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THE GREAT OUTDOORS: Good news and a word of caution | lifestyles

Hey, the hummingbirds have started to return! I have had several at my recently placed hummer feeders and have been getting reports about others seeing them this past week. These little guys give us a lot of pleasure through the summer but it is our responsibility to keep them healthy. This means the feeders need to be kept clean and new food periodically put in, especially now that the warmer weather is moving in.

Experts recommend cleaning the feeder and replacing the food every three or four days. What I do is fill my feeders with just enough food for three to four days and then there is less waste. Not cleaning the feeders can result in sick hummers and could even cause death, so please take the time to do so.

Another thing I find helpful is to put up a number of hummer feeders at different areas around my house. That’s because once the female has started to incubate and later when raising the kids she has limited time for herself to feed. The males do not get involved with raising the kids and spend a good part of their summer near the feeders, as this is an easy feeding deal for them. They defend “their” feeder from other hummers, which makes it hard for Ma to get a drink.

I have several feeders near the east windows of my house, a couple more on the south side windows and another couple on the west side. This makes it difficult for the males to control any feeder. It is also nice for me because if I’m sitting in the living room I see hummers; in the dining room, hummers; in the kitchen, hummers; and in the bathroom, hummers!

I have not seen any orioles at my grape feeder yet but others have reported seeing some. The rose-breasted grosbeaks showed up this past week and they always add a real spark of color at the feeder. As I mentioned last week, I let the regular bird feeder go empty for a few days before refilling it. That accomplishes two things this time of the year: First it keeps the birds from congregating too densely around the feeder, to minimize the possible spread of this new bird flu (although experts are saying song birds don’t seem to be affected by it) ; and second, it cuts down on my spending on black oil sunflower seeds.

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In relation to that new bird flu, an eagle in the Romulus area (between Seneca and Cayuga lakes) was having very strangely at the Simpson State Park recently, remaining in a certain tree all day and then falling out at night and getting tangled in some shrubbery underneath. It was captured and taken to the Cornell veterinary hospital where it was later determined to have this new bird flu. The eagle was euthanized, since birds that are susceptible to this usually don’t survive. The leg bands on this eagle told us it was 19 years old. All raptors are sensitive to this new flu, as are all poultry. Notice how the price of eggs has gone up?

This year I have been seeing a very high rate of nest failure in the eagle nests that I keep track of. Two nests experienced nesting failures due to raccoons destroying the eggs — either predator guards had not been put in place, or they were torn loose by high wind. Three other new nests in the past few years have either not been used or had failure, and they didn’t have guards on them either, so I’m wondering whether raccoons (and now fishers) were the problem. Five of the nests this year do have eaglets in them, so that is good news.

One bird that seems to be doing just fine is the Canada goose, even though I hear they can be susceptible to the new bird flu. Presently the geese are hatching out like crazy and the cute little goslings can be seen anywhere in the marshes. They really are cute fellows when they first start tagging along with Ma and Dad, but you better hurry to see that, as they get ugly quickly. Oh yeah, watch where you step when you’re out looking!

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Here’s another tip for folks out in the fields, woods and marshes: Be aware that deer ticks are out there now and they can give you Lyme disease. Humans and their pets both are at risk, so take precautions.

My advice? Get your pets on medication for it and you use a product that contains 0.5% permethrin and will repel or kill ticks, mosquitoes and chiggers. The sprays containing this are applied on your clothing (avoid contact with skin until the spray is dry) and most of them should last six weeks or six laundry washes. I have one set of treated pants that I wear only when I’m out in the field photographing. This is good advice for turkey hunters too.

The other thing you can do, after a field trip or a hike, is take off that outer clothing outside your house (so you don’t bring ticks into the house) and then check yourself for ticks. Lyme disease is a serious disease and often crippling. It only takes a few minutes, after an infected tick bites, for you to become infected.

Good weather is upon us, with new life jumping out all over, so get out there and enjoy — but be cautious, too.

Doug Domedion, outdoorsman and nature photographer, resides in Medina. Contact him at (585) 798-4022 or woodduck2020@yahoo.com.

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