Bird Chronicles: Backyard Feeder Edition

Late last summer, this happened (iPhone pic):

SquirrelI had been mystified as to where all the birdseed was disappearing to, and then one morning we woke up to the outline of a squirrel on the window shade.  Sort of like a chalk outline of a dead person on TV, except squirrel-shaped and very much alive.  Mystery solved.  He wasn’t content to stick to the seed feeder either; he gobbled up the suet just as greedily.  Finally, he broke the seed feeder.  I did all sorts of research on squirrel proof bird feeders, and had a long conversation with the owner of my local Wild Birds Unlimited store.  Because I was limited to my deck for feeder placement, the only non-expensive solution to getting the squirrel to go away was to stop feeding the birds.  Much sadness for all involved, including the VEB (who bought me the feeder to begin with and hates squirrels anyway), and the kitty, who lost her daily dose of entertainment.

Last week I happened to stop by the local Aubuchon and they had an allegedly squirrel-proof feeder on sale for a song.  I figured it was worth a shot, and hung it up.  I also filled the suet feeder, hoping against hope that during the winter the squirrel had found other dining arrangements.  As with last year, it took a few days for the birds to notice, but soon there was a predictable crew visiting:  several chickadees, a very loud titmouse, and a couple of pairs of woodpeckers.  Both the kitty and I were happy to sit back and watch (though she gets very agitated when the titmouse is around, I think because it has such a sharp chirp).

All was well until a few days ago, when I woke up to find a different, smaller squirrel sitting on top of the seed feeder.  This time, rather than looking inquisitively at the squirrel, the cat actually growled.

Happily, the squirrel gave up fairly quickly and moved on to the suet feeder, but barely nibbled at it before taking off, and I haven’t seen it since.  I have, however, seen quite a large squirrel dancing across the neighbor’s backyard, so I have some concern that my squirrel reprieve may be short-lived.  We’ll see.


The woodpeckers, which I think are downy woodpeckers due to their beak size, have been quite busy at the suet feeder.  Afterwards they fly up into the tree behind my house and shimmy up the limbs.  Weirdly, even though the same type of suet is in each side of the feeder, the females generally eat off the left side and the males from the right.  Coincidence or some weird bird thing?  Also, while the males will more or less go directly for the feeder, the females start at one end of the deck and work their way over to the other side, where the suet is.  They look like a private detective trying to avoid being seen, circling each slat on the deck before stealthily jumping to the next post.  It’s oddly mesmerizing to watch, like some strange ritual dance, except really:  they look like they are up to no good.

They are tricky to get photos of – they don’t stay still for very long, and their heads are very twitchy, plus it’s been really windy the past few days.  The males are easier to spot in the trees, due to the red spot on their heads, but I’ve yet to get a decent picture of one; the females have been a little more cooperative in that regard.  In the first picture, you can sort of see how she uses her claws to hold on to the little knobby part of the tree.  Their claws are kind of spooky, actually, sort of like spindly hands that might come from nowhere in some horror movie, ready to snatch you up:





About Lori Allen Writes

Lori is plotting to take over the world one essay, one quilt, and one hand knit sock at a time.
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