dry again with just that amount of water. The one time I was able to make two trips during a weekend, the pond had a sliver of water left a week later. Telling me 60 gallons a week will be normal usage. That’s tough to haul on our own without more suitable transportation (i.e. a pickup). And the effort to fill that many water containers and then put them into a truck is far from trivial.

But not having a constant amount of water diminishes the chances that the birds are going to frequent the pond on a regular basis because it is hit or miss as to whether there is water there. Which diminishes the habituation. Which doesn’t make for a productive blind.

Next spring we plan on putting in a large tank (somewhere in the neighborhood of 1,000 gallons or 3,800 litres), and pay to have a commercial vendor bring in potable water so that we hopefully will have a supply that lasts 2-3 months. The access to the property will be easier as we start the home building process, meaning the water truck can get onto the property.

The Meadowlark blind is, effectively, still graded as Incomplete. But even incomplete can be productive to a degree.

Status check: Planning accomplished. Structure built and fixed (and fixed, and fixed). Food and water present. The shooting could begin.

About the Image
Red-winged Blackbird (Agelaius phoeniceus)
Elbert County, Colorado – June 2021
Canon 7D Mark II, Tamron 150-600 (Gen 1)
Tripod w/Wimberley gimbal head
ISO 400, 1/250 at f/16 – No Flash
Portfolio Image #1070
Image Size in Portfolio: 3579×2863

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