Sunday, February 8, 2009
Squirrel v. Bird Feeder: 1-0
Story from the Rochester, NY Democrat and Chronicle Squirrels always conquer bird feeders February 7, 2009 I'm not alone. I will lose, but I'll have company in defeat.As you may recall, my column two weeks ago reported on my installation of a Squirrel-be-Gone bird feeder in our yard. I suggested that I was becoming obsessed, not with birds, but with preventing squirrels from cracking the feeder's defenses and getting all the seed for themselves. When I wrote, the bird feeder had resisted the squirrels for three days. I declared a victory. Veteran bird/squirrel watchers took my boast for what it was, a rookie's bravado. Carol and John Wessely of Perinton e-mailed a picture of a happy squirrel inside their squirrel-proof feeder. Robert Lauterbach of Rochester sent two pictures of squirrels eating food intended for birds. "You won't beat them, you know," e-mailed Dave Marcellus of Webster. "Good luck, but don't be too optimistic.""They will figure out the feeder," wrote Chuck Canham of Penfield. "You ain't seen nothing yet," wrote Jerry Ernsthausen of Spencerport. Down but not out, most of the members of this ad-hoc support group encouraged me to join them in a quest for the perfect (anti-squirrel) bird-feeder. Along those lines, Marilyn and Lee Eriksson of Perinton lubricated the feeder's pole with WD-40, making it slippery for the squirrels. Other thwarters, including Canham, have tried to improve the anti-squirrel devices in their feeders, using glue and better screws to hold things down. But it would seem that all of these efforts only buy time. Yes, the squirrel may be stymied by the slippery pole, but then it somehow flies through the air, lands on the feeder and dines. Why this persistence? Why do squirrels constantly try to break into bird feeders even when they can more easily nibble on the seed that gets scattered below the feeder as the birds eat? "It gives them a little challenge," Douglas Bassett, an environmental educator at Letchworth State Park explained when I gave him a call. "It's the grass-is-always-greener psychology that's just part of being a squirrel." Bassett is on the side of the squirrels and the side of the birds. So, too, is Dan Knaak of Greece."I look out my backyard window and I see squirrels and birds eating together in harmony. Squirrels don't attack the bird feeder because I leave enough food below," Knaak wrote in response to my bird (squirrel) feeder column. "Learn more about nature. .... Give squirrels a break." Knaak's squirrels would seem to be well-trained. Ours do feast on the seed in the snow below the feeder. But, at least once a day, a squirrel climbs out on the branch from which the feeder hangs and makes an assault. So far, the feeder has held, the squirrel's weight pulling down feeder's outer shell and closing the portals to the bird seed inside. But I'm worried. "I ain't seen nothing yet," I think, bracing for the inevitable. Spring will come. Don't despair. Bassett says that bird activity and other indicators in the park suggest that this long winter will end. Trust him. He's been right before.