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MMWD Blog: Think Blue Marin

Welcome to our blog! Written by staff at MMWD, “Think Blue Marin” explores all things water in south and central Marin—water supplies, conservation, new projects, watershed management, and more.

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Sep 02

Missed Photo Op

Posted on September 2, 2016 at 8:57 AM by Ann Vallee

by Charlene Burgi

Have you ever found yourself in a situation that would surely offer some prize if you could capture that slice of time on camera? If only that one rare moment could present itself again to a "prepared" you!

Such a moment occurred for me this past week. As I hand-watered the container plants on the front deck with the fan spray attached to the hose, two hummingbirds buzzed by me and began their dance in the spray from the hose. They flitted to and fro, hovering on occasion to sip from the cool streams of water, only to dive in and out of the spray again. They were within two feet of my hand holding the hose. The moment was breathtaking for me. In the back of my mind, I could hear my photographer friend chiding me to never go anywhere without a camera. Alas, it would be another photo stored in the recesses of my mind for only my memory to recall.

Hummingbirds at feeder
Hummingbirds at feeder
The hummingbirds' behavior was a reminder that the summer months have been dry. Water is available to the birds here in the way of birdbaths, and the bird feeders are cleaned and filled frequently. Despite these amenities, the hummingbirds have never been viewed as a birdbath kind of feathered friend. In fact, it never occurred to me just how these little bits of life do bathe until this past week. I wondered how I could provide a shower for them and not waste water or lose sprayed water through evaporation.

The thoughts of fountains and pools made me think of evapotranspiration (ETo). Open water, such as uncovered swimming pools, is continually lost to evaporation. Many pools have automatic fill systems so it is never evident just how much water is being lost. Did you know whatever the ETo in inches of water evaporated for the week is the amount of water lost in an uncovered pool?

Opting for a disappearing fountain will reduce evaporation, but there is still the challenge of controlling spray. Fountain sprays can miss their intended target of falling into the collection area, whether an open pool or disappearing pond. As with sprinklers working on a windy day, water will be carried by the wind and evaporated.

The dilemma of losing more water to evaporation due to wind turned my thoughts to smart controllers that may have the option of turning off automatically on windy days in order to control the spray intended for the root zone of plants. It made me wonder if a timer on the hummingbird shower could be controlled by the anemometer (that instrument measuring wind speed on some smart controllers).

Oh my. I could feel the wheels turning … It is amazing what thought processes two little hummingbirds can create regarding water savings! And nary a camera to record the event.


Anonymous User
September 3, 2016 at 8:19 PM
Hello - here is one that looks pretty simple: -- haven't tried it myself, but the video is really adorable! Be well, aa

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