[Tweeters] feeders

Gary Bletsch garybletsch at yahoo.com
Sat Feb 13 08:38:50 PST 2021

Dear Tweeters,
My feeders are all up, as per usual. 
During the siskin irruption that petered out a few weeks ago, there were a few times when large numbers of Pine Siskins visited my feeders, but most of the time, they just flew over and away. There has been a single Pine Siskin at my feeders on and off since then, and that bird appears healthy.
In some years, I have had sick Pine Siskins at my place during irruptions, and a few have died, or been killed by other animals. A dog that I used to have would sometimes kill an unwary bird, including a sick and unwary siskin here or there. She never got sick from that. What goes around came around, though; the coyotes ended up taking that dog.
During the recent irruption, I saw zero evidence of sick or lethargic siskins at my place, or anywhere else, although I did an enormous amount of birding all over Skagit County. At least in my area, I think this has been a smaller salmonella outbreak than ones I have seen in the past. Perhaps we are hyper-aware now, struggling through an outbreak of our own.
There were ten or more Anna's Hummingbirds at my place, up the end of last October. Then the number dropped sharply, and now I have only two or three hummingbirds. I suspect that either there was a natural die-off, or perhaps the resident male drove the others away. This male has been singing lately, gearing up for breeding season. I suspect that the hummingbirds at my place would perish if I took down the feeders. I am aware of very few other houses in the Upper Skagit Valley where hummingbird feeders are still up and running; with the weather as it is this morning, I doubt there is any place where "my" hummingbirds could go to get food, if I took the feeders down.
If I think of it, I will pay a visit soon to a spot I know along the river, where a male Anna's has been displaying. There are no houses within hundreds of meters of this bird's territory; it will be interesting to see if he survives this storm, living solely on what nature provides.
Meanwhile, at my seed and suet feeders, the activity is normal. This morning, there are the usual juncos, House Finches, Purple Finches, Golden-crowned Sparrows, Song Sparrows, and so forth. 
I have ten free-range chickens that spend a lot of time gleaning seeds that the songbirds knock down from the feeders. During the several siskin irruptions that have occurred over the 18 years I have lived here, I have never had a chicken get sick. Bald Eagles and coyotes have taken a lot of my birds, but sickness has never been an issue, even though my flocks have always spent a good part of their days hanging around my feeders. The same was true of the ducks I used to keep--predators would kill them long before any of them lived long enough to get sick.
I visited with a friend near Concrete recently. She has dozens of feeders up, and well over a hundred birds visiting her feeders all day long. She has not seen a sick siskin this winter, either, and is planning to keep on feeding.
If I were seeing sick birds here, I would clean the feeders with chlorine bleach, keep them down for a few days, and then put them back up. Seeing none, I will continue to feed. 
Yours truly,
Gary Bletsch
garybletsch at yahoo.com

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