I love birds. They inspire my writing. It would be no surprise to anyone who knows me that my first novel will be of winged creatures. Who doesn’t want to fly?
I live in the central valley of California, one of the major migration pathways for our avian friends. I’ve put up a few bird feeders…one for hummingbirds, one for finches and another couple for general food. All this food, I buy at the local bird specialty store, to make sure I get the best, no-mess food for all these feathered friends. Which gets to the topic of this story…squirrels.
The squirrels have been a problem from day one. The feeders are on the eaves of the house, on my patio. I noticed that I was filling up the general feeders more often than normal (apparently squirrels don’t like niger seed). One day, I noticed a squirrel hanging upside down, body stretched full along the feeder, gorging itself on food from the well. I shooed it off thinking that might be the end of it. Wrong. I sent the dogs out, thinking they might be able to chase off the squirrels. Again, wrong. Squirrels love to tease dogs, with their twitching tails and chattering. (It did give the dogs a bit of exercise, though.)
So, I go back to the specialty bird seed store to see if they have a fix for the scavenging squirrels. Oh,yes… they do. A whole section of the store devoted to the bird enthusiast with a squirrel problem. All kinds of contraptions to keep the critters away from your bird feeders. Included in the exhaustive list of solutions, a plastic bowl, in all sizes that fits over your special feeder, advertised to keep the squirrels away. Oh, yes…that looks reasonable. However, the price tag, not so much. I find a smallish one that I think will work, and the helpful shop keeper tells me that this particular model doesn’t work, but the one that is twice as big, and costs twice as much ($40) will work. Okay….now why would they keep a model that doesn’t work in the store? So, I pass. $40 for a piece of plastic is not how I want to spend my money.
Instead, I go to the $1 store. I find a plastic clear tray and burn two holes in it to fit on my feeder. I put my revised feeder up in it’s usual spot. Luckily for me, I do this on my day off work so I can see the squirrel response to my contraption. I look to the roof of my house and there are 5 squirrels close to the feeder, all their tails twitching and chattering to each other. They are clearly upset, running back and forth, trying out the tree next to the feeder. I have never seen a group of squirrels together on my roof, much less working cooperatively together. It also means, I’ve had more than one squirrel visiting my feeders…silly me, they do look alike. But the $1 fix seemed to work…my expensive bird food is being eaten mostly by the birds.
So over the weeks, the most daring of the squirrels has found one way to get at the food. From the crepe myrtle next to the feeder, this squirrel will jump onto the feeder, knocking some of the food to the ground and then feeding off the ground. This change is clearly not in the best interest of the squirrel population. Did I mention I have English Setters? Oh, yes….now the battle between dog and squirrel is fairly even….both on the ground. Every time I open the door, the dogs go after the squirrel feeding on the ground. Squirrels are still pretty fast, but one of my setters is really smart. This setter, Speedy is patient, and will sit so still that after hours of waiting, some poor squirrel might not realize she’s there.
Fast forward, I’m at the local coffee shop, writing my novel with a friend, I get a text from my son. “Speedy got a squirrel.” A confirmed squirrel killer x 2. But wait…she also has an accomplice. According to my son, they use the classic pincer move.
Now, none of us saw the dirty deed, but as a good dog, Speedy brings the dead squirrel to our door step and drops it…waiting for praise. My son and husband bury the squirrel in the garden. Of course after all this, I’m feeling a bit guilty, cause you know squirrels are kinda cute, even with their pesky habits. But, dogs in nature will kill squirrels, so I guess that’s to be expected.
Tomorrow I’ll buy a squirrel feeder I can put in the front yard, away from the English Setters.