Bluebirds are returning to Connecticut, ready to nest. The Bluebird Guardians at Duncaster Retirement Community in Bloomfield, who have bluebird boxes throughout the facility’s 87 acres, have some tips — and free bluebird boxes — for the rest of us:
>> Select good habitat. Put the boxes in an open space with low or sparse ground cover and scattered trees. “Here at Duncaster seven boxes have been moved over the years in order to try to develop better location,” he says.
>> Avoid brushy and heavily wooded areas. These are the places that other invasive species like to nest. These birds drive out the bluebirds and take over their nesting boxes.
>> Avoid areas where house sparrows are abundant. These birds especially like to nest building so stay away from them when choosing a spot for your bluebird box. House sparrows will kill bluebirds and destroy eggs and young.
>> Avoid areas where pesticides are being used.
>> Face boxes toward open areas with some foliage nearby. Ideally, the entrance hole of a bluebird box should face away from prevailing winds for protection. In addition, a good spot also has a tree or suitable perch 40 to 100 feet from the box. These are good spots for hatchlings to stop on their first flight.
>> Keep boxes at least 50 yards apart. This allows the bluebirds to establish a territory around the nest box.
>> Protect boxes against predators. Snakes, raccoons, housecats, and other predators will raid nest boxes. If they do it often enough, the bluebirds will abandon them. The Duncaster boxes are mounted on metal poles to prevent these predators from accessing them.
>> Monitor the boxes. Like the Duncaster volunteers, make sure to check the boxes at least once a week during the nesting season to record progress of the nestlings and to control house sparrows.
>> Always remove unused or foreign birds’ nests. To encourage second or third broods, remove bluebird and other nests as soon as young birds leave home.
>> Inspect boxes in early fall and late winter; clean and repair if necessary. Bluebirds are less likely to nest in a box that has an old nest in them, so make sure to remove them. In addition, old nests increase the numbers of parasites in the box which can cause future nests to fail.
Duncaster has bluebird boxes available for anyone who would like to try their hand at attracting them for their second nesting of this season. There is still time to put them up this year since bluebirds have more than one brood a year.
To set a time to pick up your free bluebird box at Duncaster, contact Fran Kent at fKent@duncaster.org or call her at 860-380-5006. The boxes are free and available for anyone who would like them.
What to ask when choosing a real estate agent? Here are 12 questions from Brett Furman, a broker in St. Davids, Pa.
1. How long have you been marketing real estate?
2. Do you have a Broker’s license?
3. What do you know about the market in my area?
4. How many people did you help buy and sell houses over the past two years?
5. Am I locked into a contract with you, and, if so, how long?
6. What is your average sale price to list price? (Should be 90% or higher)
7. What is your past average number of days on the market? (Should be 94 days or less)
8. Will you produce a movie/slide show of my home?
9. Do you recommend a pre-sale inspection? (Eliminates need for backend negotiations)
10. Do you recommend a pre-sale appraisal? (Helps set price correctly)
11. Can I speak to some of your previous clients? (Check Angie’s List for reviews)
12. What do you recommend to your clients about social media? (Stay out during house hunting & selling)
A sure sign that people are less concerned about the economy: They took out their credit cards again in 2013. Outstanding credit card increased $38.2 billion in 2013, according to CardHub’s 2013 Credit Card Debt Study released Monday.
That’s 8 percent more than the previous year. CardHub projects a $41.2 billion increase this year.
“One could easily come to the conclusion that 2013 was a healthy year for consumer spending given the fact that outstanding credit card debt increased only $10.4 billion while defaults fell 16.7 percnet,” says CardHub CEO Odysseas Papadimitriou. “But that would fail to take into account the $27.7 billion that we defaulted on, yet still owe. As has been the case in recent years, the first quarter of 2013 was the only one in which we paid down debt.”
>> $42 Billion: The amount of credit card debt that U.S. consumers accumulated in Q4 2013 alone. This represents a 5 percent increase relative to Q4 2012.
>> $6,971:The average household’s credit card balance.
>> $267 Billion: The amount of credit card debt that consumers have defaulted on in the past five years – a boon for collection agencies, to say the least.
>> 16.7 percent: The credit card default rate declined 16.7 percent in 2013 and is now approaching historical lows. A reversal in this trend could lead to a significant credit crunch.
Happy Daylight Saving Time, everyone ….
This weekend’s Bottom Line column:
Scammers don’ have to file annual reports. The Federal Trade Commission does it for them.
The FTC received more than 2 million complaints in 2013, most frequently about identity theft (290,056). American consumers reported $1.6 billion in fraud losses, according to the FTC’s just-out Consumer Sentinel Network Data Book.
In Connecticut, the state Department Of Consumer Protection received more than 6,000 complaints in 2013. With identity theft and fraud complaints typically channeled to the FTC, the state’s Top 10 runs heavy with complaints about fuel and home improvement or new-home construction.
Fuel oil companies were the 2013 complaint leader with 567, many related to the abrupt closing last fall of Ace Oil in Meriden. As usual, people complained about gas pumps (194), even free air (28).
More . . .
Mortgage dipped slightly in the past week, with 30-year fixed rates averaging 4.28 percent nationally and 15-year rates averaging 3.32 percent, according to data released Thursday morning by Freddie Mac.
A week ago, 30-year rates were 4.37 percent and 15-year rates were 3.39 percent.
Here are the numbers in New England:
30-year: 4.26 percent
15-year: 3.32 percent
30-year: 4.37 percent
15-year: 3.39 percent
A year ago:
30-year: 3.52 percent
15-year: 2.77 percent
Anyone who purchased an electronic device between 1998 and 2002 that uses DRAM, a memory chip, is eligible to recover money after a federal court’s preliminary approval of multistate antitrust settlements totaling $310 million.
“Connecticut consumers, along with consumers nationwide, deserve the benefits and price advantages of a free and open marketplace when shopping for computers and other electronic devices,” said Attorney General Jepsen. “When companies conspire together to fix prices for a product, they illegally eliminate competition and harm consumers.”
Connecticut, which completed its investigation in 2006, was among several states that settled price-fixing allegations against major DRAM producers Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd. and Winbond Electronics Co.
Other settlements with DRAM manufacturers have been initially approved by a federal district court in San Francisco.
For more information about the settlements, visit www.DRAMclaims.com or call 1-800-589-1425.
If you’re going to use the Emergency Alert System, it better be in an emergency.
Viacom, NBCUniversal and ESPN are facing proposed fines totaling almost $2 million, assessed by the Federal Communications Commission, for broadcasting an “Olympus Has Fallen” film trailer that used the Emergency Alert System tones.
It’s brunch time: How about a “Club Sandwich”?
A average cost of a movie ticket nationally is $8.13, according to the National Association of Theatre Owners.
MarketWatch’s Charles Passy has a few tricks that will help you pay less.