Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Wash Your Feeders

Spring is nearly here. Now is the time to make sure your yard is ready for the arriving avian migrants from the South.

Have you cleaned your feeders?

THE GOOD EYE

The reason I ask: there is this nasty disease spreading around the HOUSE FINCH community. Strangely enough, it's called HOUSE FINCH EYE DISEASE. Experts suspect that one cause might possible be stemming from finches eating at dirty feeders. Mind you, it's just one possible cause, but it is something we humans can easily control with a little effort.

The disease, known as Mycoplasmal conjunctivitis, appears to have begun right here in our area (MD, DC, VA). In 1994, keen observers started to notice HOUSE FINCHES with swollen, red eyes.

Here at the Haas West Annapolis Bird Sanctuary, all of the feeding stations were taken down and emptied this weekend. To clean them, we used ample amounts of Dawn detergent, a sponge, a thick bristled brush and a pipe cleaner looking thing that was specially designed to clean inside of the tube-shaped feeders. Some experts recommend using bleach to clean your feeders. As the weather warms, I will clean my feeders again with a bleach and water solution indoors. But this weekend was too cold. And from what I gather, any bleach added to the backyard would not 'add' to my garden's springtime luster.

So I spent this past Sunday morning (let me tell you... it was COLD!) scrubbing our bird's restaurants. The water from the hose was freezing! My hands were nearly frost-bitten, but the results are worth the temporary numbness. After the feeders finished drying in the sun, they were sparkling and ready for filling.

THE IFFY EYE?

Our finches have thus far appeared to be well. Earlier in the winter, there was one female HOUSE FINCH with the disease, but she's not been seen in a several weeks.

Have you cleaned your feeders yet? Why not add it to your list of spring gardening chores? At the very least, it might help slow (or prevent) the spread of HOUSE FINCH EYE DISEASE in our area.

If you happen to have some FINCHES in your yard with the disease, perhaps you'd like to participate in Cornell University's SURVEY?

-Dan

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