I have a backyard bird feeder. Over the years it has provided us much entertainment and occasionally exasperation. When I was a newbie to this whole “hang up a bird feeder and see what happens” process I would buy bags of birdseed at the supermarket that looked like the food a friend used to give her parakeet: tiny round balls of beige with a couple of orange sticks and a green square or two mixed in with some sunflower seeds. When the birds hit the feeder, it would look like a parade with tons of confetti flying as they dug through the beige balls and neon-colored shapes to get at the sunflower seeds. It was amusing.
Then the squirrels would take over, shimmying up the wrought iron pole (sometimes with one paw, just to taunt those of us watching behind closed windows) and systematically turn the feeder upside down emptying the contents all over the grass. They would stuff their bad little faces and twitch their tails at us as if to say “oh, please! This is almost too easy!” I hated those squirrels. I would wait until they were almost reaching out for the feeder, precariously balanced, then I would suddenly pound on the window frames and scare the crap out of them so they would go flying in a gymnastic maneuver worthy of the Olympics. Now, that was fun.
Oh, but they’d be back. One time I got a long, slender bird feeder that was encased in a decorative iron cover with just enough of an opening at each perch for dainty bird beaks to poke their way through to the food, and it worked. There were no squirrels on that feeder and the birds were happy. Until the morning I came outside to fill the feeder and found it on the ground with the plastic part smashed and the top ripped open. Apparently squirrels travel in gangs wearing leather jackets and swinging chains and decided to leave their mark as a warning to me. I was furious. That was an expensive(ish) bird feeder plus it was really pretty and who the hell did these squirrels think they were?
I got a new feeder and reinforced it with clear packing tape so that the top wouldn’t come off. Then I decided to fill it with black sunflower seeds only, avoiding the mixtures that had nuts and corn (even though the package read “attractive to songbirds!” on the label) in hopes that the gang would move on to greener or more palate-pleasing pastures. It turns out squirrels are the goats of the tiny critter world in that they’ll eat just about anything, and they planned their assault. Two of them were posted as lookouts on the perimeter of the yard, pretending to chase each other and look charming so as to distract my attention from the crime taking place. One stayed at the bottom of the pole to chase the mourning doves away because anything that fell on the ground during this operation was their property and who did those mourning doves think they were swooping in to their territory? (It’s West Side Story in my backyard.) One shimmied up the pole, looking around and sniffing like crazy, then proceeded to shake the feeder until it was half empty. Dude, this squirrel was thinking! He was plotting! He was executing a plan! I felt like Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid as I wondered “Who ARE those guys?”
I thought about BB guns. (I hate guns.) I thought about water pistols. (I hate dripping.) I thought about cayenne pepper to burn their nasty squirrel lips. I thought about greasing the pole. Then I had a brilliant idea.
I decided to fill the feeder with the seed, but strategically place some nuts and corn on the ground away from the feeder to show the squirrels I understood their plight, that they had to eat as well to protect them from the cruel winter, that they were the Squirrel Mafia and I had to make a regular payment in order for them to leave me alone and not shut down my operation. They responded immediately, and as a sign of respect brought me their don, a rat.
Well, now it was all-out war. I would do everything in my power to feed the birds and kick the squirrels out of my yard. I became vigilant, standing at the windows. I would buy more squirrel-proof traps, only to see them laughing at me as they filled their cheeks with their ill-gotten gains. I threw small rocks at them and they responded by sitting up on their hind legs and scolding me. I set out a somewhat large pumpkin at Halloween for their buffet and they responded by ignoring it and letting it rot untouched while they made a feast out of the carved one on the front porch. I bought a fake plastic snake and they picked it up and threw it back at me. Okay, maybe not that last one.
This year, I gave up. I simply hung up the bird feeder, filled it with black sunflower seeds, put it outside a window I could see clearly, and waited. I have seen tons of sparrows, juncos, blue jays, cardinals, chickadees, goldfinches, mourning doves, yellow-bellied sapsuckers (which I call woodpeckers but Hubby always corrects me), a chipmunk, two bunnies, and the adorable groundhog now known as Fred (not Gary). Not a single squirrel. I don’t get it.
Maybe they’ve found a place with a less psychotic waitress.