I went out to water the front planters the other day and there was dirt and plants all over the front stoop, and a big hole dug in the the tall planter.
Then I saw what looked like a lime in the center of the planter. Now maybe that wouldn’t be so weird, except this is Chicago and limes don’t grow here.
So what was going on?
Cutting it open showed me it wasn’t a lime, butt instead a black walnut. Hmm… So I changed my question to why was there a black walnut in the planter on my front stoop. My best guess is a very creative squirrel. All over my yard I have signs of squirrel activity as they get ready for winter.
Every fall they seem to get very active burying their winter food in my grass and gardens. I don’t really mind, it’s kind of like free aerating. As long as they stay away from my bird feeders!
But, I still don’t understand the black walnut. The closest black walnut tree is over as block away, and after carrying it so far why put its such a difficult spot? But then there’s a lot about squirrel behavior that seems puzzling. Add this to the list 🙂
I’ve had an ongoing issue with squirrels ravaging my bird feeders. I bought a great Squirrel Stopper pole, but because I wanted to see the birds from my kitchen window, and despite clear instructions not too, I placed it too close to a nearby tree and arborvitaes. So, those very acrobatic squirrels have had fun feasting at my feeders!
In a post earlier this winter, I wrote about finally investing in some well reviewed squirrel proof feeders to try and attract more birds than squirrels to my yard (Happy New Year’s To My Backyard Birds!). So did they work?
Happy New Year! I hope this day finds you all well and looking forward to this new year. I’ve been away a bit from blogging, but one of my goals for this year is to keep up much better. So much has happened this summer and fall with great gardening and travel, so I’ll spend the winter catching up!
On to the birds—
Like most people, I have a heck of a time finding balance between feeding the birds and feeding the pesky squirrels. I really love my squirrel-proof pole, but it’s only as good as your placement.
In my case, for me to have it in a perfect viewing spot from the kitchen window, it is just too close to the tree. Since squirrels are quite the acrobats, the pole really needs to be at least 10 feet from any object than can jump from. BTW, I have never seen a squirrel successfully climb up the pole! Since I’m not willing to move it, I either need to put up with feeding the squirrels or try some other feeders or shields.
I tried the clear dome feeder covers and decided those were really only good to keep the finch socks dry. I tried tying shiny ribbons around the tree to distract the squirrels and that only made it look like trash had become trapped on the tree somehow. I also tried the Squirrelaway Baffle, which also got great reviews. But, alas, my squirrels finally outwitted it 🙁 It did work pretty well with the suet feeder tucked up there, but regular feeders it was able to s-t-r-e-t-c-h and reach around to grab it.
My last attempt was to try some of the squirrel proof feeders. Since it was recently Christmas, I added a couple to my Christmas wish list. I also had a couple around that I dusted off.
Here’s what I’m trying:
Peanut Feeder– I’ve had this one a couple of years and the nuthatches and downy’s just love it. I’m not sure the brand, but I got it at a Tractor Supply Store. No squirrels can get into it. But, the other day I must not have screwed on the top as tight as I should have since it was missing one morning. I found it quite a ways away from the pole, so someone had quite a feast!
My only concern is the plastic tube. Hope my squirrels aren’t chewers.
The top seems really good and tight to keep them out.
My new suet feeder– I’ve really tried to used shields with my suet feeders and they worked for a while. Then this happened. Maybe I just didn’t figure out how to get the feeder hidden in their well enough, or I just have super smart squirrels. Either way a new approach was needed.
Black Oil Sunflower Feeder– And lastly, my new favorite! A Brome 1057 Squirrel Buster Standard Wild Bird Feeder. This seems to be everyone’s favorite brand, and I was pleasantly surprised at how well it seems to be made. Comes with really good instructions in case you want to adjust the closure weight.
I chose this one because it has perches that Cardinals seems to like. They were the trickiest to find a squirrel proof feeder for since they like to perch instead of cling. Worst case scenario, they seem to be happy with the spills.
So here we have it. All ready for the birds and hopefully will have outsmarted the squirrels.
I’ll keep you posted! How do you outsmart the squirrels?
P.S. To help keep the sparrows and house finches away from my more expensive seeds, I usually place a couple of other feeders farther away in the yard filled with a cheaper wild bird seed mixtures. That seems to keep them happy!
While we may not be having the horrendous weather some of my friends on the East Coast are having, we in Chicago, Michigan and the rest of the Midwest are having our own winter frustrations.
This winter started out not too bad, but January and February have really kicked it up a notch. Record snow, record cold, Old Man Winter is really piling it on, especially tough on top of last winter.
It’s hard to even think about the garden. I haven’t really been in the mood to look at the seed catalogues that are piling up or to get ready to start any seedlings yet. I feel like spring is never going to come. But I know, all of a sudden this will be over and spring will sneak up on us. Hopefully sooner than later.
My mom made use of a recent blizzardy day, where she couldn’t even see the neighbors house, to takes some photos of the feathered and furry friends who are thankful for her food.
I think these photos made the cold, snowy, wintry day a lot better! Hope you enjoyed them, too.
(Photo Credit: Weather graphic from Tracy Butler/ABC 7 Chicago)
Every year, my husband asks me what I want for my birthday. I’m usually not very helpful, but this year I knew just what I wanted!
Last fall, I decided a little late I was going to get back in the bird feeding business. It had been a while, as evidenced by one of my old feeders currently working only as home to a wasp’s nest. Soon after I got the poles and feeders sort of set out, the ground froze and my temporary locations became permanent.
Needless to say, the birds, and the squirrels, were happy with my feeders and locations. I am glad that I kept at it. With the winter as harsh as it was, the birds needed all the help they could get. Plus it added some fun to the never-ending winter.
This year, my plan was to be a lot more prepared. I needed to plan a little better where I was going to put the feeders, and get some better squirrel proof feeders. I’m not nearly as handy around power tools as my mom is, so I wasn’t going to build anything myself. Shopping around, the better pole systems were a bit pricey, which is where my birthday comes in. For my birthday I got a fabulous pole system and a couple of new feeders.
It seemed really sturdy and almost universally squirrel-proof according to the reviewers. Next decision was where to put it. I wanted it to be where I could see the visitors easily from the house, but not attractive to jumping squirrels. While this feeder seems quite effective in stopping climbing squirrels, it won’t protect from the jumpers. While my mom was here visiting, we scoped out a spot that hopefully is far enough away from the river birch and arborvitae, and a perfect view from the kitchen window. It’s going to be right behind the big hosta, about 10 ft from the tree trunk and 6 ft from the arborvitae. I’m hoping they can’t get a good jump off the floppy arborvitae branches.
Setting up the feeder—
I was really impressed with the thickness and sturdiness of the poles.
Time to start putting it in the ground. You use one of the upper cross beams as the leverage to twist in the auger. It was a little tough to insert the pole throughout the hole, but using water as the lubricant, I got it in finally. Then it took two of us to twist it into the wonderful midwest ground. Somehow we picked the only spot free of tree roots and got it in the first time!
You do need to get it in the ground all the way to the line, otherwise it’s too tall and it’s tough to reach the feeder hooks. Hint: Do it right the first time. No way was I going to disassemble it to finish twisting it into the ground. We ended up using one of my metal shepherd’s crooks to finish twisting. Nothing else was strong enough to take the pressure.
The rest of the pieces slipped together easily.
I got a couple of new feeders to go with the pole set. The red one is a No-No Cardinal Feeder. I never had a real cardinal feeder out last winter, and instead went out every day and tossed some sunflower seeds on the snowman statue’s head until it fell over and cracked from the cold. Kind of a wasteful way to put it out, but it worked in a pinch and the squirrels and juncos didn’t complain. I also got a new suet feeder, mostly because it looked nice.
On my way tomorrow to pick up new seed for the season. Are you ready for the birds this winter?
Normally this time of year, I would be commenting on how the summer heat has been taking its toll on the garden. Not this year, though. The gardens have responded to these cooler than normal July temperatures by being one explosion of color after another. Right now it’s the sunflower’s turn to show off.
While we were enjoying the beauty of the sunflowers, others were enjoying them in other ways…
Considering how far these were dragged, I assume the squirrels feasted on these two heads.
And the birds have been frequent visitors to this “bird feeder”!
Photo credits: All but the last 2 photo were taken by my husband, Steve!
While I was out there putting the new homemade suet in the feeder, I heard, and then finally found a Flicker in the neighbor’s yard. I haven’t seen him at my suet feeder yet, but I hope he comes to visit. In the meantime, the last couple of days I’ve seen Chickadees, a Downy Woodpecker, a Red Breasted Nuthatch and a squirrel on the suet feeder. They seem to like this new suet!
Something, well, probably that darn squirrel, knocked the feeder onto the ground. The Downy seemed to have liked the homemade suet so much it also went down to the ground to eat it. I’ve never seen a woodpecker eat off the ground. He must have been really hungry!
Since I am hoping that spring is coming soon, I decided to put the other suet cake I made out for the birds. I don’t have another feeder, so used an empty onion bag. We’ll see how that works.
Anytime you put out a bird feeder, you are also bound to be inviting squirrels to your yard. So, I now have a group, scurry, dray, or whatever a bunch of squirrels might be called, who visit on a regular basis. I’m beginning to be able to pick each out based on their coloring and eating habits. One in particular is quite the gymnast. I’m not sure he’s getting any net positive calories, but he sure seems to be having fun doing this.
I really can’t even be upset he’s eating the sunflower seeds because as someone else in my family said, “It’s the most adorable thing I’ve ever seen”. This guy seems to be the only one who has figured this method of eating from this feeder. Another one clings a little better, but doesn’t last very long on the feeder. Either way, they don’t get much to eat one seed at a time. The others just scavenge the seeds on the ground or on the snowman statue’s hat. Not too much of a bother…yet. Plus, it gives Daisy something fun to do outside.
Here’s a movie of him getting a workout:
As a bonus, if you watch the background, you’ll see some Juncos and a Downy Woodpecker coming to visit.