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Daily Archives: April 10, 2012

Smarter Than the Average Squirrel

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Sometimes I feel that the squirrels are winning. No matter how hard I try, they figure out most of the squirrel proof solutions. The latest is one of those feeders that they are managing to empty by hanging a certain way on it.

We have gone to great lengths to keep them from the bird seed, giving them corn and peanuts but trying to keep them from the woodpeckers’ favorite treats.

This arrangement gives them the cheapest suet I can find, and they have to work for it. They get corn, but if you don’t wedge it in, they run off with the entire ear of corn. My neighbors find the entertainment of a squirrel trying to carry an entire ear of corn to their nest in the old oak trees amusing, but it is expensive to put corn out there every few hours. I usually only feed the squirrels in the winter, and let them fend for themselves when the ground is full of nuts and seeds.

This feeder is truly squirrel proof. The good seed goes here, with the vitamins and minerals the birds need while raising their young. I have had to move it twice, though. Once, it was too close to the bird bath. The second time it was too close to the yucca and deck seats. Squirrels will jump quite far to grab that bar and get the good stuff. Even risking impalement on a yucca tree.

The squirrels do provide entertainment to us too. They know how to descend a ladder quite quickly when startled.

Even the hummingbird feeder isn’t safe.

They scrounge around where the birds push unwanted items out of the feeder on the pole, at least keeping it somewhat clean, but I usually get volunteer plants and weeds coming up where I don’t want them.

When we moved in, we had a lovely cedar feeder out there. The previous owners had dogs, so no squirrels. It lasted just a few months before they chewed through the wood. They will chew on the plastic too, so now we have metal feeders with metal lids and as many baffles as I can manage.

The double baffle works, as does the witches hat over the nuts for the woodpeckers.

Of course, the woodpeckers go where they want, and not always to their little feeder.

I now cram two small suet holders into the large one. Put them at an angle to minimize the area that the squirrels can reach into and grab suet. It doesn’t totally stop them but it slows them down considerably.

I have created a habitat here to keep the birds that assist us in having my garden lush and relatively bug and flying insect free. They have coniferous trees for nests. Water, heated in the winter. A constant source of food, including insect suet when they are feeding their young. We have lots of trees and bushes that produce berries. I leave the pokeweed in the meadow so they can feed from it.

We have lots of worms, good for the soil and for the robins (and their allies).

Of course, they also need to learn how to play nice around here. Looks like a little mom and pop spat going on here.

At least the robins and cedar waxwings get along.

So I put up with the squirrels, knowing that a dog will keep them away, but also impact the birds. Who needs the Discovery Channel when all this excitement goes on, right outside the kitchen window?

This Saturday: Hike to the Patapsco River

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With all my talking about Greenfest, I forgot that this is the second Saturday, when the free wonder walks take place at the Howard County Conservancy.

At 10 am, join the leaders, two of the volunteer naturalists, as they lead you on a spring hike across the property and down a stream side trail in Patapsco State Park, to the Patapsco River. Last year, we did this hike in March, with little spring foliage or flowers. This year promises a real treat, with lots in bloom.

The hike starts at the Gudelsky Center, and there will be opportunities to turn around and return easily to the center, if the hike proves too strenuous or long.

It will take at least two hours, total, to do the hike and explore the area where the railroad tracks border the river. There is much to see down there, including some ruined remains of old structures.

You can do the hike in the morning and come hit Greenfest for its final few hours, if you are ambitious.

If you can’t make it to the Conservancy this Saturday, never fear. The Earth Day celebration, bird walk, and clean up is scheduled for the 21st. Or, stop in at Greenfest this Saturday, at the Conservancy’s table there, and pick up the event flier for the rest of 2012.