Getting Fussy Now Are We?

You’ll recall that just before Christmas we bought the birds a bag of black sunflower seeds as a festive treat. They were served up, as their seed always has been, in a dish on the top of the bird table.

 
 

 

Three in a beak will go..

 

The sunflower seeds went down extraordinarily well. The dish was emptied within minutes and attracted many more birds than I’ve ever seen around the bird table before. Of course the increased level of activity was never going to go unnoticed. Luncheon (avian and human) was soon interrupted on a daily basis by the need to chase off the squirrels.

We have become practised in the art of ‘squirrel herding’ as it’s come to be known. Exploding out of the kitchen door doing my very best impression of a screaming banshee I have flushed out three squirrels on many a separate occasion. It’s best when they flee together as a group, hence the herding, thus saving me the awkward decision of which one to pursue to the death. Or at least as far as the nearest tree. Sometimes the encounter provides more in the way of sport, like the launching of a squirrel into mid air. Obviously a rookie, my quarry had raced headlong down the lawn only to find itself confronted by the Lonicera hedge which it’s fair to say has grown inconveniently tall on account of the gardener’s neglect. Options having become limited at this point the squirrel-turned-Harrier-jump-jet cleared an impressive two and a half vertical feet before hurling itself sideways over the hedge. Did it know about the steep slope on the other side?

Of course they always get away. And they always will. But it does give me some satisfaction to realise that these days I get closer to catching up. Fitness levels are improving. I read last week that the best form of exercise one can take is in short bursts of high level activity, enough to get you out of puff and your heart properly racing. People, I am ahead of the curve. But seriously. Such labour intensive methods of squirrel control are unsustainable in the long term. Not to mention disagreeable during lunch given the high likelihood of indigestion. A squirrel proof seed feeder would need to be purchased and as it happened I found one advertised in The Garden that very same day.

 
 

 

Coal Tit and ‘Pest Off’

The theory is that the smaller birds, up to and including a woodpecker, can stand on the perch and access the seed. Anything heavier and the perch sinks under the weight, pulling down the metal barrier to close off the port.

 
 

 

Great Tit

Some of the reviews had suggested the birds would take a while to find the feeder and work out how to use it. Ours had it cracked in under five minutes. But there was a catch. The feeder is quite large, even though we had bought the smaller of the two sizes available..

 
 

 

..and the bird table wasn’t especially high off the ground.

‘Pest Off’ is double the length of the peanut feeder shown above. The squirrels would easily be able to reach it.

 
 
 

 

It’s true the bird table had seen better days. But then it did have a lot to put up with..

 
 

 

The aftermath of a recent squirrel fight.

 

And so a decision was made. We would rebuild the bird table and at the same time attach it to a taller pole.

Thus began a week of intensive activity in the Man Shed. It was important that Bird Table Mark II retained a rustic appearance. Pains were taken to ensure that only recycled wood was used. The flat bed of the new tray came from the previous owner’s treehouse, long since demolished, the raised sides sourced from an old garden bench. Drainage holes were provided (remember the rain) and the strength of the tray enhanced through the addition of a metal brace. Last weekend the masterpiece was revealed..

 
 

 

I even built a scree bed underneath since everything I’ve ever planted there has been trampled and in other ways sullied by the birds.

 

The purchase of a new bird feeder. The complete reconstruction of the bird table. The gathering of rocks and gravel and their arrangement to finish off the scene. A broken nail. All to defeat a few squirrels. The million dollar question then, does it actually work?

 
 

 

Marsh Tit. Butter wouldn’t melt.

You’ll notice that the feeder is filled with a variety of seeds. The remains of the black sunflower seed Christmas treat. Suet pellets which they also love. And the standard (economy) mixed seed which in the days prior to Christmas they used to gobble up with relish. Except that they don’t gobble it up any more. No, they have been spoiled good and proper. They prod and they poke and sift through the Pick and Mix. Sometimes a black sunflower seed is readily extracted and the bird flies off with the prize. Ditto the miniature fat snacks. But the mixed seed? The stuff that we still have in copious quantity back in the shed? What now happens to that? It is discarded. Unceremoniously chucked down on the ground.

 
 

 

A good source for the ground feeding birds perhaps?

Well it might have been. Except that we now seem to attract even more squirrels than we had before.

I give up.