Monday, April 06, 2009

Our Yardbirds Are Back

As regular readers know, we’ve been having a problem with squirrels at our bird feeders. We like squirrels but ours have been eating their way through an unbelievable amount of food, emptying whole suet cages and sunflower feeders in a matter of hours. Apart from costing us a fortune, this has meant that the number of birds visiting our yards has dropped to just a handful.

Our front yard

My first step towards a solution was to put out a squirrel corn feeder. This helped but only a little: The squirrels would spend 15 minutes polishing off the ear of corn before moving on to the bird feeders.

We already had one supposedly squirrel-proof feeder, the round cage type, and this has kept out all but the most determined squirrels. On Saturday, I bought and put up another squirrel-proof feeder, and I added a baffle above one of the suet feeders. I then spent an hour or so watching Fox and Eastern Gray Squirrels trying every which way to get around our new defenses. In the end, they gave up and settled for eating from the corn feeder and scavenging on the ground for seeds and other goodies.

They came

They tried

They gave up

The result on our bird visitors has been remarkable and rapid. Since the squirrels took over, we’ve rarely seen more than half-a-dozen species in a day. In an hour yesterday morning we were back up to fourteen species. Most of them came to eat: Northern Cardinals, House Finches, Carolina Chickadees, Chipping Sparrows, Ruby-crowned Kinglet, House Sparrow, White-winged Doves, Downy and Red-bellied Woodpeckers, American Goldfinches and Yellow-rumped Warbler. Others seemed to come just to see what was going on: Blue Jays, Mourning Dove, Common Grackles and Northern Mockingbirds.

American Goldfinch

So it was a good morning, made better by the fact that we had flyovers by a Crested Caracara, a Great Egret, a Turkey Vulture and Several Black Vultures.

Now I have to keep watching out to see if the squirrels can find a way around our new defenses.


Kyle said...

Congrats on the new squirrel-proof array, Jeff. Looks like it was well worth the expense and work.

And your yard is beautiful, by the way!

Birdwoman said...

What a nice yard you have. That first photo shows such a peaceful oasis. And it sounds like real peace may have been achieved in your squirrel wars. Congratulations on your victory!

Jeff said...

Thanks, Kyle. The yard was a disaster when we moved in but we're gradually getting it organized.

Jeff said...

Hi, Birdwoman.
Thank you. We spend any happy hours sitting out in that front yard.
I'm not counting my chickens about the squirrels yet. They're clever little buggers.