Wednesday, February 4, 2009

They Came, They Conquered! (A Bird Feeder's Story)

This story begins with a sweet little bird feeder that came with a house.

The birds scattered seed, and often they ate it on the ground.

Then came a cat.

The cat killed a cardinal.

All the other birds watched from the trees. The blue jays screamed.

Stricken, I decided I better get a new feeder. One that was high up, and had a platform to catch the seeds.

When I found the rusty metal stand for a dismantled payphone, I dragged it home and used it to concoct something new.


I was delighted. It reminded me of a Japanese temple.

The first visitor? A squirrel.

And then two, and sometimes three.

True, there were also doves and house sparrows and a whole flock of grackles and even a red-winged blackbird.

But the squirrels seemed to eat everything. They were shimmying up the post. Or running along the fence, and then leaping from a tree.

Ah, a challenge! In the basement I found Stryrofoam tubes used to insulate pipes. I ran string through one of them and tied the ends to the platform--voila, a wobbly gray replica of the St. Louis Arch!

I added a second arch and draped the pair with a sheet of clear plastic. I decorated the cover with bits of red duct tape to keep the birds from mistaking it for air. I sliced holes in the plastic to let the wind through.

Finally, I covered the payphone post with two of those plastic Elizabethan dog collars.

I was thrilled with myself.

Needless to say, the birds wouldn't go near this contraption.
Days went by.

The only visitor? A squirrel.

It was shimmying up the post and wriggling through the collars.

At first I was upset. But then I realized something important: This was a battle I would never win! Therefore, I would have to consider it a comedy.

I ripped off the covering I'd been so proud of.

The squirrels continued to advance. Their flying leaps destabilized the platform, which began to list to one side. Once that was accomplished, they could easily tilt the feeder and push it to the ground. Having enjoyed the crash, they could also chew the wood.

Undaunted, I collected the feeder, each time a little more battered, and restored it to the platform. Three times.

Finally, I decided to try something new. Something simple. I gave up on the wooden feeder. I took a shallow foil tray, staple-gunned it to the platform, and filled it with seed.

A great idea, at first. The seed was barely visible, and for a while it seemed that the squirrels could no longer detect the presence of the food. There were some lazy, gluttonous moments for the doves and the sparrows and the juncos. But then something happened.


They came in twos and threes, and fours and fives, and then by the dozens. They watched my every move.

And when the fresh food came out....

They mobbed it.

I timed it.

In under five minutes, every bit of seed was gone.

The squirrels had met their match.

Okay. I once again fixed the feeder, nailing in its plastic windows with tiny nails. I stabilized the platform with bungee cords. And finally I lashed the patched-up feeder to the platform with thick rubber straps left over from moving day.

And then, at long last.....


Until the next day.

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