When I heard of the Salmonella outbreak in Pine Siskins along the west coast, I wanted to know more before I took any action to remove my suet and seed feeders. Especially since we were heading into a cold snap with snow, it seemed important to continue feeding my neighborhood birds. I was not seeing any evidence of sick finches so after thoroughly cleaning and refilling my feeders, I wrote to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology for guidance and I received this helpful response:
Thanks for getting in touch and for your concern for sick birds. Yes, this is a terrible year of Salmonella especially on the west coast. Although such outbreaks are known to occur and are something that bird populations can recover from as a whole, in the interest of caution, taking down your feeders for awhile and cleaning them is a great thing to do.
Whenever a sick bird of any kind comes to your feeder, we recommend that you remove the feeders the sick bird is using for awhile to assure that disease is not being spread at your feeders. While the feeders are down, clean them thoroughly with a diluted bleach solution or very hot water, rinse them, and let them dry completely. Once you put the feeders back up, be sure to clean them every week or two. If sick birds return, avoid using feeders with ports that birds put their heads into and clean your feeders at least weekly.
The good news is that it's fine to take a break from your FeederWatch counts at any time, so no worries about that. It is also ok to FeederWatch without feeders! We are trying to spread the word about this, but the name of the project makes it a bit counter intuitive. You can modify your site description so it reflects that you don't feed during some months of the year (it is question #9 on the site description form), and then continue counting, if you would like.
Find more information about bird diseases on our website: https://feederwatch.org/learn/sick-birds-and-bird-diseases/
We wish you many healthy birds. Happy FeederWatching!
Emma Greig, Ph.D.
We have windows in our house, lots of windows, and we also have three birdbaths and two bird feeding stations that make our backyard a popular hangout for our avian neighbors. I wanted to make a few of our windows screen-free for better bird viewing so I did a bit of research into how to prevent bird strikes.
A Bird's Eye View window strike films are easy to install and inexpensive, as well as lovely. (I had used bird silhouettes in the past and was not impressed.) I purchased clear designs in both 6 " and 4" and see what happened.
I am delighted to report that we have not witnessed a bird strike since I put these on our windows four months ago-and we have been home the WHOLE time.
If you are looking for a lovely alternative to screens-that works-I highly recommend the ArtScape Bird's Eye View squares.
above: 6" squares in my studio
below: close up of one of the 4" designs
We were ecstatic to see this bird in our backyard yesterday, and doubly thrilled when he showed up again today to scratch and forage underneath our manzanita. This robin-sized thrush sports a blazing orange head stripe and neck plumage, the black "scarf" around it's chest really sets off the colors. We have not yet seen Mrs. Varied Thrush this year, but hope that this lovely guy brings her to visit!
Varied Thrushes breed in dark understories of humid evergreen and mixed forests along the Pacific Coast. In the winter, many move into dense parks, gardens, and backyards. Varied Thrushes are rare but regular winter visitors to the Upper Midwest and Northeast. All About Birds
According to Ancient Greek mythology winged and clawed bird-women lured sailors to destruction through the power of their song...How and why did these monster bird women get transformed into sexy mermaids?
"Avian symbolism in the Greek imagination was relatively common. In ancient mythology, birds were used to represent everything from oracles, enchantresses, messengers of deities, and mediators between the human world and the supernatural realm." C. Hastings 2/11/19
Intrigued? Check out Audubon's Sirens of Greek Mythology were Birds not Mermaids and
this from Vice: Sirens Are Actually Bird-Bodied Messengers of Death, Not Sexy Mermaids
Keep Asking Questions!
In addition to our backyard birding, we go for walks as often as possible in the Washington Park Arboretum-three times in the past two weeks we've had barred owl sightings.
In an aging maple tree across the street from our house, we enjoyed watching a male pileated woodpecker at work. This bird kept three 2-year-olds enraptured for over an hour!
And yesterday, we had a downy woodpecker for the first time visit our suet offerings. I really love this time of year.
Photo credit: WhatBird.com
Western Scrub Jay ©NPR
It never fails to impress me how quickly the birds in our neighborhood discover that we've put out our squirrel-proof feeder filled with black sunflower seeds and our blocks of chili-spiced suet. Yesterday morning we were treated to nine species while we were enjoying our coffee: a pair of Spotted Towhees, two Stellar Jays, two flickers, a banditry of chickadees, a bustle of bushtits, some Oregon juncos, a song sparrow, one Bewick's Wren, and a couple house finches. We also had our first visit from a Western Scrub Jay last week. Hooray for birds!
Spotted Towhee ©Mick Thompson
Song Sparrow ©All About Birds
A thick plume of smoke is beginning to blanket Puget Sound for the weekend. It is eerily quiet and I have seen no birds. The sun did not come up today, not even the red ball that we could see through the haze yesterday. It is a sickly yellowish and thick looking sky, i.e. something out of a dystopian movie. The levels of pollutants is in entering the very unhealthy-hazardous range. This, on top of everything...and for us it is just smoke, not raging wildfires, in our backyards.
Another week of this before we get a bit of rain to reboot our atmosphere which means no going for my daily walk or tending my garden---because it's too dangerous to be outside breathing the air! until then...quarantine within the quarantine. Sigh.
I am knitting to soothe my soul and enjoying catching up on some good reads, including:
To find out what Annabelle is knitting-click here
I was delighted to have the opportunity to preview A Natural History of Fairies by Emily Hawkins and illustrated by Jessica Roux. A Natural History of Fairies takes these elusive creatures into a truly wondrous realm with scientific information presented in a playful manner--a cross between Cicely Mary Barker’s Flower Fairies and The Magic Schoolbus.
The Natural History of Fairies is presented as the field journal of Aunt Elise, a botanist who traveled the world from 1890s-1920s. Under the guise of learning about fairies, readers are drawn into the very real and varied natural histories of a host of flora and fauna. We are treated to scientific drawings, observational charts, and notes as we are given a peek into the lives of fairies.
The Natural History of Fairies reminds us that we need to be aware of how our actions impact the natural world, and it does this without being cloying or pedantic. Instead, it invites fairy-finders to enjoy the beauty and wonder that is hiding in their backyards and neighborhoods. This book will entice you to venture into the magical realm.
The Natural History of Fairies will be published soon, on September 29...so, since I cannot share images, here are two other fairies I have loved: the Blackthorn fairy by Cicely Mary Barker and an update version of the classic midsummer eve by Edward Robert Hughes.