Friday, September 07, 2007

Silent September

My back garden (AmEng backyard) is usually alive with birds noshing at the various feeders that I put out for them: peanuts for the tits (similar to chickadees) and woodpeckers, sunflower seeds for the finches (especially Greenfinches), nyjer seed for Goldfinches, and assorted other foods for the ground feeders like Robins and Blackbirds.
But it has fallen silent. Scarcely a bird to be seen. The reason: I have removed ALL the feeders. At first the birds came back for a couple of days, metaphorically scratching their heads and wondering where the free food had gone. And now they have gone.

I have had to do this because there is a widespread outbreak of something nasty that is killing birds at feeding stations, mainly Greenfinches. In the last week, I have picked up at least eight, dead or dying. The disease we all worry about is trichomoniasis, caused by a parasite, but is more likely to be salmonella, the result of a great density of birds at the feeding stations and the presence of water, ideal conditions for the infection.

So, I have sprayed the whole feeding area, disinfected and washed every feeder, and must now wait for two weeks - that is the received wisdom about the period needed to beat the disease - before resuming the feeding.

I tell you, it's scary. Not a repeat of Rachel Carson's Silent Spring, thank goodness, but still an ominous silence in September.

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