There's good news and there's bad news this week.
Good news first: Cedar Waxwings! They came to visit for just one day last week, darting like swallows over the tall grass in pursuit of insects. I didn't even know they did that.
It was only the third time in my life that I've ever seen them. Unfortunately, they were too busy to pose for photos, so this was the only halfway decent shot I have to remember them by.
Now for the bad news. And I'm sorry to say it's really bad news: Avian pox has appeared among the chipping sparrows at the feeders.
I hesitated to post about this, as it's so unpleasant, but I thought it was important that you become aware of it and watch for it in your own backyards. I had never seen or heard of this before, but I have spotted three affected birds, one of them dead, within the last two weeks.
Avian pox is a highly contagious viral skin disease that causes large growths that look like tumors, horrific in the extreme. I'm sparing you any photos, but for those with strong stomachs here's a link to Google images: Avian Pox for what I'm seeing.
It is spread by biting insects, direct contact with affected birds, and contact with contaminated water and surfaces - like seed, feeders, railings and bird baths. Allowing birds to congregate is a recipe for spreading the illness.
According to my research, feeders and baths need to be taken down for at least two weeks to allow the birds to disperse and baths, railings and feeders must be disinfected immediately with a 10 percent bleach solution. If feeding is resumed, bath water needs to be changed daily and everything needs to be disinfected again at least once a week, especially the ports of feeders.
I have bleached the deck rails and removed the baths and all feeders except the hummingbird port attached to my kitchen window. The likelihood of contamination is low there and it will, in any case, be abandoned soon.
Bird watching has been a great joy for me, and I will so miss seeing the little darlings. But at this point, continuing to attract them would just be selfish and irresponsible. I think when the weather turns cold and food becomes scarce I will try again. But for now, no more.
For happier stories, visit Michelle and her guests at Rambling Woods for weekly Nature Notes.