September 10, 2021
Water, water everywhere in Hampton Roads but hardly any of it is potable

By Mary Reid Barrow

 A black snake was coiled round in a coral honeysuckle vine, stretching his head out to sip water from a  nearby birdbath.

When Karen Green saw the snake lapping up the water, it was one of those hot  August days we had not too long ago.  There hadn’t been much rain and fresh water was harder to find than usual.

Later that same day Karen watched a Cooper’s hawk just sitting in the bird bath, as if it were lolling in its own personal  spa for hawks.

“Holding his wings out, settling in like an old lady, soaking his body,” she wrote to me, “he would lift up, turn around, and settle in again.”

Green said the big bird relaxed in its spa for four to five minutes.  She wished she had grabbed her phone to take photos of both animals just loving the fresh water. But her big take-away was not photos, but how obvious the need for water is among all critters.

“So, yes, all creatures appreciate fresh, clean water!”  Karen wrote.

Of all people who would have an appreciation for a thirsty snake and a very hot Coopers hawk,  it’s Karen Green.  She founded the Organic Gardening Club here many years ago and is a Virginia Beach Master Gardener and a speaker on beneficial insects.

Her note was a reminder to us all to keep fresh water out for the animals, not only in the summer, but year around.  This area can go from too wet to dry  in no time and in winter, water also  can freeze.  Still we tend to take water for granted here in Hampton Roads.

Although there’s water, water, everywhere here, hardly a drop of it is potable.  Most of it is salt or brackish water, said Mary McGregor, who works at the Virginia Beach Wild Birds Unlimited store.  Even though Wild Birds Unlimited features bird food and bird treats of every description,  the store also stresses  the importance of water for the birds.

“It’s more important to put water out than  food,” Mary   said.  “Birds need clean water for the health of their feathers and to drink.”

Indee,  all critters need good fresh water, even a black snake!

 Do you have a favorite tree or plant with a story to tell?  What relationships have you observed  between plants and critters?  Who eats whom?  Who has babies where?   Send an email to


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