Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

In the Garden:
New England
November, 2000
Regional Report

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The counterweighted bird feeder frustrates squirrels but allows the birds to eat. Suet is hung for the woodpeckers.

My Best Bird Feeder

It's still pretty quiet at the bird feeder. Many birds have moved south, and the hardy types such as the chickadees and nuthatches have been busy enjoying the bounty of the fall fruits from shrubs such as barberries and viburnum. This year in particular was a good berry-producing year for many native shrubs, so the birds are fat and happy.

Readying for the Onslaught

However, I know that once the natural berry supply gets low and the cold winds come and a little snow falls, the birds will be back. I'm getting ready for the onslaught by cleaning out the bird feeders and washing them down with a soapy water and bleach solution. It's important to keep feeders clean, since rotten seed can carry diseases that affect our feathered friends.

The Bird Feeder Menagerie

We have tried a number of different feeders over the years. There's the rectangular column feeder with a rubber-coated, metal cage around the outside. Birds love this feeder, but so do the red and gray squirrels. In fact, all the feeders I've tried hanging off our deck have been molested by the squirrels. I've got to hand it to them, they do work for their food. I often see them hanging upside down from the top of the feeder to reach their paws into the holes to get the sunflower seeds.

Squirrel Repellents

Since our slacker indoor cats, Toby and Tasha, mostly watch the squirrels from the warmth and safety of the house inside the glass deck door (our daughter, Elena, calls it cat TV), we took the offensive and tried our own squirrel-control methods. The cayenne pepper mixed with the seed as a repellent just seemed to attract squirrels dressed in Mexican clothing (just kidding), so that didn't work. The real solution was the counterweight- balanced bird feeder.

My Favorite Feeder

This feeder has a counterweighted perch that can be adjusted so that when birds alight on it, the shield protecting the seed stays open and the seed is available to eat. However, when a heavier animal, such as a squirrel, stands on the perch, it shuts, frustrating the squirrels and providing lots of entertainment for us and the cats. However, knowing squirrels, someday they'll probably think of a way to get at even this bird feeder.

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