A fair number of locals who enjoy feeding their feathered friends are alarmed these days to find grounded or dead songbirds in their yards.

An outbreak of salmonellosis is killing a variety of finch called the pine siskin and other birds.

"It's going around," said Tim Stewart, who owns the Wild Birds Unlimited shop in Santa Rosa. He said migrating pine siskins are for some reason prone to carrying illnesses that include salmonellosis.

An advisory issued by the Santa Rosa Bird Rescue Center says epidemics occur when dangerous bacteria are spread at feeders and bird baths.

If you've found birds that are puffed-up and lethargic or dead, the experts suggest taking down your feeders, emptying them of seed, cleaning them with disinfectant and leaving them down for two or three weeks.

Rescue organizations are receiving requests for help with stricken birds, but if the little guys are sick enough to be picked up, there's little hope of bringing them back.

WERE MLK ALIVE, what would the slain human-rights leader and 1964 Nobel Prize winner be doing today?

It's a question to be considered at a Martin Luther King Jr. Day celebration in Sonoma County that won't happen on the day you'd expect.

Normally, the annual community event happens on the Sunday before the MLK holiday, which falls on the third Monday of January. But this year a scheduling conflict has prompted organizers to move the celebration to this coming Sunday, the 13th.

It starts at 5 p.m. in the auditorium at Santa Rosa High School. There will be birthday cake and addresses by teen winners of the MLK Jr. oratorical contest, singing by the Celebration Mass Choir and a keynote by Vince Harper, who transforms the lives and prospects of young people through his work at Community Action Partnership.

Lynn Woolsey intends to be there to be inspired and to receive a gift of gratitude from the Martin Luther King Day committee. Perhaps the newly retired congresswoman will say a few words about what she'd imagine would be important to King at the dawning of 2013.

SADDLESORE, SMILING: Have you imagined for an instant traveling through Central America on horseback?

Sonoma County native Orion Kraus is reflecting on his 2,000-mile ride from southeastern Mexico to Costa Rica. It was a fantastic journey that Kraus contemplatively journaled at 2horsessouthbound.wordpress.com.

Read it and you may decide to launch such an adventure yourself, or else you'll thank Kraus for letting you vicariously accompany him from the comfort of home.

"I have many tales of adventure and misfortune, as well as inspiration and generosity," he said.

"But at the end of the day, the real story is that if a Sonoma County guy with no horse experience can start from zero and ride 2,000 miles across Central America, anything is truly possible. We really are capable of anything."

Chris Smith is at 521-5211 and chris.smith@pressdemocrat.com.