Tag Archives: daphne

Tough love for birds.

Healthy Pine Siskin

The local pine siskins are experiencing an epidemic, and I feel very bad about it for their sake and mine. Watching the birds at the feeders in my back yard, seeing the number of species increase every season, learning to identify and recognize most of them — it’s all been a steady comfort and joy. But now I need to encourage them to go elsewhere and find food in other, larger spaces.

It appears that in the case of the pine siskins, and in some places goldfinches, when they unnaturally congregate at feeders they keep spreading salmonella around. I’ve read news articles from British Columbia, Oregon, and California, all saying basically the same thing:

“Salmonellosis is an infection caused by bacteria of the genus Salmonella. These bacteria primarily attack the digestive system, notably the throat, making it difficult for the birds to feed. The symptoms are not always obvious in wild animals, but infected birds may appear thin, fluffed up, and lethargic.

Pine Siskin at my feeder last week.

“How you can help birds avoid disease:

“Salmonellosis is primarily transmitted by fecal contamination of food and water by sick birds, although it can also be transmitted through bird-to-bird contact.

“High traffic spots, such as bird feeders, create a source point of transmission and can exacerbate the spread of this deadly disease. Removing the feeders completely is the best solution to encourage birds to disperse, thereby minimizing the potential for infection. If you choose to keep your feeders up, they must be properly maintained to foster a healthy bird environment.”

They make it sound as though the outbreak has developed this winter, but now that I’ve seen images and descriptions of sick birds compared with healthy, I’m pretty sure that last winter some of the pine siskins (which I thought then were sparrows) at my feeders were ill.

Just last week I encountered one at the tray feeder who I now understand was “lethargic.” At the time, and back in 2019, I only wondered at how calm and friendly they were. I also thought it strange that some of them would sit contemplatively on the hopper feeder, doing nothing. Now I get that they were too weak to fly away.

The Cooper’s Hawk that has been coming around more boldly all the time, taking advantage of the flocks of finches, will probably stop visiting. I plan to stop feeding the birds at least until next winter. I am not the tidiest housekeeper anywhere, and if I need to disinfect the birdbath, fountain and feeders regularly in order to be a good bird-feeding friend, I think it best to revert to nature.

How can I explain to these creatures about the changes? “This hurts me more than it does you!” I do have lots of plants with seeds or fruit that various birds can enjoy, and have been eating all along. Plus insects — yes, a good supply of those. Many birds pay little attention to my seed offerings.

And I still have the hummingbird feeder!

On another garden topic, the daphne by the front door is getting really big and is covered with blooms right now. When the sun shines on it in the morning the scent wafts up at me when I go in or out, and I swoon.

An unhappy affliction lifted.

IMG_2549One evening my housemate Susan baked a wonderful onion-and-potato dish, and as I walked through the kitchen I said, “Oh, my, that smells so good!” The next morning the cooking aromas were present still, and I didn’t think much about it, but the next morning…. What? How odd to have that smell hanging on. I tried putting some aromatic oil in the diffuser, but it made no difference. After a week I had figured out that this odor was not real; it was somehow generated by my own nose sending wrong information to my mind. When I researched the phenomenon online I found phantosmia, sometimes called an olfactory hallucination.

They say it can happen after a respiratory infection. I had recently (mostly) gotten over a cold and the flu. I was smelling a sort of burning-leaf scent. That’s the only thing I could think of to describe it, not that I am terribly familiar with that smell around here – but I was trying to come up with an imagination to match the fake sensation. It was there when I went to sleep, when I woke up, all day long, and when I drove to the next town for an appointment. I could taste my food, sort of, but the weird smell I was registering overpowered most other smells, so that tea was like water, and scented candles were unscented. The articles I had read say this condition “usually” goes away, but I’ve heard of people who have a permanently altered sense of taste, and that sounded like a terrible loss, so I hoped….

Also, I started taking zinc (my pharmacist friend’s recommendation) and Vitamin C, and doing more frequent saline nasal rinses (my doctor’s recommendation). After about ten days I thought maybe the odd smell was fading… and then one afternoon I returned from an errand and sniffed the evidence of my having roasted eggplant that morning – it wasn’t very pleasant, but it was a real cooking odor!

The next day, at church, incense, glorious and sweet and nothing like burning leaves. Thank you, Lord! The crowning delight was the morning I was a bit peeved at my building contractor, and without thinking why, I opened the front door, as though hoping to see a few construction guys driving up. I didn’t see anything out of the ordinary, but the scent of the daphne floated up and filled my nose and mind with its essence, welcome and true.

Looking autumn in the face.

What sets this autumn apart from any other is my distaste for leaves turning color. Out of the corner of my eye I’ve seen it happening, and my heart protests, “Oh, please don’t!” I look the other way. Time has been swallowed up in remodeling, or waiting for remodeling, and the steady progress of months and seasons was not in my face so colorfully until now, telling me that without a doubt the end of the calendar year is drawing near as well.

Until yesterday, when on the way back from the gym I drove around a corner and was met with this familiar tree that had just put on its late-season dress. I couldn’t help loving it, just as I couldn’t help being angry with those other orange leaves a week earlier.

The cold weather I dread is holding off, and it’s gotten to 90° for a few days, making for unusually balmy evenings. Sunny weather means I can work in the garden for hours every day, putting up pea trellises, weatherproofing the planter boxes, and staining the rim of the fountain that had built up a layer of white mineral scale.

Rain would be better, though. In Northern California the combination of tinder-dry foliage and wind gusts creates a situation that threatens to repeat the horrors of the fires of the last two years. Too bad we can’t put all that behind us — but “it” is trying to be part of our future as well, a reality of which the power company keeps reminding us, and shutting off the power as a precaution.

A few of my volunteer tomatoes turned pink. They look like Juliets. Barely any sun is shining on them these days so I brought several into the house and when they turned red I ate them. They taste as one might expect from such culture!

 

These moths are all over the garden, but especially on the salvia here pictured – I think I have identified them as Fiery Skippers. What a cute name for a cute moth. [oops – not a moth! See about skippers in the comments.] I began to wonder if it is their caterpillars that are eating my sunflowers, so I researched that, too, and I don’t think so. Next photo is in the Disturbing Photos category. 😦

But look at this: The most fun insect I have discovered this week is these caterpillars…

… and they appear to be the Black Swallowtail again, on the parsley again, looking as though they wanted to be eaten by birds, so I brought the two of them into my mesh cage, after the carpenter and I took pictures outdoors near the parsley patch.

Other heartening events: One window in the soon-to-be sewing room has been framed, and irises keep blooming like they want to be my best friends; the tropical milkweed also, and it makes more and more seeds! I harvested the mystery squashes. [Update: I found the tag that came with the 4″pot, and they are Buttercup Heirloom Squash.]

Tiny harbingers of spring caught my eye as I came up to the front door yesterday, just after my encounter with the bright tree. Yes, the daphne is putting out new leaves, so that in a very few months it can put out those divinely aromatic flowers. See, I do know that the seasons are good! Of course. And when winter comes, this particular challenging and wonderful time will be a thing of the past. I must enjoy it while I can!

St. Simeon, St. Bridget, and my sweet flower.

daphne-eve-of-presentation-17Today was the first time that the daphne scent got my attention all on its own, as I came back from errands and was unlocking my front door. Before today, I had to kneel down on the mulch and get my nose right up to it, but now there are more blooms, and they are more fully opened. If the weather warms up a bit that should make them even more noticeable.

This highly aromatic plant was introduced to me by a neighbor when I was in labor of childbirth with my daughter Pippin – Gayle brought me a vase of the flowers that were in bloom then, around Valentine’s Day, and the sweetness in the air highlighted the divine atmosphere that I always feel when we are waiting to meet a new baby.

I always understood that daphne is hard to grow in our area. I don’t remember why that is, but I never attempted it. Then last summer Landscape Lady suggested it for this spot in my front garden, and I was thrilled at the possibility. Originally we thought to have a whole row of them under the living room window, but her fellow designer cautioned against that much investment in a risky business, so I just have the one. And it is healthy and making lots of flowers so far!

I’m posting it here in honor of Saint Bridget of Ireland, whose feast this is, but also for the Feast of the Presentation of Christ in the Temple, which is tonight/tomorrow — and also for dear Saint Simeon who took Jesus in his arms and knew immediately that He was the Christ. The Lord had told Simeon that he would not die until he had seen The Lord’s Anointed, so as he was cradling his infant Savior he said, “Lord, now let Thy servant depart in peace, according to Thy word, for mine eyes have seen Thy salvation, which Thou hast prepared before the face of all people: a Light to enlighten the Gentiles, and the glory of Thy people Israel.”

It’s one of my favorite feast days.