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One Of A Bird Feeder’s Best Friends

As winter moves across the country, we all see more challenges feeding our birds. One of the main challenges is providing water. If you’re able to provide water where you can plug in a bird bath heater, that’s great! Especially, if you’re able to have your bath far enough away from the house to reduce the chance of window strikes when the occasional predators come by. For me, the bird bath is almost at the back of our property where there is enough cover for birds to flee to if they have to. Unfortunately, this means running a long extension cord which is not practical or safe when snow and freezing rain hits.

My Process Is Simple

I’ve been feeding birds in my back yard for thirteen years next month. I figured out a long time ago I was going need a way to get liquid water out once a day since I couldn’t have a bird bath heater. My solution: a rubber mallet. That’s right, the same thing you’d use to put your hubcaps back on. When I go out to feed my birds I take the mallet with me. I then just unscrew the bath from its pedestal, set it on the ground edgewise and bang away! I have a resin bird bath so I’ve got to be careful about cracking it but this will work with any kind of bird bath.

You don’t have to break up every piece of ice either. In fact, I would recommend you keep whatever doesn’t fall out easily just so you don’t risk cracking the bath.

What If My Bath Doesn’t Unscrew?

No problem! You can safely break up the ice with the bath upright. Just take the broken pieces out as you go. The only caution I would give you here is if you do have a one piece resin bath, make sure NOT to hit it hard enough to break the bath away from the pedestal. I’d also advise that you remove the ice you loosen rather than trying to break it up further by striking it after it’s loose. You can start on the light end of contact and hit a little harder until you find the force that cracks the ice well before you’re damaging your bath.

Why Not Use A Regular Hammer?

Good question. The answer can be explained by having you visualize something. Imagine you have a five pound weight in one hand that you want to lay on top of your other hand. If that weight is spread out in the form of a plate, you can safely place it on top of your other hand without injury. If, on the other hand (pardon the pun) the weight is a three foot long spike, I’m pretty sure you’re going to get hurt putting that on your other hand. So, without any messy physics lesson here, let’s just agree a bigger surface and a substance that also absorbs as it spreads out the force is best. Hence, the rubber mallet to the rescue! I’ve not tested this theory but I’m pretty sure a regular hammer can crack any surface it strikes or at least put a hole in it. That’s death for the bath.

The Added Bonus

The cool thing about the rubber mallet is that it can be used for other back yard feeding tasks. Have freezing rain on a feeder? You can probably knock if off with the mallet without worrying about damaging it. Just this morning, I had my Brome Squirrel Buster that was not letting anything get peanuts because the frozen rain was putting weight on the feeder and causing it to close off. Just a few taps around it got it working again. Closing for squirrels but letting woodpeckers get some much needed food.

What Tricks Do You Have Up Your Sleeve?

Do you have something you’ve been doing for years in your back yard that you think others could benefit from? Tells us about it by leaving a comment below! Also, if you’ve enjoyed this article and would like to share it with others, please use the buttons below to send it to your friends and family who are bird feeders.

Enjoy your time with your back yard friends! All of them!

Jeff

 

Happy Holidays from BirdOculars!

I hope the holidays this year find you well and eager to help your back yard friends enjoy the season just as much!

I’ve got some changes in store for you for 2016 so stay tuned!

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Merry Christmas

 

Maggie hopes you get a lot of new toys this year!

maggie toy

Best always,

Jeff

 

My Squirrel Adventures

Long Time Feeder. First Time Complainer

squirrel eatingAs many of you may already know, I’ve been feeding squirrels in my back yard pretty much ever since I’ve been feeding birds. They’ve presented challenges at various times because they’re so unbelievably intelligent. In fact, most of the stories I’ve read of peoples’ problems with squirrels have stemmed from them underestimating them in some way. My squirrel mantra is simple: they WILL figure it out. Period. No matter what the problem is. They will eventually work out a solution if one is available. Thinking that they’ll just give up if you challenge them is just foolhardy. Making something more difficult for them only deepens their resolve. I swear this is true.

Let me give you a few short examples. When I first started feeding birds I put up the standard pole system because I didn’t know how many squirrels are in this area. Our property backs up to woods and I should have suspected this but I was new to birding. I think it was probably a day or two after I saw the first squirrel and figured climbing up a metal pole would be herculean. You know how this turns out. Next thing I see is Mr./Mrs. Squirrel comfortably resting in my hopper feeder ledge and munching away. Talked to the Wild Birds Unlimited people and they suggested baffles. Put them on. Problem solved. For now.

Over the next year, the trees in our yard grew and the limbs jutted out over the feeder station. The closest branch was at least twenty feet above the station. Again, I reckoned that would be a death defying drop so I made no immediate plans to prune anything back. That was until I was working away in my office and heard a loud thump in the back yard. That’s right. It was a squirrel that had lined up his leap and (without a parachute or wings of any kindj-LOL) dropped himself an insane distance on to the feeder and stuck the landing to boot! All he needed to do is hang over onto the feeder ledge and he was snackin’ aplenty. Pruning happened soon after.

My final example should give you a much better idea of what you’re up against. I had put up a squngee to feed them corn from a cob while amusing us with their theatrical gymnastics. For those of you who don’t know what a squngee is, it’s basically a chain with a spring loaded wire attached to it that allows the squirrels to jump on it and bounce all over the place while they get their corn. It’s hilarious to watch! For some reason, it took them almost a week to figure it out but once they did, it was hilarious!

A month or so later,  I noticed one of the squirrels was perching above the squngee looking like they were working out a physics problem. They’d look, try hanging down a little, get back up, look some more, scale down the chain and back up. It looked like they were dumbfounded as to what to do. The next day when I went out to feed them, I saw the squngee draped over the branch and empty. I first thought the spring had just whipped it back up. Since there were other branches near where the chain was, I didn’t think any more of it. I put another corn cob on it and went about my day.

The next day, as I was just watching the wildlife in my back yard I discovered something that to this day still blows me away. It was a squirrel out there on that squongee limb PULLING THE CORN COB UP TO THEM! I kid you not. So, I figured out a way to attach a 2.5 lb weight to the line and the squongee has been used as it was designed ever since.

Don’t get me wrong. I enjoy a challenge as much (or more) than the next guy. I also really enjoy watching these little hoodlums play and fight with each other. I mean who can keep from smiling when they see two squirrels running circles up a tree trunk while chasing each other? As long as there was no major threat to me or my home I was ok with it.

The Attic Is The Line In The Sand

Earlier this year, I had noticed what seemed like an unusual amount of traffic in the gutters coming from the side of my house around back where my office looks out. There was no digging sound or any reason to think they were trying to get into my attic. I just decided to note it and pay attention like I’ve talked about elsewhere in this blog. Besides, they have a “squirrel highway” in back that connects the trees in my to nearly all of the trees accessible from my back yard. It was not uncommon for a squirrel to start in my neighbor’s tree in the front yard, jump on to the roof, off onto my fence and get back to the squirrel box on the fence in back. It was also not unusual for them to go from there to a tree in the woods, over to my other neighbor’s tree and onto their roof. From there, they only need to jump to a small tree on the side of my house to get on my roof again. That would make the back gutter the primary shuttle area to get over to my fence again. Needless to say, traffic was not uncommon.

While traffic wasn’t uncommon, a squirrel staying in one place and moving a short distance back and forth WAS uncommon. Just in case, I called the man who does yard work and odd jobs for us to see if he could come out, clean the gutters and check this area of the gutters out. He came out and told me something had been trying to get in there and he chicken wired it so they couldn’t. Do you know it has taken almost a month for the traffic in this area to return to normal? Every morning, they would come by and see if anything had changed. Luckily, the chicken wire has held. I’ll have the man come back out to check it soon but we’re not hearing anything suspicious. Again, the amount of determination they have should keep anybody from ever selling their smarts short.

A Wire Feeder In Time Saves…

One day a couple of months ago I had one other significant run in with a squirrel. I was downstairs reading after knocking off for the day and I heard what sounded like a squirrel running on the roof above our den. Again, this was not unusual so I paid it no mind. Then, I could hear little footsteps that sounded a LOT closer than on the roof. Shortly after that, the clincher: digging sound coming from what must have been beams in the attic. Knowing I needed to take quick action, I banged on the walls and ceiling and she left. I didn’t hear anything more that day but also was positive there had been what I call incursion. She had gotten in and steps needed to be taken!

The next day, I got up on a ladder and spotted the place she had gotten in. I was able to take a wire peanut feeder, crush it, insert it into the hole, secure it with the hanging wires to my gutter and then leave it. Later that day, I saw a squirrel up near it. I yelled at her and she jumped on to my fence and started toward the back fence. She had nesting materials in her mouth. Deciding that I wasn’t a real threat to her, she ran back towards me, back up the house to that point in the gutter. I asked her where she was going and you should have seen her expression when she thought she was going to slip back in that hole and found the feeder blocking it! It was priceless! Since that day, there has not been any more trouble out of them.

Your Choices

For those of you who are thinking, why didn’t you just call an animal removal specialist? To be honest, I did and I would have gone with one if my solutions hadn’t worked. My major hurdle: the price. I know peace of mind has a value and I wouldn’t be worrying about the cost if I had been overrun by them. I’d take the hit and move on. The main reason besides that I didn’t go with one yet is that our gutters need replaced. I’d rather pay somebody to fix those areas correctly than somebody who would just screw on some metal or mesh on it. If there is eave, soffit or fascia wood that needs replaced, they’ll see it.

Until then, I’ll keep my eyes and ears peeled. I think they’ve made their beds for the winter wherever they are but I won’t underestimate them again!

What About You?

I know I’m not the only person out there who’s had a run in with squirrels. Tell me your stories by leaving a comment below. Let me know how you dealt with them and what success you’ve had. Also if you’ve found this article entertaining, please share it on your favorite social media platform by clicking the link at the bottom of this post.

Enjoy your back yard oasis!

Jeff

Here’s a short squirrel video which I think illustrates my point pretty well.

Where Have All My Goldfinches Gone?

My Experience With Goldfinches Before 2015

 

Nearly every year since 2003, the first year I started feeding birds, I’ve had goldfinches in my back yard. Sure, there have been some years where they were heavier than others. I made a recording in May of 2011 where they were massing in the woods behind our property and the din was almost deafening. Have a listen.

Other than that year, the pattern was the same: they would become regular visitors during the winter, taper off a bit in the summer, disappear when plants got to seeding stages in late August and come back again for the fall/winter rush. This year that has not been the case at all.

american-goldfinchesThis year, due to some seed I purchased at Walmart which I believe had been stored improperly, I started out with very inconsistent results. I kept finding them on my sunflower seed feeders and not so much on their thistle feeders. I knew the feeders were clean and the seed was recently purchased so I just wrote it up to an anomaly of sorts.

Finally, I decided to see if there could be a problem with the seed. I asked my local Wild Birds Unlimited buddy what she’d been hearing. She said nothing struck her about the goldfinch reports she’d been getting from customers and gave me a small bag of thistle to try in my feeder. I could see her seed was shinier than mine which I knew meant oilier too. Do I have to tell you what happened?

Of course, within two days of putting out the new seed the feeders were covered up with goldfinches. I said my apologies to them for holding out on them and got ready to buy a new bag of thistle. Anybody that feeds birds will tell you how hard it is to throw away seed but I knew what I had to do. I threw some of it on my patio for the mourning doves but they didn’t go crazy about it and I knew it would take me way too long to get rid of it that way. So, I dumped it and moved on.

Still Not Here To Stay

After I replaced the old seed with the new the traffic picked up significantly for a while. Maybe a month or so. Then, I started noticing a tapering off when they should be settling in for the summer. I checked and cleaned my feeders one more time just to be sure. No effect on the traffic. So, pretty much from June or July of this year I’ve seen very spotty traffic back there and I can’t explain it. So, I’ve come to ask for your help.

What Has YOUR Goldfinch Traffic Been Like in 2015?

If you could leave me a comment below and tell me where you live and what your goldfinch experience has been like in 2015, I’d love to hear your feedback! I’m baffled. The only change that’s happened this year is we had a tree just behind our property get split and had to be severely pruned. I should mention this tree is not directly near the goldfinch thistle feeders but I did consider just the change in the backyard cover may have spooked them. The only problem with that idea is I think they started tapering off long before the tree was even damaged in the storm this summer. Anything you can share would be appreciated. Also, if you could like this post on Facebook or share it on twitter maybe we could get even more input.

Best,

Jeff