Anyone who is paying attention knows that today’s world is filled with challenges. Global warming threatens the natural world and human civilization itself. Tornadoes and flooding abound. Plastics in various forms are pervading our water, the air we breathe, and the food we eat. We have measles and the opioid epidemic. Plane crashes. North Korea is testing missiles, ISIS is active, and hatred seems to be worldwide, including in our nation’s capital. With all these challenges (and more) looming, I have decided to focus on one that is more or less under my control: how to keep squirrels out of our bird feeders.
The problem is complex. We want to feed the birds, and we also want to preserve our trees – from which the squirrels can easily drop onto our feeders. We also want to give Kim clear shots to photograph birds on the trees, so the feeders can’t block the trees our woodpeckers are picturesquely destroying. Kim does not like to photograph birds on the feeders, as that compromises the look and feel of “nature photography.”
Trial-and-error seems like the best approach. I tried to outthink our squirrels, with no success. How big is a squirrel’s brain, anyway? And how many of them have college degrees? So having failed at analyzing the geometry of feeders-trees-camera-squirrels, I have ended up moving our feeders about two dozen times. Doing so involves partially unloading the feeders, unscrewing the pole from the ground, checking the view from the porch that Kim has converted to a heated photographer’s blind, screwing the pole into the recently unfrozen dirt, getting it perfectly vertical, reloading the seeds, and then retreating to watch how the squirrels deal with the new placement.
We have tried other approaches than feeder relocation. We attached metal skirts to prevent squirrels from climbing up the poles, and this is a success, but this does not help prevent their leaping or parachuting from above.
|Waiting to leap down onto the feeder|
|Success! or Failure!|
At one of our previous homes we tried getting birdseed with pepper in it that the birds didn’t notice or mind, and that worked for a few days until the squirrels became rather fond of it. Then I got a slingshot to fire pebbles at them, but I never came close to hitting one, and I feared collateral damage to the neighborhood.
We had a neighbor in Gainesville who devised a good method of squirrel-proofing his feeders. He was a professor of electrical engineering, and he wired his feeder so he could throw a switch from his kitchen window to send a shock to the feeder. He was successful, I think, but it struck me as a bit sadistic. I believe his wife made him put a stop to it.
|Eating an apple|
I suppose I need to once again apply a lesson I learned as a goalie on a not very good ice hockey team: You can’t stop them all. Some friends who visited recently looked out the window at our squirrels and commented, “They look well-fed!” I tried to argue that they were pregnant.
Meanwhile, though, it’s been 24 hours since I last relocated the feeders, and no squirrels have made it to the buffet. I’m embarrassed by how much pleasure I get from watching them try and fail. Of course, at Kim’s suggestion I have thrown a handful of peanuts onto the ground, as a bribe or peace offering, so there are few attempts. Success!
I wonder when the bears will show up. Kim can hardly wait to get a picture.
Shit! Another one made it up again. Back to work . . ..