Bird Feeding and Squirrel Battling
By Terrence Williams
I love birds.
I’m far from a devout bird-watcher, certainly not an expert. But there is something pleasing about seeing finches, cardinals, jays, even grackles show up at my feeder, ever wary but willing, nonetheless, to spend time while I observe them just a few feet away behind my dining room windows.
Seed by seed, they appreciate the bounty of cracked corn, sunflower seeds and safflower which I’ve presented to them. Whimsically bouncing back and forth between the protection of a nearby dogwood, they dip in and out of the feeder, taking what they need before politely moving on. I’m sure I’m imagining it, but they seem to understand how to share.
I hate squirrels.
It’s because they are raiders, pilferers, thieves, pirates, burglars and bullies, never satisfied with one or two mouthfuls of feed, never sated, never finished. If they were human, they’d be Internet hackers, secretly stealing from me, leaving me empty, feeling violated — and in a perpetual bad mood as I fill the feeder once again, just like I did the day before, and the day before that.
Gluttonous, rude, cunning, they know when the feed is available and how to access it. They are contortionists, capable of twisting and stretching their form with incredible balance to defeat shields, spring-loaded gizmos, greased-poles. If one electrified the post on which the feeder sits, they’d find their way to the proper circuit breaker and breeze right in for their three squares in one setting.
Scare tactics amuse them. Shouts and expletives may send them scurrying, but it’s only temporary; each time their retreat is shorter. Eventually, they just sit their munching, belching, carrying forth. OK, I haven’t heard them belch.
Man’s inventions cannot keep ahead of their genetic evolution to defeat feeders. I’ve watched with maniacal glee the YouTube videos of anti-squirrel, merry-go-round contraptions hurling them away like a stone in David’s slingshot. But I’m certain it’s temporary.
They adapt daily. They will be back. The onslaught will continue. We/I are/am powerless.
Soon, there are no birds coming to my feeders, only gray rodents who have told their friends who have told their friends who have told their friends. A gray, furry single-file march versus a humble, cowering soul with only hatred and no solutions.
And so, it was with great satisfaction that recently I found a feeder, supposedly squirrel-proof (don’t they all say that) that appeared to defeat the vermin. A dial in the base of the feeder needed to be turned counter-clockwise to reduce tension on a door-like system that slammed with defiance under the weight of a rodent.
To be sure, my choice in feeders isn’t the only one that will work on squirrels, it’s just the only one I’ve found. Quickly, I discovered the proper tension to set, pushing down on the collapsing shield, making my selection based on my estimate of a few ounces of bird weight.
With relief I did not have to fill the feeder the next day. Or the next. To be sure the food level steadily went down, but the pace seemed appropriate, and I observed birds returning.
Balance was restored to my ecosystem. My bird seed budget settled into something manageable. I snarled less at the world and my evil intent toward squirrels softened. They are somewhat cute.
Then, surprisingly, the seed started to disappear at an increasing pace — again. Impossible. No way could the gray varmints defeat this $75 feeder or my precise adjustments. But there I was again feeding the feeder, day after day.
I loosened the tension more. The feed didn’t disappear at all, this because the door was shutting on even the lightest of my feathered friends. I tightened it a bit. It was drained in a day.
No way could this be a larger animal, like a bear, just shaking the bejesus out of the feeder. First, they were long out of hibernation, feasting on forest forage. Plus, I’ve seen what a bear can do to a feeder; a three-eighths inch iron post sits in my basement folded at a 45-degree angle by a bruin, which destroyed one of my feeders one April. I cannot straighten the post, even by putting it into a vice and pulling with all my force against the bend.
I’m not sure why I’m keeping it, maybe to throw at squirrels. The metal and plastic feeder to which it was attached was found 100 yards away in the woods, quarter-inch claw holes piercing the seed column, nary a granule left behind.
I hate bears.
The mystery to the depleted seed was solved one day when I saw the bird feeder shaking, but I could not immediately view why. It wasn’t a large bird causing the feeder to swing like a trapeze; I’d be able to see its tail feathers. It couldn’t be a squirrel, I was sure; I’d recognize its fat bottom anywhere.
Baby squirrel? Horrors, are they born knowing how to raid feeders?
Then the animal moved around my feeder with the balance of a Flying Wallenda, in a full stretch, upside down, munching with gusto.
I hate chipmunks.