Squirrelly Wars

I’m going to pretend (for now) that I didn’t disappear from the blogosphere for a very long time, and I’m going to just jump in here and start writing as if you haven’t forgotten me. It’s good to be back!

One of the joys of living in a cottage on the creek is the abundance of birds in my yard. Before we had to take down the dead and dying trees in front, we had these amazing woodpeckers who visited regularly. And when the saskatoon berries that are left on the bushes freeze and then thaw and subsequently ferment, the sparrows gather for what may be their version of a kitchen party. Hilarious to watch little birds in my backgarden staggering and spinning and falling out of shrubs, and then going back for more. If it happens again this year, I will make every effort to get some video footage to share with you.

Anyway, this summer I purchased a lovely cedar bird feeder in the hopes that I could encourage more birds to stop in here. Mostly it only attracted chickadees, but they are adorable and I love their song, so that’s ok.

What I hadn’t anticipated (and it seems naïve in hindsight) was squirrels. Or more accurately, the futility of filling a ‘bird’ feeder with a resident squirrel in the neighbourhood. The little rascal is unrelenting and the birds don’t come around when she’s in there. So I set out on a mission to discourage her.

My first attempt was wrapping the pole with tin foil. I can hear some of you laughing, but it was quick and simple and I had it readily available. She was indeed freaked out by the crinkling and shifting of it….for about 5 seconds. Once she got up the nerve to just make a run up the pole despite the sound, she realized it was harmless and she never flinched at it again.

Number 2: barbed wire. I thought it would deter the rodent AND add a bit of rustic charm! I didn’t really want to cause harm–but I figured at worst she might poke a paw once and be wiser for it, right? Have you ever tried to wrap barbed wire around a pole? It goes where ever it wants to, it rips whatever it comes in contact with (like plants, skin, a favourite sweater….you get the picture) and if you finally get it all wrapped neatly around and then suddenly lose your grip for just a fraction of a second, it comes swirling back at you like a medieval tool of torture. But I got it done and I only have a few punctures and cuts for my efforts. And the squirrel? I swear she was laughing at me from the sidelines. Then she swiftly found herself a safe path up the pole and continued with her lunch.

Lisey’s Last Stand. According to Bob Villa of This Old House, squirrels don’t like capsaicin, they experience the same burning sensation as humans and they find it very unpleasant. Whereas birds, apparently, cannot taste the stuff and are completely unharmed by it. So I tested a bit of whatever I could find around the house in the birdfeed, near the front where Ms. Squirrel typically noshes. I observed that she seemed to be going to the back of the feeder after that and I felt heartened. So I took my bottle of powdered Cayenne pepper out to the bird feeder and thought I’d just quickly sprinkle it all around and see what happens. Hmmm….‘what happens’ is the wind kicks up just as I start to sprinkle the pepper and instead of coating the seeds, it blows the cayenne powder (oh, you know what’s coming) directly into my eyes!

I swear to god that frizzy-tailed rat was rolling on the ground laughing as I groped my way to the house, blinking rapidly and cursing under my breath.

Herself, helping herself!

So, I surrender. I guess what I have here is an expensive and decorative squirrel feeder–as if anyone as resourceful and sedulous as Miss Thing would need a ‘feeder’! We have a new understanding, I stop my ridiculous attempts at booby-trapping the feeder and she pauses to pose for me when I come out to the garden with my camera. And as for the birds, there’s always spirited berry bushes to look forward to.

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