Q: I always thought chickadees landed on the feeder, grabbed one seed and took off. Then I read somewhere that they will actually hoard food, so I started watching them more closely and sure enough the little buggers will stuff four or five sunflower hearts into their beaks and fly off.

My query: Where do they store the seeds? In their nests or do they hide it all over the place like squirrels?

PAUL, Windsor

A: Like gray squirrels, black-capped chickadees hide seeds, in your words, "all over the place."

I have watched them tucking sunflower seeds between the railing and floor boards of our deck, poking them into spaces between siding and window frame, and beneath the bark of a nearby white pine.

Research has shown that chickadees, unlike gray squirrels, usually remember where they hide seeds.

Q: Why, all of a sudden don't I have birds at my feeder? Around the end of January, the birds just vanished. Nothing is at the feeders except a couple chickadees for the past few days.

Do you think the seed has spoiled?

MARGIE, Cheshire

A: I do not suspect the seed has spoiled, but think the untimely vanishing "trick" is due to a neighborhood cat, or a hawk that has frightened the birds.

Another reason, and one that we experience, is windy weather that blows the feeders this way and that. On several occasions, during, and following strong winds, the birds feed for a few days in a less open place.

I suspect that they will resume visiting your feeder.

Q: What is the largest coyote you have ever seen?

READER

A: I don't really keep track, but I recall one as big as a good-sized German shepard.

Coyotes average 33 to 40 pounds for females, with males ranging up to 47 pounds. They can reach weights of 50 to 60 pounds, though.

Coyotes are a common throughout the Northeast, and can often be seen in morning hours hunting and frolicking in hayfields during or just after mowing. The reason? Mice, one of their mid to late- summer foods.

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VIEW MANATEES LIVE: While on a recent visit to Florida we had the opportunity to visit Big Bend Power Station in Apollo Beach near Tampa.

This coal-fired plant discharges its heated water into an adjacent cove, and when Tampa Bay water drops to 68 degrees, or colder, manatees seek out this area of warmer water.

On some occasions, I am told, more than one hundred of these marine mammals bask in the tepid waters of the cove. The Tampa Electric Co., owner of the plant, has built an entire education center, including a boardwalk for viewing manatees, all free to the public.

On one hand, it was fortunate for us that daytime temperatures were reaching mid-80s while we were vacationing, on the other hand, water temperatures were warm enough that only a few manatees were to be seen the afternoon of our visit.

After we returned home, the weather along Florida's west coast became more seasonably cool. This meant manatees might resume basking in the warmer cove. They did, and we have enjoyed spying on them through the Tampa Electric Co.'s Web cameras located on the east and west shore of the cove.

To visit the site, go to http://tampa electric.com/company/mvc/webcameast/ and click to gain control of a camera with options for direction, zooming in and out, and "snapping" a photo to save or send to your friends.

Questions and comments for Thom Smith: Email Naturewatch@live.com