Saturday, March 7, 2015

Squirrel vs. Smart Aleck

A squirrel made it up onto the bird feeder this morning. I was eating breakfast and looked out the window, and doggone if there wasn’t one of those adorable little rodents chomping on the suet cake as fast as it could. It was somewhat deterred by the cage the cake was in, but that wasn’t the point. The point was that there was a squirrel up on the bird feeder. It had figured out how to run up the long cane of the rose bush next to the feeder and leap up on top of the baffle. Once it had finished off the suet cake, it would go over to the seed tubes and, clinging to a tube upside down, bob its head into the feeder hole and pull out a sunflower seed or two. It usually fell off within thirty seconds, which I found somewhat amusing, but then it ran back up the cane and leaped onto the feeder and was right back pilfering bird seed again. I had seen a video online of a squirrel trying to climb a pole greased with petroleum jelly, and I thought I’d try that. I applied the stuff liberally to the pole, to the baffle on the pole which is supposed to keep squirrels down but serves as a landing stage if they’re jumping from the rosebush next door, and to various parts of the feeder that a squirrel might want to grab. It worked. The next day I was in my office and saw movement outside. It was the rosebush whipping back and forth. Down at the bottom of the feeder there were two squirrels, one watching with wonder while the other one danced and leaped around like it was on fire. It had run up the rose cane, jumped, hit the petroleum jelly on the surface of the baffle, and slipped off like an old Honda hitting black ice. Now it had goo on its feet and fur and it was not a happy squirrel. After jitterbugging around for a few seconds, kicking and twitching, it headed for the ravine. Its friend went back to scrounging dropped seeds under the feeder. Not bad pickings, as the birds drop a lot. The next day I noticed that the birds were all back using the feeder again. There was no squirrel on the feeder frightening them away. I was happy. Then, this morning, darn and drat, there was the squirrel munching away on the new suet cake. I went to the door and scared it off, and then went back to the kitchen table and thought dark thoughts. A few minutes later the little furry bugger was back. I ran it away again. It was time for a new strategy. I grabbed my loppers from the kitchen porch, went to the rose bush, and lopped off the cane that the squirrel was using for a runway. That stymied the squirrel. For now the bird feeder is squirrel-less, and the birds are back. I am happy again. It may sound like an extreme solution, cutting down part of the rose bush to stop a squirrel, but that rose bush has not made many roses the last few years, and when it did, deer came into the yard and literally nipped the roses in the bud. The deer are bigger pests than the squirrels. Growing roses or any flowers can be pretty heartbreaking in my yard. It is what you would call a full to partial shade area. It’s a small plateau on the west side of the island surrounded by tall firs, cedars, hemlocks, maples, and those perennial weeds of the forest, alders. Roses prefer a little more sun than they get here at Casa Tuel, and their puny growth and listless blooming show it. Then the deer eat them. I was thinking maybe it’s time to dig up the roses and plant some things that flourish in full to partial shade. I may end up with a yard packed with hellebores, heucheras, and hostas. That wouldn’t be so bad. I can’t simply plant some shade-loving plants and let it go at that, of course. I have to philosophize up the yin-yang and extract a greater meaning. Maybe it’s time to make a lot of changes in my life. Maybe I need a little more sun. Maybe the old hippie in me wants to travel and sing and play guitar again. Suddenly the possibilities seem limitless. Far out, man. First thing, though, is to keep that squirrel off the bird feeder. It has nothing to do with its time but figure out to get up there. I have other distractions, so I suspect it’s a losing battle, but what the heck. The birds should get some of the food I put out for them. I hope that’s not too much to ask. Post Script: Saturday morning. Squirrel on the bird feeder again. I lopped the rose back to a stump and am thinking of digging it up entirely. The birds came back to eat after that, but we'll see what's next.

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