Thursday, March 2, 2017

Feeding birds

After a couple of months of backyard bird-watching  this winter, I've invested in yet another attempt at bird feeding. This is my new bird feeder, which is supposed to get around the pest problems that come with bird seed.

This was the makeshift bird feeder I put together to get the birds through the worst of the ice and snow. It's a pie plate tied to an umbrella, which protected the seed from precipitation. It worked surprisingly well.

Squirrels would climb down the handle and plop themselves in the tray to have a good feed. I'd move the umbrella to peripheral branches to make it harder, but they always found a way.

Near the bird feeder is a lump of suet in a mesh bag. If I put it on a thin enough branch, the squirrels couldn't get at it. 

Anyone who's ever tried to feed wild birds knows about two other things: squirrels and mice (and maybe rats).

I've been through this cycle before. First, the initial enthusiasm (birds! nature!) Next, the expensive squirrel-proof bird feeder that is emptied by squirrels in half an hour. Then the clincher -- the growing evidence of rodents feasting happily on fallen seeds every night. I know all this, so when I decided to feed the birds this winter, I vowed it was temporary. Once the snow was gone, so would be the bird seed.

But I'd forgotten how a bird feeder brings a garden alive. How many more birds there are flickering through the trees and singing on the branches. How they dive-bomb the seed tray, like mini-airplanes doing touch-and-go landings, all jostling for their place in the queue. How squirrels can hang upside down by their back feet to reach a seed tray, or dangle from it by their little front paws when things go awry. Sometimes there are birds dive-bombing and squirrels dangling all at once; what a pity to miss all the action.

After advice from Wild Birds Unlimited and Mr. Google, I now have a little wooden bird feeder that holds a gelatinized roll of bird seed covered with pepper sauce. The gelatin prevents the seeds falling to the ground for the mice. The pepper sauce -- supposedly unnoticeable to birds -- is anathema to squirrels. We will see how it works.

The new bird feeder in the witch hazel tree. It has a little roof to keep the rain off, and a little floor to catch seed. I left the umbrella up for awhile to protect it from precipitation.

Little birds like this have been among my visitors this winter. The illustration is from a bird book.

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