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Bathtub for the Birds

This summer, we asked students at the UW-Eau Claire Children’s Nature Academy why birds needed water. Six-year-old Rowan enthusiastically replied, “Birds need water to clean their feathers and get more energy!”  This was the spark I needed to get my passion started again.  I realized we didn’t have a viable water source for our songbirds at the Priory, and this was how the idea of a “Bathtub for the Birds” evolved!  We decided to expand on the project and bring beauty to the playgrounds on the campus.

Learning how to care for Mother Nature has brought so much joy and many magical moments such as our new “Secret Garden” on the grounds. My entire team joined in on this idea and were set off to see Jeff Nelson at Dell’s Architectural Antiques. If you have never been there, it’s an architecture museum, full of memories from our past. We found historic doors, lights, toilets, sinks, pallets, and tires just waiting to come to life in another form.

Brian Nicolai, Project Manager at Bluebird Restoration Project worked hard to keep up with my many ideas to paint and hang “upcycled” tires for the lower campus playground and create our Secret Garden. “Upcycled” is a new buzz word I’ve been hearing recently, and it means to give something old a new and beautiful use!

Brian Nicolai working at the Priory

Working with Brian and Jeff to create a Secret Garden for the children at the Nature Academy reminded me of this saying: “The wise farmer puts back into the land, at least as much as he has taken from it.”

Using upcycled items such as a bathtubs, sinks, and chandeliers to create a food and water source within our garden gives the children an opportunity to experience the migration season. Together we added to the habitat and witnessed the magic of Mother Nature. Helping the songbirds only improves the rest of the ecosystem, and now bees and butterflies have a safe haven as well.

Witnessing these little gifts brings me a sense of joy and ownership of the Priory and its inhabitants.

UW-Eau Claire Professor, Dr. Gary Running and his Geography students helped me realize that my vision of a sustainable water source for the birds would be more of a challenge than I thought. The ground is made up of glacier silt, and the bedrock is only eighteen to twenty inches below! This explains why there were little to no bird activity at the Priory before the addition of our Bluebird Trail this May.

Dr. Running's Class

Sustaining and restoring a water source at The Priory is magic waiting to happen. Image how many songbirds we can fledge next year when our habitat can help their population thrive!

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