Despite Ministry of Natural Resources cautions about not hanging bird feeders in bear country, a couple of years ago we disregarded their advice and hung two sunflower seed feeders at the cottage, one just off from the lakeside deck and a second 15 feet from the shore. The one at the deck was a delight, so close to the front window we had a clear view of the bird activity. It was a popular feeder with dozens of small birds flocking to it every day. But oh, even small birds can make a big mess, leaving the deck smattered with their droppings and rendering it unusable.
Yuck. It had to go. We were left with the feeder that was closer to the shore and hanging from a tree over a garden. Although further from the front window, we could see it well enough … well enough to see the interest of red and grey squirrels sitting on the tree branch above the feeder.
At first the squirrels simply sat on the branch to case out the joint, but it was not long before the bravest and most agile squirrel slid down the wire to the first baffle. It slid off the baffle and fell to the ground a couple of times before it learned to manoeuver over it without falling off, arriving at the second baffle. It did not take as long for that first persistent squirrel to out-manoeuver the second and then the third (and final) baffle to achieve the holy grail … sunflower seeds.
We watched their goings-on for several days, hooting, hollering, whistling, thumping and clapping to frighten the squirrels from the feeder. In no time several squirrels had learned how to access the birds’ sunflower seeds. In addition to being gluttons, the squirrels were bullies, deterring the wee (and not so wee) birds from the feeder. All of you probably have similar stories; some of you persist but we gave up.
A week went by before Bruce found a small, one-cup-capacity acorn-shaped feeder hiding at the back of a cottage cupboard. It was light enough to hang from the old clothesline which is so loose and wobbly. We laughed at one squirrel as it wobbled on the clothesline, never quite making it to the new, acorn-shaped feeder. Success!
One of the first small birds to find the acorn was the red-breasted nuthatch. Seed eaters, the red-breasted nuthatch hung easily up-side-down from the feeder and gave us many hours of watching pleasure.
Next came a female goldfinch, somehow seeming more serious and less acrobatic than the nuthatch but a joy to watch in any event.
Not to be outdone by its red-breasted cousin, the white-breasted nuthatch seemed to pose and demand its picture be taken.
Obviously word got out and early one morning, we looked out with coffee in hand to see a downy woodpecker causing a bird-traffic jam at the acorn with chickadees waiting for impatiently on the clothesline for their turns. We all learned in elementary school that woodpeckers are insectivores, but this little one seemed happy to supplement its buggy diet with vegetarian fare.
That day even a blue jay paused to consider what all the excitement was about. Its hit and miss, unsuccessful approach trying for a sunflower seed frustrated both the blue jay and the photographer. After many days of sending the acorn reeling, the blue jay was finally able to settle in for a seed. The first blue jay photo below is almost an art shot, and while the second is not a traditional portrait (and we regret not tack-sharp) it does provide a colourful study of a blue jay tail and south end.
We were delighted with the success of the acorn bird feeder until finally one day the party was crashed by a most determined squirrel. Obviously it was hard work, taking cirque de soleil-esque skill to avoid crashing to the ground. Persist it did, but not for too long. Eventually, after many rather long falls to the ground, the squirrel stopped trying for this mana. Now every morning, there is a line-up of birds waiting patiently for the breakfast we are so happy to provide.
We recently treated ourselves to a new (previously loved) 2010 edition of Peterson’s Field Guide to birds of Eastern and Central North America. It is more user-friendly than our older 1980 edition.