Thom Smith: Songbirds have poor sense of smell


Q: We found a baby sparrow-like bird on the ground below its nest and carefully returned it (a step ladder was needed). Now, we are fearful the mother will abandon it and its sisters because we touched it according to a neighbor. Is this true? -- Alice, Pittsfield

A: Contrary to popular belief, human odor will not deter a parent bird from caring for its young. Songbirds do not have a well-developed sense of smell and won't be bothered by any smell you may have left behind. You did the correct thing. At this season some of the more precocious birds may be noticed hopping about, although not yet good flyers -- young robins, for instance. Leave them alone; the parents will care for them.

Q: When did summer actually begin this year? -- Ron, Dalton

A: The summer solstice, when we enjoyed the most daylight of the entire year here in the Northern Hemisphere, began at 6:51 a.m. EDT on June 21. We are now experiencing shorter days, and will continue until the Fall Equinox, when the length of day and night are equal, actually occurring a few days later. The reason for this, most simply explained, is the center of the sun as seen from the Northern Hemisphere sets 12 hours after it rises at the Equinox. Daylight begins, however, when the upper edge of the sun reaches above the horizon and sets after the last bit of the sun has disappeared below the horizon. This year's Fall Equinox will be at 10:29 p.m., Sept. 22.


Beginning of summer: Naturewatch Ten Years Ago

My family and I spent Memorial Day weekend in Yarmouth on Cape Cod, bicycling, kayaking and exploring the beaches. It was unusual weather for Memorial Day weekend on the Cape -- It was sunny! I did not spend much needless time indoors, but for one occasion when I went into a gift shop hoping they offered Chapstick. They did not, but that was not what upset me. Behind the counter on a wall hung expanded and dried spiny puffer fish and a jar full of dried seahorses. These were "harvested" live, killed and dried for gift shoppers, along with seashells, corals and sea stars. After seeing this, I would not have bought anything at this particular shop.

Many corals are now protected from such useless slaughter -- they are [or were] as alive as deer, trout and puppy dogs, and one would think that in this enlightened time, we would know better and respect life more. I wish I could see justification in owning a dried puffer fish, but I can not. And seahorses, well that is now an entirely different story:

Seahorses now protected internationally

"Starting May 15, 2004, seahorses became one of the first commercially valuable marine species to be managed by the world's largest wildlife treaty, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora.


Reader observation:

Last Thursday, June 19, while fishing from my canoe in Savoy Mountain State Forest, I had the two-hour treat of my life. A common loon shared the water with me -- the only person there. Its dives were almost always between one minute and two seconds to one minute and 10 seconds. Underwater distance traveled from 50 feet to way over 250 feet! The animal was tireless and entrancing. -- Paul D.

Questions and comments for Thom Smith: Email


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