By the time we got to these last water features I had a much better idea of what I wanted of water in the garden. I wanted to hear the water. I wanted a place for perching birds as well as waders. And I wanted it to look more natural.
The biggest lesson learned from the previous water features is that you need a water basin larger than the rock to allow for the splash that happens as the water comes off the rock. If the rock just barely covers the grate, you have no leeway for heavy burbling. I did a lot of reading about pondless water features. Go ahead and Google the term. You’ll see a lot of neat looking rocks with water bubbling out of the top and disappearing into the pile of rocks. No standing water. Sometimes they are set up as bubbling urns. Same idea. Water trickles down the sides and disappears under the rocks.
The reasoning behind a pondless is that with no standing water you don’t have to worry about mosquitoes or algae bloom. But there’s not much room for birds to take a bath. I started wondering if there was a way I could utilize the technology but make it work for me. What they do with any “pondless” feature is dig a big hole with a huge water basin that is strong enough to hold not only the burbler, but all the rocks to hide the basin and I that some of the water basins had a nice lip on the edge. My idea was to not fill them to the top with rocks but to get some thin flat rocks to cover the surface and leave an inch or two of water for the birds. It was an idea that worked perfectly!
The basin I used was the Aquascape small aquabasin which is about 30x30x10. If I had been doing this from back before we ever planted anything, and had the room, I would have used the larger one just because I want the best for my birds, but the small works just fine. They don’t come cheap but they are durable and have a lifetime warranty. One thing that’s great is that they have a little grate that comes out easily for taking care of the pump so, if you need to get to the pump you don’t have to dismantle the entire water feature, just the part that is covering the grate.
I went to the rock yard and bought a bunch of flat rocks to help cover the edges and to go on most of the bottom. I added rocks of various sizes around and in the basin and the results have been pretty spectacular. I have birds visiting the bubbling rocks through-out the day.
We replaced the two previous water features in the backyard with this new one and added a third water feature of the same type in the front yard at the top of the dry creek bed. The hardest part about this is just adjusting the flow of the pump so you get the burble you want without splashing too much outside of the basin. We ran a drip line on a timer to all the water features.
I’m sharing a lot of photos because, if you’re anything like me, when I’m doing something like this I want to see as many views as possible so I can really understand the process. I think the key to this set up is 1) cover most of the bottom of the basin with flat rocks. This gives an inch or so of water for the bathing part. 2) have a few rocks that come up out of the water so the birds can wade in cautiously 3) adjust the flow so that a lot of the rock is covered in water. Some birds perch on the side but a lot of them like to stand in the water basin and stare at their reflections in the rock.
We learned a lot from the first water feature. Although we really liked the idea of a solar powered pump we couldn’t get the panel into the sun enough for it to run very long so the birds didn’t get a lot of enjoyment from it. They’d come by when the rock wasn’t bubbling. So we knew we would use an electrical pump for the next one.
I did some poking around online and found a place that offered a bubbling rock kit, basically they sent you a rock in a bucket with a pump and a grate. All you did was dig the hole. So we decided to give that a try.
The rock really did come in the bucket. The top of the bucket had holes in it. The idea was the same as it was with the first water feature, you dig a hole, put the bucket in the hole, put the pump in the bucket, put the lid on the bucket, add water and run the pump to the electrical outlet. This kit came with some heavy black plastic to go under the rock edges to help the water stay where it was supposed to stay.
It was a good idea, in theory. Alas for us it never worked. The rock was just as big as the top it was sitting on and it was hard to get the water pumping out just right so that it went back into the bucket and didn’t dry out the pump. As you can see from the photos, we made a few alterations and eventually, the plastic garbage can lid worked best. It looked ugly but the birds didn’t seem to care.
I had something a little different in mind which eventually led to the current water features.
When I decided I wanted to upgrade the water feature in my yard from a bird bath to running water, I really wanted a pond. I didn’t care so much about fish but I wanted the sound of bubbling water and a place where the birds and other critters could refresh themselves. I read about bubbling rocks and decided that was what I needed and convinced my husband to put it together for me.
Supplies, according to what I read online, were simple. Get a container for the water, a pump, a rock with a hole in the top and something to hold the rock on top of the container. I found a feed bucket made of extra heavy duty plastic, a BBQ grate that would cover the bucket but allow the water to go back down the sides of the rock, and I ordered a little solar pump from some place online. We went to the rockyard and picked up a small rock that was already drilled and ready for us.
My husband dug the hole and got the entire thing set up which worked out pretty much the way we read it would. He added a float valve which was a good idea in theory but didn’t work for very long. (We didn’t bother with that in future water features.)
We only had a couple of issues with this water feature. One, we couldn’t keep the solar panel in sun all day so unless I wanted to go outside and keep moving it around (I didn’t) it only ran for about an hour a day. Two, the size of the rock was too close to the size of the opening of the bucket which meant that with splashing, not all the water returned, as it should, to the bucket. This was a lesson we would learn a couple more times before solving it.
But it DID work and the birds did find it. I decided I wanted a second water feature on the other side of the yard.
You don’t need any fancy water feature to attract the birds to your yard. A simple bird bath is a great draw. We have a drip that goes on automatically each day. There is also a ground level saucer for birds like mourning doves who prefer to drink at that level.
And just never know who might come by for a drink.