You might have noticed that the first excessive heat warning of 2023 hit us even earlier than usual this year. We are now seeing temperatures above 80 degrees even before the official start of summer.
While temperatures in this range were foreign to Western Washington when I was growing up here, we are now much better versed in how to care for vulnerable humans during heat waves and deadly heat domes in our area. (Unfortunately, with the Edmonds Library still closed, there are not any official cooling centers listed in Edmonds for 2023 yet. But here are our official cooling centers for Snohomish County: snohomish-county-public-safety-hub-snoco-gis.hub.arcgis.com/pages/cooling-centers.)
However, did you know that our area’s wildlife, including birds and insects, suffer during periods of excessive heat too? If you’re not quite able to afford a fancy birdbath in your yard, you could still help out our local critters with cheap water bowls from the dollar store.
The fringe benefit for humans is that your yard or porch area is more likely to become part of a wildlife corridor if you maintain a reliable source of uncontaminated water on it, and you will be visited by more cottontails, squirrels, hummingbirds, butterfliesand bees. Your garden will also benefit from the additional interest by pollinators. However, I know that many gardeners in our area bear a grudge against the cottontails, so if you would rather not invite additional wildlife into your green space, perhaps the water bowls are not for you.
(In my family, we are more than happy to sacrifice a few flower heads to enjoy the shenanigans of the local cottontails. I even plant cheap flowers, like marigolds, that they enjoy snacking on to entice the wild bunnies into our yard.)
If you would like to help out our local wildlife this spring, summer and fall, you can buy some cheap glass bowls and glass marbles. Please only commit to maintaining water bowls in your yard if you are willing to dump out the old water every day and thoroughly rinse and scrub out the bio film that forms at least twice a week. Otherwise, you are offering stagnant, unsafe water to our local animals with microbes that are more likely to sicken and kill them.
The glass marbles are not only a lovely accent in the water bowls for your garden, they create a little pedestal in the water bowl to keep our insect friends, especially the butterflies and the bees, from drowning when they stop to take a sip in your water bowl. Otherwise, they could easily become trapped in there, with the frictionless inner walls of the bowls being impossible to climb out of if their wings get wet. Little twigs and sticks can serve the same purpose if they are sticking out of the water bowl, but they will not be as pretty.
I usually dig out a shallow depression or prop up the three water bowls that I maintain in our yard with lawn stones to make sure that the water stays accessible to the littlest critters. My friend Sabrina Connaughton, a more dedicated animal rescuer than me, even adds electrolytes to her wildlife water bowls. Choose a shady part of your yard or porch, where the water is less likely to evaporate as quickly as it would in direct sunlight, and our little mammal friends will feel more secure about stopping to take a drink from your water bowl on a hot day.
We have some hot ones ahead of us this year, thanks to global warming, so if you want to do a good deed to help our urban wildlife cope, water bowls are a fun and easy way to coexist with nature in the 21st century. Many animals are cut off from their natural water sources due to human encroachment. So create a micro ecosystem that makes life a little bit easier for our furry and feathered friends.
— By Jenna Nand
Jenna Nand lives in Edmonds