DO-IT-YOURSELF SOLAR FOUNTAIN
by Teri Buhl
One of the best things you can do to encourage wildlife in your yard is to create water sources. For migrating birds, especially in the Southwest, fresh water is a lifesaver. According to the Audubon Society, “fall” migration is a protracted experience, starting as early as mid-June and lasting until the early days of January. Such a long migration season provides birders plenty of opportunities to witness the spectacle and joy of birds on the move. Peak fall migration occurs from mid-August to mid-October. Cornell Lab of Ornithology researchers used cloud and radar data to estimate that 4.7 billion birds leave the U.S. over the southern border, heading to the tropics. As stewards of wildlife, we can help a big percentage of our flying friends make a successful journey by supplying water when they need a rest stop.
This project is easy, it has a spray head that hummingbirds like, a center bowl for drinking, and a ring/bowl that larger birds can use for bathing. In addition, a solar panel means that you don’t need to be near an electrical outlet. Last, but not least, it’s a closed system that’s easy to clean and maintain. What’s not to like? Here’s what you need:
|A 5-gallon bucket||$5 – 10|
|A 13-inch diameter plastic chip and dip tray||$1 – 3|
|A solar fountain kit, minimum of 2 watts of power||$20 – 35|
|1 to 2 feet of 3/8-inch to 1/2-inch plastic tubing||$1 – 5|
You’re going to put holes in the chip and dip tray to allow water to drain back into the bucket, and can use either a drill or a soldering iron. Any self-respecting do-it-yourselfer probably already has these tools on hand. If not, visit your nearest Habitat for Humanity Restore and ask about their tool lending counter – they’ll be happy to help you.
Good luck and happy birding!
Find a place near a sunny spot for your bucket, and fill it to about 4 inches from the top.
Check to make sure your chip/dip tray fits your bucket properly.
Mark the drainage hole locations on the back of the chip/dip tray using the ejection pin and molding marks as a guide. Start with 12 holes – you can always make more later. (This need not be perfect.)
Drill the holes using a 1/16 to 1/8” drill bit. Make one “pilot” hole in the center of the dip bowl of the tray. You can use a soldering iron for the holes if you prefer.
Choose a drill bit the size of your fountain stem, probably 3/8 to 1/2″, and make a hole in the center using the pilot hole as a guide.
Fit the fountain stem into the center of the tray. It needs to be just above the water level line to spray properly.
Most pump kits have small segmented pipes that you can size to the height of a container or pot. Assemble these to the pump and place the pump in the bottom of the bucket.
Cut a relief slot in the bucket rim for the pump cord. A round file works well for this.
You may need to buy an extra piece of tubing depending on your pump kit. Use it to connect the pump piping to the fountain stem – see next photo.
The tubing needs to be long enough to lift the tray to add more water.
Solar panels come with hardware for ground or wall mounting. If you use a ground stake, find a sunny place and face the panel to solar south. The tilt should be about 30 degrees or less for maximum sun exposure throughout the day.
Keep your pump wet, grab a drink, sit back, and enjoy watching all the birds use your new fountain!