Lessons for the Birds

IMG_0087The picture window in our kitchen offers a perfect view of the bird feeders in our backyard. My husband and I perch in our comfy recliners every morning and evening to read, chat, and watch whatever the changing seasons bring.

A pair of binoculars and a couple of Indiana bird books have a permanent home on the window sill. We’ve learned not to be alarmed when one of us frantically yells, “Honey, come quick!” Undoubtedly, a particularly beautiful or unusual feathered friend has come to pay a visit.

I would have given up on feeding the birds long ago, but my husband is nothing if not determined. The first couple of years in our home, Mike fought a losing battle against a troupe of squirrels and raccoons who had clearly escaped from the circus. He could often be seen pacing the backyard, muttering and fuming like Elmer Fudd and his pesky wabbits.

Mike spent hours coming up with new plans to outsmart the critters. They watched him, snickering from their hiding places, as he tried one experiment after another only to wake the next morning to empty, destroyed, or completely missing feeders.

One of his Macgyver-inspired plans involved a heavy wire strung through narrow PVC pipe tightly attached from one tree to another. He methodically hung several feeders to the wire and smeared an evil concoction of Vaseline and cayenne pepper on the PVC. I tried not to laugh that evening as we watched a fat raccoon expertly walk the rolling tight rope, stop to lick the appetizer off his little paws, and swan dive victoriously onto a feeder.

The squirrels were just as menacing. Mike would buy four or five different types of bird feed and spend at least half an hour carefully filling each feeder. Within two hours, the squirrels would devour it like pizza at a frat house. It didn’t help that I’m highly entertained by squirrel antics and often exclaimed, “Oh, look how cute they are!”

One day I was watching a squirrel gleefully swing upside down while feasting from a squirrel-proof feeder, when I saw my gentle-natured husband fly out the kitchen door and angrily chuck an arsenal of ice cubes at the poor thing.

It was then we realized he needed some professional help (with his bird feeders). Thanks to the folks at Wild Birds Unlimited, the past several years, our feeders have provided us an entertaining, educational, and peaceful connection to nature.

Mike’s Lessons for the Birds ~

  1. Install a system of quality feeders that includes a large critter-proof baffle.
  2. Place feeders several feet away from fences and trees to prevent raccoons and squirrels from using them as a trapeze.
  3. Buy good quality bird feed that attracts birds in your area. (Seriously, they eat better than we do.)
  4. Keep the feeders full. (Birds know they have a loyal friend when they see Mike filling their feeders in sub-zero temperatures.)
  5. Provide a clean water source.
  6. Make peace with the squirrels. (Their manners have greatly improved, and they only eat the peanuts Mike scatters on the ground for them.)
  7. Be patient. The joy of watching a pair of cardinals, a foot-long pileated woodpecker, or a flock of gold finches is well worth the effort.

“In order to see birds, become a part of the silence. One has to sit still ~ like a mystic and wait.” ~ Robert Lynd



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