I think it started when I decided to move the bird feeder. It was tilting, and the corner of the flower bed into which the pole was planted had begun to sag and break up. The nearest branch on the oak had grown long enough that the squirrels could go to the end, bounce the limb up and down a few times, then leap across to the top of the feeder. Not only did it disturb the birds, but the leaping squirrel was obviously assigned the duty of scraping off as many seeds as it could onto the ground where the other squirrels waited.
Needless to say, this wasted a lot of birdseed and caused the birds to feed on the ground within reach of the neighborhood cats, including the two that live with us. It became a bird-, squirrel- and cat-feeding station.
A neighbor of mine once expended many hours of thought and action to create a bird feeder that was squirrel-proof. Without going into his detailed and staged engineering designs that were worthy of a DaVinci or the barricades reminiscent of the Maginot Line, I can say that the squirrels proved the greater foe. So I’m not above feeding some squirrels on occasion, but it shouldn’t become a habit. My solution this time was to uproot the feeder from its three-decade location and place it farther from the overhanging trees, but still within view from our kitchen table.
The current feeder pole was embedded in a railroad tie that formed one wall of the flower bed. I decided to engineer another more portable foundation for the feeder. After some trial and error, I found a pipe whose inside diameter was slightly larger than the outside diameter of the feeder pole. Then I drove the base pole into the flower bed at the selected location. The feeder pole fit nicely into the base pole and was nearly vertical.
I chuckled to myself at the squirrel’s expense, as I watched them repeatedly scour the ground in vain below the former feeder location. But, as every homeowner knows, a victory over squirrels is always short-lived.
I noticed that the feeder at the new location was still emptying rather quickly. It seems that the dove we get are pretty sloppy and spill quite a bit of seed as they feed. Another solution was called for, but I decided to give it some time. These great solutions take deep consideration.
However, late the other night while trying to locate an errant housecat, my wife saw a patch of white out by the feeder. A flashlight revealed a rather large, very pretty skunk munching down the sunflower seeds spilled from the feeder. Not wanting to scare it into a response, our attempts to shoo it away were fruitless. The cat came in and we decided to just deal with it the next day.
My first solution was to just not refill the feeder. No seeds, no skunk. That night we did not see it, and assumed that our strategy had worked.
However, the birds were soon insistent about their food, so I once again refilled the feeder and watched to determine why so much seed was spilled. It wasn’t really clear, but I did still think the doves were behind it.
That night, our youngest cat was even more reluctant to come in; possibly sensing the end of summer and warm nights. So I traipsed out into the yard with a flashlight (obviously scanning for skunks first) to try to corral the cat. Cat owners will appreciate the futility of such a mission, and I won’t go into the full humiliation of the effort.
However, I was able to track the cat somewhere up into our large Limber Pine tree. After much calling and enticement, I backed away to see if she would come down by herself. I was surprised to see that the creature dropping to the ground from the tree was a raccoon, not our cat, who had actually scampered around the tree into the vegetable garden. So, the raccoon ambled over to the feeder, where another raccoon was munching away at the spilled seed. I will note that the raccoons were more responsive to my presence than the cat, and they quickly retreated at my approach.
The next night we saw the skunk beneath the feeder, again, then later it was visited by the two raccoons. Obviously, a greater solution was needed.
I spent the morning devising an upside down skirt made of window screen to hang beneath the feeder far enough off the ground to prevent a squirrel or raccoon from climbing onto it. The spilled seed is caught in the skirt rather than falling to the ground to entice the skunks and raccoons.
It’s a brilliant solution, and clearly will succeed. Well, at least until the squirrels figure it out.
Maybe they’ll get together with the two raccoons and the skunk to come up with a plan. It might be fun just to watch.