November 12, 2009

Baffle the Squirrels and Feed the Birds


The IQ of a squirrel is greatly underestimated. They solve problems with logic and they know how to use tools. There's a "think tank" of great squirrel minds out in our woods right now, putting together a plan for how they can get an easy meal from our birdfeeder.

Gardeners and other bird lovers hang their feeders hoping to attract, and feed, a variety of beautiful feathered friends over the winter. My husband and I take down our hummingbird feeders in the fall and bring out the birdseed. Our birdfeeders are positioned so that we can view the activity from our garden room while we enjoy our morning coffee by the warmth of the fireplace. Our Peterson's Field Guide® is handy so that we can quickly look up any unfamiliar birds.

From our view of the garden, we have personally witnessed many successful schemes of seed-stealing by the squirrels. We started out with a simple, inexpensive birdfeeder mounted on a simple, inexpensive hanger pole. The birdfeeder was filled with expensive, gourmet, premium wild bird seed. It didn't take but a few hours to realize that is equivalent to a neon "Open All Day" sign for squirrels.

We went back to the store in search of a solution. We saw a rather amusing video of a battery-operated feeder throwing squirrels around like a mechanical bull. We took one home. We replaced our cheap feeder with the animated attraction. We took our seats ready for the morning entertainment, confident that the squirrels would be unable to steal the seed.

The first squirrel was a bit stunned by his merry-go-round ride. He sat on the ground staring up at the new feeder. We "high-fived" thinking that the only seed for that squirrel was going to be what was dropped on the ground from bird beaks. He attempted his thievery a few more times, then went up on the roof to survey the situation. He sat up there for awhile pondering how to get around this new contraption. He came down with a new plan and told all his squirrel buddies.

The next thing we knew, a squirrel was on top of the feeder, where there is no flipping mechanism. He struggled and struggled to try to open the top. Unsuccessful in getting the lid off, we thought for sure he would give up. Instead the squirrels regrouped and sent their scout back on the roof to gather more intelligence about this new machine.

The next trick was to hang onto the pole with hind feet, stretch across and hold onto to the feeder trough instead of the flipping mechanism. The squirrels took turns eating from the feeder, ever so persistant and patient. The crew spent an entire day working systematically to reach the food. In the process, they managed to empty the feeder of seeds, replenishing their troups for another day's raid.

It was time for us to go back to the store. This time, we asked for assistance. The experienced salesperson pointed out a cone-shaped pole baffle. This purchase also required the purchase of a larger, taller pole to fit the baffle.

Having spent a considerable amount of money on this defense system, we were cautiously optimistic about our new fortress. With our mechanical feeder, a better pole and a new baffle, we were ready for the next onslaught.

The squirrels huddled together at the bottom of this new pole and baffle. From their vantage point, they could see the feeder, but it disappeared into darkness with every attempt to climb the pole. They tried to hang on the edge of the baffle, but there was no grip. They tried tipping the baffle to no avail. The sentinel on the roof had no battle plan for dislodging the baffle. Without trees close enough to launch an airborne attack, the defeated squirrel troop sulked back into the woods.

Through all of last winter, the baffle continued to baffle the squirrels while the birds got plenty to eat. We did show a little sympathy now and then by spreading a little seed around for the pitiful squirrels. We're ready for the attacks this year. Unless the squirrels bring a ladder, we think the birdfeeder is safe.


This is a repeat of last year's popular story by Freda Cameron

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Defining Your Home, Garden & Travel

Home, garden and travel tips by Freda Cameron

Freelance travel writer. My current fiction writing projects include a completed manuscript and several works in progress.

By the way, my name is pronounced fred-ah, not freed-ah. Thank you.

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