DEAR JOAN: Honeybees are all over my hummingbird and oriole feeders. I had to take in the feeders, but as soon as I put them out again, the bees were back.

It is not a swarm -- just enough bees to stop the birds. I have bee guards on the feeders, but the bees still crawl all over them. The problem is not as bad in September, but they still persist.

I have yellow jacket traps, which are not supposed to trap bees but do. I do not want to kill the bees. Do you know of anything I can use or spray that will not hurt or deter the birds? A search on the Web suggested cucumber peels. That did not work.

Mickey Mergy

San Ramon

Hummingbirds can find lots of competition for the nectar.
Hummingbirds can find lots of competition for the nectar. (Courtesy of Rich Cordes)

DEAR MICKEY: You can try moving the feeders to a new location and hope the bees don't find it. I'm not sure how well that works, but that's one option.

Your best bet is to replace your old feeders with basin or saucer ones. Look for ones with nectar guards. To get to the nectar, the hummingbirds use their long beaks, but the bees are not so equipped, and they can't get to the sweet stuff.

You can then "donate" your old feeders to the bees, setting them up far from the new ones.

There are no safe repellents, and I don't know of any effective natural ones.

DEAR JOAN: I hope you can help me identify a species of bird I see every morning. I am an early morning walker in Gregory Gardens, and I've noticed a group of small, raptorlike birds that nest in trees near an address in the 1000 block of Mary Drive in Pleasant Hill.

At first there were just a pair. Now there are six to eight. The birds are smaller than a red-tailed hawk, lighter in color, with a slightly darker area under wing. There appear to be adults and young birds, by size.

I noticed that they leave their roost at about 6:30 a.m. every day and head in a westwardly direction.

Charles Richards

Pleasant Hill

DEAR CHARLES: Without a photograph, I can't be certain, but after consultation with my birding friends in your area, our best guess is that they are sharp-shinned hawks. It's migration season, and they tend to flock together now.

Young birders

The Mt. Diablo Audubon Society has created a youth program to teach youngsters about birds and their environment. I really wish I had had this opportunity growing up.

The next meeting of the Mt. Diablo Audubon Young Birders Club is at 7 p.m. Friday at Wild Birds Unlimited, 692 Contra Costa Blvd., Pleasant Hill.

On Sunday, the group will meet at 8 a.m. at Inspiration Point in Orinda and walk the Nimitz Trail before heading over to the nature area in Tilden Park.

For more information, contact Tracy Farrington at tracy_farrington@yahoo.com or 925-788-6223.

Resounding success

This spring, animal adoption and rescue groups participated in the annual Maddie's Fund Adoption Day with a goal of finding homes for 5,000 animals across the country.

Maddie's Fund, a Bay Area philanthropic organization that supports animals, pledged funds for every animal adopted, a big benefit for the participating groups that work so hard to find animals their forever homes.

The organization just released the numbers, and they are impressive -- more than 8,400 pets adopted and almost $7 million donated. In Contra Costa County, 1,562 animals found new homes; in Alameda County, 1,035; and Santa Clara County, 993.

Contact Joan Morris at jmorris@bayareanewsgroup.com.