DEAR JOAN: I read the letter from David about dead pine siskins. You may recall that these little guys made a sweeping return to Northern California about three or four years ago and brought with them an type of avian pox or some such bird ailment. Lindsay Wildlife Experience wasn't sure at the time. I took about four up there.
My yard was strewn off and on with dead siskins and a few beautiful American goldfinches. I immediately took my feeders down and kept them down for a couple of months.
At the same time my old cat got out, somehow exposed himself to a dead siskin and within 12 hours had a raging temperature. I almost lost him and it cost quite a bit to save his life.
This is the added danger when you start seeing dead birds around your feeder so I hope people keep all pets inside and clean out residual areas.
DEAR PEGGIE: Thanks so much for the additional information. This may be the start of something bad, so if folks start seeing dead siskins or finches around their feeders, please let me know.
Bringing in feeders is the right first step, followed by cleaning up.
I hadn't heard of pets being exposed. Avian pox cannot spread to humans or animals, but both can develop respiratory inflammation, which normally isn't serious. In an older cat such as yours, however, it could be.
Regardless, it's a good reminder that we should keep our pets away from dead animals. In addition to the danger of contracting a communicable disease, there also are fleas and other pests looking for a new host, and in the case of poisoned creatures, the risk of secondary poisoning.
DEAR JOAN: I'm a big fan of hummingbirds. The following incident was a first for me, though.
About a year ago, a group of us were enjoying the suburban wildlife, including watching hummingbirds and bees feeding on some bottlebrush, from inside a screened back porch.
Suddenly a hummingbird flew into the screen, and got its beak stuck in it. I estimate a half inch of the beak stuck through to the inside. The bird flapped around madly, but seemed unable to back out.
Time seemed to stand still, but it probably took me 10 seconds to walk over to it. I gave its beak a gentle nudge with my finger, protected by a paper towel. I don't know if it was my push, or the added motivation of my presence, but the hummingbird got loose from the screen and flew away, apparently unharmed.
Have you ever heard of such a thing? I have two witnesses.
DEAR LARRY: I've never seen this happen, but I do know that it does.
It's listed as one of the serious, frequent problems hummers can get themselves into.
Depending on the angle it was stuck, it may have been able to brace its feet against the screen and pull itself out, but often, it just can't maneuver into a position to gain leverage.
Hummers have been found hanging from screens; unable to free themselves, they've died from starvation.
That's a pretty horrible way to go, so on behalf of the unfortunate hummer, thank you for freeing it before it could harm itself trying to escape.