Our eyes and ears should be open and alert to the natural wonders that surround us every day. Take time to look out our windows to see the birds that visit us and open our windows to hear them. Walk around whatever space we have to enjoy the birds in nature. Every day, work on improving our powers of observation.
Nature happens. We cannot MAKE natural things happen (or NOT happen). We can create habitats to encourage natural things to happen around us, but there are no guarantees.
Birdfeeding comes with responsibilities to the birds and the environment we share with them. If you are unwilling to accept these responsibilities, you shouldn’t feed the birds. We also have a responsibility to share these natural wonders with the next generation.
Q. How can I keep squirrels from eating all my suet?
A. Believe it or not, squirrels don't particularly like suet! "What?", you say, "they're
always eating MY suet!"
Squirrels are not going for the suet - suet in its pure form is just rendered beef fat. They're going for
what's put into the suet!
Most suet cakes have
other goodies in them that squirrels like, such as seed, nuts, fruit, or
bugs. That's what they're after. So here are some ways to keep them from
eating your suet:
1) Offer plain
suet cakes such as WBU Simply Suet. It's just a cake of plain suet, no seeds, nuts, or anything else.
2) Put suet in a
cage within a cage. An On-Guard cage with 1" openings surrounding your suet cage will keep Gray Squirrels out but let birds in. Larger suet-loving birds like your Hairy or Red-bellied Woodpeckers, however, may also be excluded.
3) Use a
suet with capsaicin in it, such as WBU Hot Pepper Suet Dough cakes. Squirrels taste
the hot and don't like it, birds can't taste the hot. We especially like our locally made suet log
feeders filled with hot pepper suet plugs. Note: always wash your hands thoroughly when handling hot pepper products.
4) Hang your suet on a properly placed baffled birdfeeding pole. That means the station is placed 8-10' from squirrel-jumping-off-points. The top of the baffle should be 4-5' above the ground and the feeders should not be dangling below the top of the baffle.
We admit it: Squirrels are persistent. They're athletic. They're creative. But we still have the advantage over them - we're SMARTER than them and if we just take the right steps, we can keep them from eating up all our valuable suet!
My outdoor thermometer this morning is reading 21 degrees, so there's a good reason that my birdbaths are frozen solid. So I thought it would be a good time to talk about what's going on with birds in upstate New York yards right now.
My birdbath froze solid last night. Makes it tough for the birds!
GET HEATED BIRDBATHS OUT
We've had some frosts and freezes already, so if you haven't already swapped out to your heated birdbath, you should get that done now. Make sure to double wrap with electrical tape the connection between bath and extension cord - that is where most heated birdbath "failures" occur. I even wrap it in a baggie and put another layer of tape. This year, though, I'm converting to the new Lock n Dry® extension cord that seals the connection and eliminates the work. Make sure clay and concrete baths are put in storage so they don't crack during freeze and thaw cycles.
Pine Siskins seem to have moved on from many area yards but American Goldfinches are still numerous and busy. Give your niger seed loose by giving the feeder a shake and make sure it's fresh to keep your goldfinches happy.
As days get shorter and temperatures go down, birds have to take in more calories in a shorter period of time. Add more high-calorie birdfoods to your offerings like suet, Bark Butter, peanuts, shelled sunflower seeds, and No-mess Blend (birds expend fewer calories eating seeds without a shell.)
NO MORE CHIPMUNKS!
Eastern Chipmunks have gone into hibernation but may emerge during warm spells.
PROJECT FEEDERWATCH STARTS NOVEMBER 10
If you watch the birds in your yard, why not count them for science? Read up about Project FeederWatch then join me in being a citizen scientist this winter!
I was focused on taking pictures of a Brown Thrasher when this big guy came lumbering across my yard. It's a Groundhog, aka woodchuck, land-beaver, or whistle-pig. It's a rodent, a big honkin' rodent, that is in the squirrel family.
Check out those front teeth!
I'd never seen one in the yard before and wonder if the warm, dry summer has spread them further out in search of food. Another possibility is that a first-year male set out in search of new territory outside of dad's territory.
Groundhogs are mostly herbivores, so I don't have to worry about him bothering the birds. Groundhogs themselves can fall prey to coyotes, foxes, bears, large hawks, and dogs.
Besides eating grasses and other vegetation, they'll also eat insects. When I observed him, he ate mostly greens from my yard and didn't seem too interested in seed fallen to the ground.
He's likely beefing up for hibernation. After the first frost (which could occur this month), they'll tuck themselves into a burrow below the frost line and won't emerge until March or April. Or maybe we'll see him in early February for his annual spring prognostication!
If you learn, accept and then apply these 5 facts about Gray Squirrels, your birdfeeding experience will be more enjoyable.
Other advantages: your blood pressure will go down and you will no longer find yourself cursing at a squirrel on your feeder in front of your neighbors and kids.
1) Gray Squirrels can jump up to 10 feet horizontally. So, place any birdfeeder or birdhouse you don't want them on at least 10 feet from any jumping off point. Get a tape measure to be sure. Look around for "jumping off points"; they include not only trees, but roofs, wires, bushes, birdbaths, well heads, deck rails, boulders, cars, tree stumps...well, hopefully you're getting the idea.
2) Gray Squirrels can jump up to 4-5 feet vertically. To deal with this, place anything you don't want them to get to at least 5 feet high. When placing a baffle on your birdfeeding pole, the top of that baffle should be 4-5 feet high. Just as importantly, make sure no feeders dangling below the top of the baffle. If you miss this point, squirrels will just jump to the bottom of the low dangling feeders, bypassing a baffle and accessing your entire feeding station!
3) If you live in the north, snow piles become jumping off points. Keep an eye on this as winter progresses and as snow accumulates.
4) Each new litter of squirrels will explore and discover their new world by chewing, climbing, jumping, stretching, and testing everything in their path. Summer is an especially trying time as young squirrels and nursing mother squirrels try to get at an easy source of food.
5) We are the humans; they are the rodents. We are smarter than them. They ARE persistent though. But when we are armed with this knowledge of their physical limitations, we CAN set up our birdfeeders in a way that squirrels cannot access them.
Apply these squirrel facts and be happier and healthier!
A port protector is an easy-to-install piece that goes over the hole of your birdhouse. It is usually made of a metal like copper, though beautiful slate protectors (pictured below) are also available.
Here's why you should buy birdhouses with port protectors or add them to your existing birdhouses.
1. Protect the hole from being enlarged by squirrels. Squirrels can chew the hole opening of most birdhouses, making the hole bigger than it needs to be for the birds. When the hole is enlarged, it makes it easier for squirrels and other predators to enter the box and cause harm to the eggs, nestlings, and/or parent.
2. Protect the hole from being enlarged by woodpeckers. Woodpeckers may enlarge the hole to use the box themselves (which is not necessarily a bad thing), but again, if it makes the hole larger, it also makes the inside more accessible to predators.
3. It makes the box look nicer. Chewed up edges never look nice while a nice copper or slate port protector can add a decorative touch to even a plain wooden nestbox.
4. A port protector can repair a damaged hole. If the nest hole has been previously widened, you MAY be able to cover up the damage with a port protector and restore the nest hole to its proper size.
5. It's a small investment for lots of benefits. Basic porthole protector: less than 5 bucks. Benefits to the birds: priceless