Dec 7 2007

With the changing of the weather there have been changes in attitudes at my bird feeder. Over the summer, one by one, my cheap small feeders fell victim to a band of raccoons. Come to think of it, this whole thing was my fault.

The drought this summer brought changes in habit to our local raccoon population. In June I would find the pool's skimmer cover removed and all the night's catch of bugs missing. The muddy paw prints on both the skimmer cover and the ladder in the pool were pretty clear clues as to who was visiting. To prevent a drowning (and the subsequent messy clean up) I started putting a big pan of water (similar to a bird bath without a stand ) out back for the critters. Apparently, raccoons like birds, prefer moving water because they ignored the pan and moved out front to the decorative urn / water fountain. That is when the trouble started.

These crafty fellows began a month long campaign to get the bird feeders out of the tree. No easy task as it took me two years to squirrel proof them. The raccoon's early attempts to remove the feeders were worth the price of the ticket. The fat one climbed the tree, wobbled out on the skinny branch and tried to figure out how to undo the bungie cord that held the feeder. His wobbles moved the branch enough that the feeder on the end of that ten foot bungie cord started spinning like a pinata, spilling seed and nuts to the ground crew. I swear, you could hear the coons on the ground laughing and the one in the tree cursing.

Over the next few weeks the big guy got the routine down and he would climb the tree, scale the branch and unhook the bungie cords to drop the feeders to the crowds waiting below. And one by one my cheapie feeders would be dragged off into the woods never to be seen again.

I recently found a nice cedar feeder that holds a suet cake on one end, fancy nuts on the other and cheap seed in the middle. Now the birds have to all eat together and that is causing a bit of a problem.

The tits and chickadees are carry-out sort of folks. They swoop in, grab and go. The gold finches prefer to dine in and they remind me of a Walton family dinner as they fill in every available seat at the table which leaves no room for non family members.

The red-breasted and white-breasted nuthatch and the downy woodpecker dine in and the only one who can cause them to give up their seats at the table is the big red bellied woodpecker. That big guy vacuums up the sunflower hearts like no one else can but he does it gently enough that while he feeds the tits and chickadees continue to fly in and out around him.

It must be because the birds are not breeding at this time of year for the BlueJays and the mockingbird just sort of come and watch the action without feeling the need to cause a riot like they do in the spring.

At this moment there is a jay out there making the whole feeder shake and spill seed- much to the delight of the dozen doves and one lone towhee. Also benefiting from the shaking are the male cardinal's harem. This one male has five females with him all the time. However, the visit by the Jays has the big red belly waiting on the tree for an all clear sign.

Who is at your feeder today?

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