If you’ve ever lived anywhere near a lake, a pond, or a stream, you will know what I’m describing now: it is the sound of spring at dusk. This sound is not the cacophony of many tiny birds courting each other as the sun rises; it is the almost deafening din of frogs seeking their mates as the sun descends. Countless frogs are making their way to the nearest body of water with that primal urge to further their species.
Frogs are not the only fauna that seek out some source of water. Many other garden friends such as insect-eating birds and pollinator partners like bees and butterflies also need a reliable source of this essential element. Normally, these nearly invisible insect helpers will sip quietly and unseen under the shrubs or on the dewy grass, but during this drought time, as landscapes transition to much drier sites, there will be fewer of these mini watering holes to visit. Birds are no different, although a bit more evident as they zip or flutter through the garden. Not only do they need a drinking fountain, they will be healthier and happier if they can also take a quick splash to reduce the insects riding piggy back under their feathers.
These creatures are essential partners in the balanced ecosystems that gardens should be modeled on. The great news is that their requirements for water are very small. Insects need just a shaded, boggy spot to land and sip. Container gardens are a perfect way to conserve water and yet offer up refreshment to these critters. For the bugs and butterflies, a bog plant that has just a skim of water over the surface of its soil will allow them to straddle a tiny puddle to slurp up their refreshment.
Birds do want just a bit more surface and depth, but that can be found in a shallow saucer or other decorative container that allows them to sip and splash. Place these containers at the edges of the garden where avian visitors can feel safe from predators.
Your mini oasis may also serve as a way station for other wild vertebrates that share our gardens, such as raccoons, opossums, and more. But everyone should be welcome at our little watering holes.