Everything Requires Tending

Everything requires tending

 When I look out the picture window with my morning cup of tea, one of my great enjoyments is watching the birds come in for their morning seeds or suet. Rain or shine, frost or fog, they eagerly arrive from their mysterious nightly roosts. I marvel at the urgency of their feeding and feel happy that I can contribute to their well-being.

Birds happily eating at our feeder before the outbreak of disease

Birds happily eating at our feeder before the outbreak of disease

However, a couple of weeks ago an article in our local Audubon newsletter caught my eye: “In late December the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife dead bird reporting hotline started recording many calls about pine siskins with classic salmonella symptoms at or near backyard feeding stations in western Washington.”

When I went to refill my feeder the next day, there was a dead pine siskin (a small finch-like bird) underneath my feeder! Saddened and a bit shocked, I immediately took down the suet and seed feeder, threw out their contents, and soaked them in a light solution of chlorine. Then I stopped feeding for two weeks to let the birds disperse.

Disease can easily be passed around through droppings or moldy seed and concentrations of birds. For good tips about how to care for your birds and your feeders check out this site: http://wdfw.wa.gov/living/winter_feeding/index.html

Refilling the cleaned feeder after 2 weeks

Refilling the cleaned feeder after 2 weeks

The feeder is back up now. The birds returned within 24 hours. They love the Christmas tree I moved into place to provide cover from the neighborhood hawks. Still looking for the pine siskins to come back, though!








3 replies
  1. Pamela Sampel
    Pamela Sampel says:

    Oh, Annie, we had this same trouble last fall…I noticed a sick pine siskin and new it was salmonella. We stopped feeding for a month, and then again when we were in Iowa. Plus, of course cleaning out the feeders even more rigorously than we usually do. I think it worked, and our pine siskins have returned, though not in the numbers there were here in early fall. We’ve had a lot of hummingbirds, though. Over 30! And we SO wonder where they all perch at night…are they in the rhodies close to the house? The thicket across the south pasture? Ah, nature’s mystery’s make life such a marvel. Happy birding…xoxo pammy and st. francis.

  2. Katharine
    Katharine says:

    Lovely synchronicity, Ann, as just this afternoon, in a coaching conversation with a principal I said the same thing about constant tending…in this instance about his school community of staff, students and parents. The analogy I drew, which I know you will appreciate, was to hearing my favorite radio programmer early this morning talk of his 1/4 acre, that 100 years ago was totally, painstakingly, hand cleared of forest, tree by tree. When he purchased it a decade ago, to live simply, lightly, off grid, he cut a road and clearances for his home, horse pasture and walking trails. But every year, the forest works in its inevitable way to reclaim the land, thus requiring his constant tending.

  3. linette harriott
    linette harriott says:

    Lovely to read this Ann.
    I like the idea of constant tending in all my relationships.
    I have wrestled with the issue of feeding and, in the end, have decided not to. I worry that it creates an unsustainable population dependant upon me (and I am unreliable as I am not home all the time…) and (more) vulnerable to predators – especially the cats that are left to roam freely.
    I leave out water and hope that is enough.


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