Tag Archives: bird feeder

The bird buffet

There’s a lot of birds here to eat these days.  Often I’m sure there are more than 100 birds here at once, although they are hard to count on the hop.  Much easier to count in a photo though.  So I did.  In the photo, there’s  +/-134!!! (I counted twice).  And the photo is cropping out the outliers and the sentries and ones hacking seeds open in the trees and the ones hopping around on our porch and under the house.

So this is how I go through six bags of seeds every winter.

The regular swoop cycle is funny.  The birds are all on the ground, foraging, and someone sounds the alarm, and the birds all swoop up into the trees.  But not really all.  There are always a few that stay behind, unperturbed.

I’m not leaving the buffet!  That’ll be another false alarm.  Bob’s twitchy today, I’m sure it’s nothing again.  Then the birds all settle back down out of the trees again to toss seeds peacefully for a bit…  Then someone squawks at a wind gust and it happens all over again.

Hello! Forgetting something?

The chickadees returned a few days ago.  Four of them appeared.  One of them danced around in the specific place where the feeder was hung last year, and then stared firmly through the window at us before a big swoop in front of the glass and departure.  It couldn’t have been a clearer message without throat clearing.  Excuse me!  Time for the feeder!

It’s kind of amazing, they understand that the food has to do with us, in the window.  That’s a big cognitive leap for a brain the size of a pea, that’s already full of nest engineering, seed extraction techniques, vocalizing, and maps.

I obeyed, and hung the feeder, full of the seeds I grew, but they didn’t come back.  They’d probably gone directly to the next stop, where someone was more prompt about putting out the winter seeds.

Until today!  A squad of chickadees at least 8 deep (they’re hard to count), arrived all at once.  I didn’t know that chickadees were so “flocky” either.  I thought they were more independent.

They’re back!!

It’s nice to see a chickadee that was around all last winter, still alive and returned.   Maybe with some offspring, teaching them where the winter hunting grounds are. We don’t see very much of them through the summer.

Quiet after the storm

We got snow.  It’s over my knees everywhere that it isn’t drifted even higher.

The blizzard is over, but it will take us a while to dig out.  Now 5300 in the province are out of power.I’m sore from slogging around on snowshoes yesterday, and HW is sleepless from ice beating on the windows all night.

The animals are all fine, grosbeaks and goldfinches back.  There’s a dozy bunny resting in the snow 20 ft from the house with eyes half closed.  Been there more than two hours now.  Took a break to wash himself like a cat, including licking front paws (so cute!).  Now the rabbits can reach all the hardwood bark that was too high before.

And the squirrel is back above ground.

img_5421img_5437 img_5430

The nuthatch isn't very good at using the feeder
The nuthatch isn’t very good at using the feeder
You’re doing it wrong.
Haven’t seen a blue jay in ages
The rabbit stayed all day in the same place- six hours, unperturbed by our comings and goings.


The squirrel proof bird feeder

We got a “squirrel-proof” bird feeder for Christmas. The central core is a hopper and seed tray that is held stationary by the hanging rod, but the outer box, consisting of the clear roof and perching rails, is free to swivel around (and around and around), should a squirrel try to hang on it.

We were expecting a good show.

For several days, it saw no action at all.  Then one rainy day, this little guy was out there.  Apparently just hangin’ out in a dry place.img_4922Or was he resting between attempted assaults?

img_4918  Over the top….img_4920

Slide down to a scrambly grip on the perch – whoaa!img_4921

This is as close as he got to conquering it- straddling both perches, which keeps the outer canister balanced and makes the seeds accessible.  But I’m guessing at this point, he doesn’t have any free hands to reach the seeds.

He gave up quite soon.

Squirrel Wars

The squirrel is winning.

First there were skirmishes.   I tried a string to the bird feeder to yank on and eject the thieving squirrel.  The squirrel chewed its way into the bird seed bucket.


I would jam a steel bucket upside down on top of this compromised bucket in order to keep them out. I mean jam it on, squeeze it down, not just rest it on.


images.oheadpressSomehow, I don’t know how, but the squirrel would lift or pry that steel bucket off of the prize.  I like to imagine a little squirrel overhead press, lifting the bucket off with Olympian effort.

I’d be in the house and hear -CLANG!- and know that the squirrel conquered the bucket again.  Then I’d give him some minutes to enjoy it after all that work before I went out and put the bucket back on top.

Then one day:


HW came inside with the bucket, and a squirrel still inside- worried and holding still.

These pictures are shot through the hole in the lid.

But I’m so cute!
But I'm so cute!
Aren’t I cute?


Then for a little while I didn’t notice the squirrel so much.  I’d slowed down on feeding the birds, since it was warm. I figured he’d moved on along with the birds to the usual burgeoning springtime wildcrafted buffet.

I hadn’t refilled the seed bucket in the wood”shed”.  Little did I know, HW had.

So one day, I find this:

In case you can’t tell, that’s about an inch of empty husks.

So that’s where the squirrel’s been.  Feasting and cavorting like a kid in a ball pit.

Oh yeah, squirrel?

I put a bucket full of dirt on top of the seed bucket.  That’ll fix ’em.

A few hours later….


That’s what I get for using a plastic bucket.

I gave the remaining seed to the birds and gave up for this year.

Squirrel skirmishes

My ersatz bird feeders ain’t pretty, but they get the job done.


20160421_095430However, they do NOT pose an inconvenience at all to the (fat, glossy) squirrel who frequents the buffet.

I haven’t gotten around to building a proper squirrel proof feeder. Attempts last year with shields totally didn’t work, although they inspired some squirrel acrobatics and probably gave him some brain exercise, thus creating a smarter squirrel.

Squirrel have impressive intelligence.  The squirrel obstacle course videos never get old.

Our best method is to whisper “Squirrel!” to the dog if he’s inside,  who instantly leaps to high alert, and presses his nose against the crack of the door.   (Think Up!, the movie.  Yes, there is a shortened circuit in the brain of dogs – thy name is Squirrel!)   Open it and he bursts out, galloping at the bird feeder.  The squirrel leaps out of the feeder, and if he’s unlucky enough to not grab a tree to run up, a wild ground chase ensues.  That will keep him away for a few minutes.  There have been close enough calls that this is still exciting for the dog.

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My recent attempt to deter the squirrel is funnier than it is effective.

I’ve got a long string strung from the feeder to inside the window.

20160421_095359When I see the squirrel making himself at home in the milk jug, I give the string a sharp yank.  The squirrel goes catapulting out of the jug, twisting in the air and landing willy nilly, after which he spends some time running up and down the trees and shaking his tail in umbrage.  Then he goes back in the feeder.  He’s already used to it, now it’s just a surprise rollercoaster ride.

My next version will be cantilevering a stick so that it whacks the feeder when I pull the string.  That should be good for a few more days of tail twitching outrage.

I don’t really begrudge the squirrel, either.  He’s not taking all that much product, and he does not bring all his friends.   That’s not in his best interests.   I just mind that he gets in the feeder and then the birds can’t.

Also, he safecracked the bird seed bucket. 

20160420_124301Straight to the motherlode.  Ruined a functional lid, the little %@##&!   This must have taken him all night, and if now if I don’t put something heavy and steel on it, and turn my back for even a second….


Song bird buffet

It’s like hosting a dinner party where unexpected guests come.  You feel obligated to feed them all.

The attendance at my feeders this year has increased almost five-fold, judging by the bags of black oil seed I’ve bought this year.  I don’t begrudge buying them seed, but sheesh, I’m gonna have to try growing a crop of sunflowers, at this rate.

There are two distinct flocks, the grosbeak clique, and the sparrows.  The Evening Grosbeaks show up first thing in the morning (?), populate the treetops, and shout while I do the chores.  They wait for me to clear the area and put away the dog before they descend.  They are SO loud, and very sensitive.  The slightest movement will send them up in the air like a gust of wind.  They move on by mid morning, and then it’s the sparrows’ turn.

Last year, the Grosbeaks came every two or three days, and not in these numbers.  This winter, they seem to tell more friends every week.  I was surprised at first when I counted 17 males at once.  Wow!  Now there are more than 30, daily (the ladies are there in equal numbers, but much harder to count in their subtle colours.

I have six feeder ports, and the perches are long sticks, so sometimes the birds queue two deep on them, waiting their turn, and of course, squabbling.  You’re hogging!  You’ve had FOUR seeds, get out of here!

The raspberry birds (purple finches) hang with either the grosbeaks or the sparrows.  Last year, it was exciting to see two.  This year, I counted eight! at once!  Sometimes there’s a nuthatch, or a couple of juncos.  There are three woodpecker regulars.  They are exceedingly awkward when they try to get into the feeders, miserably trying to creep on and cling to the swinging milk jug, and twist their head into the hole.  When they manage a position that works, they stay for a while.  The creepers are much more at home attacking the wads of beef fat I hang so picturesquely in the trees.

The flock of goldfinches also go with either the sparrows or the grosbeaks.  They amuse me when they browse the ground with the grosbeaks, because they are so similar in colouring to the big birds, but a quarter of the size, they look like little mini-mes.

I cast a lot of seed on the ground.  All the visitors seem comfortable ground foraging, and six ports seems pretty unfair when 50 birds are here at once.  The female grosbeaks and sparrows and goldfinches blend in so well that you can’t pick them out of the background of frozen bare ground until they move, and it can look like the ground is rippling when they are working methodically.  This winter is so different.  The ground has been exposed more often than not, and the temperature fluctuates wildly and often.


Meantime, there are the constant chickadees, who are outnumbered and outshouted by the others (and don’t object to photographs).  While the two flocks come and go, the chickadees avoid the crowded times and work the feeders all day, first in in the morning and last out at dusk, even working around the squirrel.

Even with these numbers, there has only been one casualty this winter (and one last).  The window ribbons are working pretty well.

bird feeder sightings

Can you see the rabbit?  Right of center.  The rabbits are light grey now, very cute.

The squirrels are regular patrons, and I even saw a vole out on top of the snow harvesting.  It ran down the hole in the snow around a trunk of tree.

Squirrels, rabbits, birds and voles – It’s a regular multi-class buffet around the bird feeder these days.  The dog wants a handful of Spitz at every feeder filling too  – nomnomnom.

2016-01-06 15.17.40
What? We’re birds!



Time to feed the birds!

It snowed last night, so it’s time to put out a birdfeeder for winter (I’ve cast some seeds out before on the cold November days, but now I’ll maintain this food source so the birds may become dependent).

This means, what’s in the recycling right now I can make a feeder from?  Rather than walking all the way to the shop for the one I made last year.

It’s always fun to see how long it takes for the birds to find it.  Under an hour for a full banditry of chickadees to show up.  Then song sparrows and a purple finch, just like that.

A troupe of Eastern Grosbeaks comes through periodically, every 3-4 days in the winter.  They must be making a circuit of local food sources.