I’ve been watching closely. Nature is amazing. I had scattered plenty of sand and gravel on this patch of ground under the Acer. It is in dark shade during the summer and less so now. I had put the sand there to suppress weeds. It has worked well. Recently I noticed small almost- circular hollows, each one about 10cm across and about 3cm deep. They have been created by small birds, mostly house sparrows. They use the sand for their weekly dust bath. Even in winter, this area is dry because it is sheltered by the wall and it is banked up so that any excess water runs off.
Dust baths, also called dusting or sand bathing, are part of a bird’s preening and plumage maintenance that keeps feathers in top condition. The dust that is worked into the bird’s feathers will absorb excess oil to help keep the feathers from becoming greasy or matted. The oil-soaked dust is then shed easily to keep the plumage clean and flexible for more aerodynamic flight and efficient insulation. Dry skin and other debris can also be removed with excess dust, and regular dusting may help smother or minimize lice, feather mites, and other parasites. (Credit: Melissa Mayntz, The Spruce)
I spent a while digging today. The soil was unbelievably dry and very easy to work. Actually, I have very little digging to do each year. Most of the garden is weed-proofed using loose stone over a layer of membrane. In other places, there are dense ground cover spreading plants. The only areas of bare soil are the vegetable bed and the annual flower bed. Today was a good day to get started. I didn’t stay long at it because I was interrupted by a heavy shower. It was on this bed I had spread seaweed before Christmas, so it’s now completely dug in. The vegetable planning can now move on to the next phase.