It’s been a couple of those days. Sunday afternoon, I managed to trip on our back doorstep on my way inside and whack my knee when I hit the floor. Fortunately, nothing appears broken, I have no trouble walking and my hands are fine, though I have a sore left shoulder from how I landed. I’m sure it will all heal soon. And I have a very annoying red squirrel to thank for some Monday calisthenics that proved my resilience.
As anyone with a backyard bird feeder knows, squirrels are very clever and find myriad ways to rob bird seed. We have a supposedly squirrel-proof feeder hanging from our maple, the kind with a cage around it, and a clear plastic hood to help keep critters away. Gray squirrels perform incredible acrobatics as they try to get at the seed, but are always foiled.
Not so with red squirrels. Smaller than their gray cousins, they are very aggressive and persistent. I hadn’t seen any all winter and this spring, until Monday afternoon, when I noticed one on the ground, nibbling at seed husks that had fallen from the feeder.
And so our battle of wills began.
Sure enough, within a few minutes, the squirrel had figured out how to climb the pole. It tapped the hood, trying to find a purchase, but the hood wobbled and it scrambled away. Soon, though, it was back, and this time, with a flying leap, landed on the cage itself. A few seconds later, it had wriggled inside and begun to chow down.
Smart little guy, I had to admit. I opened the glass slider to our deck and clapped my hands, and it scurried away. What followed, over the course of at least an hour, were multiple attempts by the squirrel to get inside the feeder, answered by multiple efforts by yours truly to make noise and scare it off.
Despite my hopes of conditioning the squirrel to leave whenever it got into the feeder, the squirrel had other ideas. It was, I realized, training me, instead. It quickly realized that there wasn’t any real danger associated with the noise. So the length of time between its forays to the feeder got shorter and shorter. Finally, I gave up. It’s still gorging itself on birdseed as I write.
All this made me realize I need a new and more effective strategy. So I’ve ordered a different kind of bird feeder that is (a) all recycled plexiglass and shaped so that any unwelcome critter will just slide off, (b) is easy to clean, which our current feeder is not, and (c) will be accessible to larger birds, like cardinals, which can’t fit through the current feeder’s cage.
The very hungry red squirrel will undoubtedly continue to come back to the feeder until all the seed is gone, and then we won’t refill it, but wait, instead, to set up the new feeder. I just hope it won’t try to make a nest nearby, because I do not want it settling around our home and scaring off all the other birds and gray squirrels that I love to watch every day.
Bullies are everywhere.
However, I have this bully to thank for some exercise mid-afternoon that got me out of my chair at my computer, helped my joints to be less stiff, and proved to me that my knee is, indeed, fine. I guess we both benefited, in the end.