Drought and Songbirds

I started the day miserably with a headache, but thankfully still decided to forge ahead to my mom's and play in the garden.  On the way I even redeemed my rewards card at Ace Hardware to buy some herbs, but upon arriving at the house I realized that my plants were dying from the drought.  That's the problem with living 40 minutes away from your garden.  Things die and there's nothing you can do about it.

Cursing under my breath, I dragged the hose out and watered the backyard by hand for a while, noticing that my chartreuse colocasia was fading fast and my leather fern was already gone.  I cursed some more. 

We hadn't received rain since the tropical system that fizzled out a month ago, and I'm not entirely sure that the sprinklers have been running enough in my absence.  Of course, the driest area right now  is usually the wettest and the low lying area even flooded every other summer, leading me to situate plants that love wet feet there, such as papyrus, gingers, and elephant ears.  Perhaps the tall slash pine trees are drinking all the water for themselves.  "Selfish jerks!" I thought to myself.

My dead leather fern.
Just as I was about to finish my watering session, the birds suddenly got very chatty and actually began to swoop around my head like little daredevils!  Birds like cardinals and titmouses would alight on fenceposts and trees, landing so close that they were in arm's reach!  As I stood there, enjoying the chattering and singing, I watched as various woodpeckers started foraging on the tree trunks.  I saw red cockaded woodpeckers, hairy woodpeckers and a few more to boot!

I ran back inside to get the camera, and not taking the time to get the 300mm telephoto zoom lens, I stuck with the default lens instead.  Here's what I saw!

Female Red Cardinal

Brown Headed Nuthatch

Tufted Titmouse
All the birds would all come and forage in a loose flock, converging upon the garden after I drenched it with water.  Cardinals hunted in the undergrowth, the different species of nuthatch, flitted about the treetops, and woodpeckers took to the trunks.  At one point, a nuthatch chatted at me, but stopped when it heard another one sound an alarm.  In fact, all the birds got really quiet, and my nuthatch hid in a bottlebrush.

All of a sudden, a big slate gray colored bird of prey zipped by, perching only a stone's throw from me!  I think it was a merlin, though it could have been a peregrine falcon.  In any case, all the birds communicated with each other to avoid the threat of a predator.  Too cool.


  1. Drought conditions do a number on our gardens that is for sure. I hope some of these that look like goners will perk back up and grow again for you.

    Love those bird pictures.


  2. At least I dug up some suckers of the colocasia and put them in a container full of water and dirt. Those ones are looking great on the front patio! Just as long as the drought doesn't kill the whole thing like it did the leather fern...

  3. I am so sorry about your plants!!! It seems the birds had to come by to cheer you after such a rotten discovery! I have been seeing the northern birds here the past few weeks and it has been so fun to see AND hear them.

  4. What a great post - those birds were obviously quite pleased you came by with the hose! That leatherleaf fern should come back if you just cut it right down to the ground and then water it. I am guessing all that gardening fun fixed your headache?

  5. The lack of rain is making for a lot of unhappy plants here as well. The birds really appreciated your watering didn't they? How neat to see all those different species at one time!

  6. What an engaging story! I loved your descriptions of the water hungry birds, right down to the big finish of the Merlin. Well told. We are suffering from drought here in TN as well. I need to water for the birds as well as the plants.

  7. Sounds like the drought is making your birdbath popular. We've had dry weather this month down here as well. At least the temps have cooled down a bit, so it's not so brutal. Glad to see the birds have lifted your spirits! Nothing like watching the antics of cardinals and titmice to bring out a smile.

  8. I think the good thing about plants that need lots of water to be happy is that they can deal with drought by going dormant. Don't give up yet! You might get a surprise!

  9. How nice of the birds to come out and thank you for the water! And thank goodness you didn't have to watch one of them fall victim to the predator. That would have been horrible.

    (hope your plants somehow pull through...how sad)

  10. You are right about the drought. We have not had good rains for a while down south here, which added more work to hand water the plants in my busy schedule. But those birds are really pleasant visitors. I am sure they really cheered you up! Sorry about your plants lost, hope some of them might come back after a good drink of the water.

  11. Isn't it amazing how a little time spent in the garden can help you forget all about a nagging headache and some other irritating things in your life. ;-) It looks like you were nourished by the garden.

  12. Julie:
    Its neat, because they're all out in mixed species groups! A lot of variety to see...

    Headache was still there, but my ADD and the birds combined for a couple hours of blissful distraction. BTW, its a leather fern, native to the everglades... they need more water than leatherleaf ferns, but maybe I'll get lucky.

    Thanks for the kind wishes... at least the birds DID succeed in cheering me up.

    Sorry to hear its dry down there too! I checked the forecast and no rain in sight, and the humidity's gonna drop with the cold front.

    It was really neat to see the birds communicate with each other when the merlin came along! Sorry its dry there too...

    It wouldn't be so bad, except that here in Jax it only rained a couple times in summer! The birds did cheer me up though.

    I agree with you on the plants going dormant in the dry season being able to handle it... unfortunately the leather fern isn't one of those plants. :( I won't give up though, and thanks for the encouragement!

    Danger Garden:
    Don't judge me, but I would have been just as thrilled if the merlin nabbed one of the birdies! Its nature, and its fascinating to watch unfold in its many guises.

    It stinks, because hand watering only works so well when I only make it there once every 1-2 weeks. :(

    I was nourished! Funny how I forgot to eat anything all day though... was having too much fun!

  13. It's been dry here as well, with just a sprinkling of rain yesterday - the only rain since we had 13.5 inches all at once several weeks ago.
    I love watching the birds - and you have the same birds that flock around my feeders. I'm especially fond of the nuthatches. The chickadees in my garden are very friendly and I think that if I were able to spend enough time nearby, they'd come perch on my arm.

  14. The drought is also taking hold of Southern Florida; we haven’t had rain in over two weeks


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