Battles of the Bird Feeder

Cardinals, blue jays, black-capped chickadees and many other birds are regular visitors to the bird feeder at my home. So are squirrels and raccoons. Left to their own devices the fuzzy critters eat more than their fair share and crowd out the feathered ones. Bird feeder designers try all kinds of clever mechanisms to stop them, but the furry fiends are highly motivated, dextrous and smart.

The last straw was when I saw a raccoon sitting buddha-style inside the bird feeder, the top having been ripped off. He was happily shoving handfuls of black sunflower seeds into his mouth. I yelled at him and waved my hands. He smirked, slowly raised himself, climbed down the pole and wandered off into the woods. He'd be back. So would his friends. Coonskin hats came to mind. But, I actually like raccoons, so long as they stay out of and off of the feeder.

I tried greasing the pole with vaseline. That worked fine for a few days (and it was fun to watch them slip slowly down) but the vaseline wore off from repeated climbing attempts and soon enough the raccoons back to munching away. Then I remembered the painful experience of wiping my eyes after chopping fresh cayenne pepper (and simultaneously answering a phone call and screaming expletives at the unknown caller as the pain hit). Aha! "Let's try mixing habanero into the vaseline." THAT worked like a charm. Afterwards the raccoons walked wide circles around the pole as if it were electrified - even after the habanero was long gone.

With short memories and a deeply seated gung-ho spirit, Squirrels have been more difficult. But after much trial and error, a suggestion from my daughter and a command from my wife to "be nice," I arrived at the solution of putting a slinky over a vaseline covered pole. This new defensive measure seems to be working and the bushy tailed beasts, despite daily assaults, have been held at bay for the past week.

But I'm not resting easy. The enemy is determined and has nothing but time...

- Mike

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