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Squirrel Wars

War is something most folks would much rather avoid, especially when it takes place in their own backyard. This week’s post deals with one of those battles that I had to fight.

Enjoy. Thanks for stopping by.

Despite my neighbor’s Bull Mastiff using my head for a chew toy when I was a toddler, I’ve always been an animal lover. A dog was part of my family for as long as I can remember. Cats, not so much. For one thing, I’m allergic to cat hair/dander. Though I still respect the feline creatures, canines are far more loyal and loving and would do most anything to serve their human companions. Cats…well, they’re more like users––like a lazy roommate who eats your food, watches your TV, messes up the bathroom, drinks all your beer, and won’t get a job to help out with the overhead. Give cats food and water and a place to poop then don’t bother ’em and they’re good. They’ll bother their providers when they need something. Unlike dogs, how many cats ever did tricks or fetched anything for anybody other than themselves? Okay, now that I’ve riled all the cat lovers in the world, because, after all, how many long-running Broadway plays were titled “DOGS,” right? C’mon, Andrew Lloyd Weber, help me out here.

Back to my notion about being an animal lover, my wife considers me as kind of a Dr. Doolittle––among other things. Whether critters scurry on four legs or glide through the air on feathered wings, I admire and talk to them all. So it seemed fitting that, for the majority of our married life, at most of our homes, my wife and I have provided feeders to attract the birds––sugar-water for the hummingbirds during the warm months, mixed seed all year round. When we moved into our current residence, setting up a feeder outdoors for the song birds was a priority

Like a treehouse, our back deck is situated sixteen feet above ground level and surrounded by forest, an ideal setting for attracting our avian friends. After hanging a water bowl on one side of the deck and the feeder on the other, we waited. The chickadees and cardinals arrived first, followed by titmouse, nuthatches, and wrens. Since we set up the bird diner, my wife and I have counted nearly thirty different species of birds that have visited our feeder. Their varied chatter ringing through the woods brings joy to our hearts. Some birds are permanent residents, some just passing through during their seasonal migration. But even the seasonals are becoming regulars as we see them each year around the same months. Because of easy access to a regular meal each day, some of the part-timers hang around a bit longer each year.

But seeds and trees entice more than birds. It didn’t take long for the furry critters to notice free food, too. Possums, raccoons, and an occasional skunk have wandered by to munch on seeds tossed to the ground beneath the deck. Being the most intelligent of the three, the raccoons took the stairs to more closely examine the ready food source. Following their second intrusion, the feeder has been stored indoors every evening. In the meantime, the squirrels began attacking and the war was on.

I’d initially mounted a hanger to one of the six-by-six support posts. Suspended from a formed, half-inch square rod, the feeder should have been fine for the birds, yet safe from all other creatures. WRONG! Tight-rope walkers can learn a lot watching squirrels

To remedy that problem, I exchanged the hanger for a pole mounted to the same post, which placed the feeder three feet above the upper deck rail. As it turns out, squirrels are great climbers, too. A dome-shaped, clear-plastic squirrel guard from the local big-box hardware store would take care of that issue, right?  Yes, temporarily, but squirrels can jump as well. Plus, though we loved the birds, they can be messy eaters. Our deck was constantly strewn with rejected seeds, and shells from those with tasty treats inside. In its present location, the feeder had added another daily chore to our list––sweep seed residue from the deck.

It’s been said that when presented with adversity folks have several options: Turn around and walk the opposite direction; ignore the misfortune and hope it goes away on its own; or face the difficulty head-on and conquer it. Coming from stubborn genes, I chose the last option. After all, I was smarter than any damned squirrel, right?

With scrap metal and tools in hand, I created a ladder-like extension that would please any bridge-building engineer. The two-piece arm with braces pivoted on mounts attached to the six-by-six post, which allowed the feeder to swing out from the deck to minimize seed debris, and inward for feeder service. Using the same pole from my last endeavor, including the squirrel guard, the feeder was now three feet out and three feet up from the top rail of the deck. I was proud of my ingenuity…until I discovered that squirrels are mighty good leapers, too.

As I searched for something to make the squirrel guard larger in diameter and more intrusive, my wife suggested a water heater drip pan. Why not? Another trip to the big-box store and voila. If I turned the pan upside down, our bird feeder could substitute for a satellite dish. If only I could figure out how to connect to one of the providers––and keep the pan from moving around in the wind like a car in a Tilt-a-Whirl carnival ride.

With the revamped guard in place, my wife and I drank our coffee beside the sliding glass door to our deck. The birds had adapted to the huge silvery disk beneath them and were back crunching seeds. We grinned as a squirrel approached, eyeballed the monstrosity, then turned around. Success at last. A few minutes later, the tree rat returned. It eyeballed the situation once more, then huddled on its haunches, leaped atop the pan, and grabbed the feeder.

Damn the torpedoes! Full speed ahead!

Next day, I patronized the big box store again, this time for two lengths of square metal tubing. After removing the swing arm feeder support from the deck, I welded the larger of the two square tubes to the arm and gave it a paint job. While the black enamel dried, I made an adapter to mount the feeder––rounded on one end to fit the feeder; square on the other end to fit inside the smaller and longer square tube, which, when assembled, would slide up and down within the larger tube. Holes were drilled though the two tubes to allow a pin to secure the small tube and feeder at its new height, six feet above the deck rail.

With the huge drip-pan guard in place, I hoisted the feeder, secured the lofty diner, and then waited for the tree rat brigade’s approach.

Once again, the birds quickly adapted to their penthouse feeder.

Trying to be stealthy, a tree rat scout tiptoed down the deck rail and looked up…and up…and up. Chitterwatterscreech! (That’s holy crap in squirrel talk). Several attempts at climbing and leaping proved unsuccessful.

I grinned…and laughed. The last time I spotted a squirrel, the little bugger had a white flag clenched between its teeth. At last, victory was mine. And it was sweet.

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