DEAR JOAN: We've been walking in the Los Gatos hills just south of town for many years. We used to see coyotes or bobcats, but we no longer see them.
I'd also like to see rattlesnakes and mountain lions, which I understand have been there in the past. The area is unchanged and has no buildings or roads. Any thoughts?
DEAR RICHARD: I actually get quite a few letters from people who notice the disappearance of wildlife from areas they regularly visit, as well as from people who aren't getting as many birds at their backyard feeders as they have in the past.
Global warming? Silent spring? Nefarious industries being, well, nefarious? Maybe, but the answer is more complex. It is really difficult to gauge the affects of global or even regional changes by looking at an individual area. Obviously, something is going on, but it's difficult to know whether it's significant or just nature adjusting.
Development of natural areas alters where animals live. Not only do we displace them, we create lures to draw them into our yards by being careless with garbage, leaving pet food outside, planting gardens and lawns, even hanging up bird feeders that attract predators that eat birds.
The wildlife in the area where you walk may have gone closer to the developed areas where food might be more plentiful. Conversely, the animals may have withdrawn to more remote areas to avoid contact with humans.
Some wildlife populations expand, while other diminish.
As for the birds that others write me about, so many factors come into play, including time of the year, availability of food in the wild, migratory patterns and the presence of predators in the area, including other aggressive birds.
What we do and don't do makes a difference in the environment. Let's tread lightly.
DEAR JOAN: I have two hummingbird feeders hanging about 6 feet apart right outside my kitchen window. I have had feeders there for years, never having to refill them more often than every two weeks. And that's not necessarily because they're empty, but just to refresh the nectar.
Well, suddenly something really wonderful is happening. I can't count the actual number of hummingbirds that are suddenly flying about, but it looks to be dozens.
The feeders hold exactly one quart of nectar and for the past two weeks they have been totally empty within hours of refilling.
It is absolutely fascinating to see this activity, but I do question what may be going on in their life pattern. Is this unusual or is it just something that has passed me by in previous years? I do hope they now think of this as home for the season and will continue.
DEAR BARBARA: One of your neighbors down the street is probably moaning about the lack of hummers at her feeders.
It's difficult to say what brought about the change. Perhaps some of the people who regularly feed the birds have stopped providing nectar, or maybe a cat or hawk has moved into their old territory.
For now, keep doing what you're doing. The hummers appear to like it and should continue to pay you visits until something changes again. Until then, enjoy the show.