Tuesday, July 14, 2009

The Secret Lives of Squirrels (and Birds!)

For our upcoming year using Adventures in My Father's World, one of the subjects we'll cover is a section on birds. As part of the curriculum, we were encouraged to purchase a bottle cap bird feeder, very inexpensive, which would attach on to a regular 2-liter empty soda bottle that would be filled with birdseed and hung up. I decided to do this during the summer to give the birds a chance to find our feeder in advance of our studying them. I had no idea what an adventure it would be to do so.

Within 24 hours of hanging the feeder, I saw no birds. But squirrels found the feeder in no time. It was hanging from a tree limb, and the squirrels had no problem scaling down the tree to the feeder, then hanging onto the feeder and grabbing the seeds by the fistfuls. Before long, they had eaten half of the bottle, with nary a bird to be seen anywhere near the feeder. The next day, the feeder was no longer even hanging. I found it discarded in our backyard, all the food gone, a big hole chewed out of the bottle. The squirrels had had quite a party in the middle of the night, apparently.

To make a long story short, I bought another feeder, outfitted it with a "squirrel baffle" to prevent the critters from climbing onto the feeder from above and stealing the food, then I hung it in a different location, but it was still too close to the tree trunks and the squirrels attacked that feeder as well. Again I found the feeder in the morning some distance away from its original location with parts definitively gnawed on by the squirrels. It was salvageable, but I needed a new solution. Finally, I strung a thin but sturdy length of picture wire between two trees and suspended the feeder that way. So far, it has worked out, although there are times when multiple squirrels are beneath the feeder, circling below it like a brood of vultures, waiting for the scraps that the birds drop when they come to eat. And they have started coming--at least black-capped chickadees, in frequent numbers! We are looking forward to seeing other feathered friends visit in the near future now that we've solved the squirrel problem. Who knew that I'd be spending so much energy in homeschooling prep on squirrel deterrents?

One last comment...I never understood why people would get into bird watching until now. It's a little addictive to keep checking outside to see which birds might be there if at all, and trying to catch a glimpse of a new visitor to identify. And when you do find a bird sitting happily at the feeder, munching away, you feel a little bit like you've made a new friend, albeit one that flies away whenever you get too close!

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