A SOLAR DUPLEX birdhouse with an integral winterized birdbath, a grand pyramid birdhouse complete with a hieracosphinx (hawk-headed sphinx), an engraved solid copper cage and a condo birdhouse are some of the bird-brained ideas manifested in the "It's for the Birds" show opening today at Appalachiana in Bethesda.
Peter Ellenbogen, a Silver Spring architect who usually works on a somewhat larger scale, has designed what may well be the warmest birdhouse in town. The miniature house with pool has a plastic solar collector. Although only a mock-up the house could be designed with genuine solar parts. The solar house costs $375 and up, depending on the size of the bird (Ellenbogen will custom design).
A grand pyramid-style bird cage 18-inches square was made by Alf Ward of Michigan. Ward used a deep blue copper-plated steel base with vertical iron bars meeting at the top. Two hieracosphinx, also in blue, are finials. Ward has used strips of the blue copper-plated steel with inlaid brass to ornament the sides. It's doubtful that a bird would dare venture inside -- for fear of being mummified -- but the piece as art is gorgeous. Price: $1,200.
The most ex pensive bird mansion is a solid copper cage with brass bars by jeweler Barbara Ingerski Mann of Georgia. It goes for $3,500. The bread-box size cage has two copper sides. One side depicts a Farragut Park bag lady, according to artist Mann. It's a very detailed picture including a rumpled shopping bag and rolled-down-to-the-ankles stockings. The other side is an engraved garden scene with birds flying about in all shapes and sizes.
The artist designed the cage with function in mind. The bottom of the cage comes out for cleaning. A latched door lets the bird in or out.
The exhibition of fantasy bird feeders, birdbaths, bird cages and houses is on display though Oct. 24 at Appalachiana, the Bethesda crafts and design store, 10400 Old Georgetown Rd. in the Georgetown Square Shopping Mall.
The idea for the show came to co-owner Joan Farrell when she held a birdhouse-raising party last spring. "I needed help putting up a large birdhouse I had bought in Cumberland. So I threw a party. We had so much fun that I thought an exhibition of birdhouses would make a neat show. This is the result."
The birdhouse/feeder problem caught the imaginations of not only the craftspeople in ceramics, basketry, metal, and wood but titillated the minds of architects and building contractors as well.
Naval architect Blake Hendrickson of Alexandria made a star-shaped bird feeder that could be a Hollywood facade. Different-size chunks of wood fit into the structure making what looks like a star-shaped city with a three-inch hole in the center. However, once the bird hops through the hole, there's nothing waiting for him except a bar propping the feeder. Price: $140.
The condo birdhouse is made of four two-story wood "town houses" that back into each other, making a square of attached birdhouses. The compartmentalized structure, complete with wood-shingled roofs, bars outside each hole and slide out panels for cleaning, was designed by Richmond Brooks for the purple marten. Brooks is a builder/contractor from Bethesda. Price: $150.
A ceramic slab birdhouse/feedre with an outside sheltered "patio" is by potter Robert Weidner of Wheaton. The house has a silo structure on one end where bird feed can be funneled. The clay has a grainy texture that looks as though it will weather well. Price: $70.
Birds following today's country cottage-style will love to nest in Diana Macomber's and Jean Smith's women pine needle baskets with thatch roofs. The baskets also are made ov ivy, wisteria and honeysuckle and are in the neighborhood of $50.
A red clay bird feeder by potter Linda Harry of Knoxville, Pa., is a classic. It consits of three parts: a large tank for bird feed, a try to catch the feed and an oversized baffle to keep the squirrels away. Price: $46.
Also being sold -- and available at Appalachiana year round -- are bird feeders, called "cedar feeders" made of cedar logs with drilled-in holes. In the winter, Joan Farrell suggests they be used for suet. Price: $20.
In conjunction with the show, Appalachiana has scheduled several talks by consultants from the National Audubon Society (today, 1-5 p.m; Monday and Oct. 12, 2-4 p.m.; Oct. 15 and Oct. 22, 6-9 p.m.); demonstrations on how to make a simple bird feeder for cavity nesting birds (Oct. 11, 1-5 p.m.); and two bird walks (Oct. 18 and 24, 8-10 a.m.).
Special bird seed mixes available only through the Audubon Society also will be sold throughout the exhibition. CAPTION: Picture 1, "Only a bird in a gilded cage" . . . or perhaps an engraved solid copper cage with brass bars by jeweler Barbara Ingerski Mann of Georgia. Put your bird in paradise for $3,500.; Picture 2, Red clay bird feeder by Linda Harry.; Pictures 3 and 4, Cage by Alf Ward and Richmond Brooks' bird condo.; Picture 5, Thatched and woven bird houses by Diana Macomber and Jean Smith. Photos by Craig Herndon -- The Washington Post