• Carmen Marie Fabio

The squirrel was angry that day my friend…

From the time I moved to the Vaudreuil-Soulanges region, I was struck by the variety of birds that visited my humble backyard birdfeeder, so many more than what I ever saw in the city.

Downtown will give you crows, sparrows, Mourning doves, pigeons, and – if you live near a casse-croûte – seagulls. Even if there’s no water around.

Living in a semi-rural setting, I get to see cardinals, Blue jays, and chickadees all taking turns at the feeders I now keep in both my front and backyards. We see the odd Pileated woodpecker, robins in the spring, and once had a visit from a beautiful orange oriole. Other visitors over the years have sent the kids running for the Peterson Field Guide of North American birds to identify the newcomers, including Cedar waxwings and Brown-headed cowbirds.

I now buy the pricier mix of feed and take tips from bird-feeding friends on safflower and nyjer seed feeders to attract winter finches and grosbeaks.

It’s all rainbows and unicorns in this bucolic little setting until the squirrel shows up. It may be squirrels, plural, but I think it’s just the same bitter, bullying, angry little varmint who fixes his beady black eyes on the booty of sunflower seeds in my front yard feeder and waits until I’m well out of sight to hang down from the upper trellis by his hind legs and stuff his face while his tail jerks and twitches in a spastically erratic fashion. Not only is he stealing from the birds, he’s scaring them away.

This year I bought a suet feeder that offers a high calorie mix of bird seed and beef lard which helps the birds stay warm in winter.

“Wow, they must really like it,” I thought when I saw it half gone after the first day. When I arrived home to find the empty suet cage lying open on my porch by day two, I did the math. I refilled the suet cage and secured it shut with two tie wraps. The next day it was on the front lawn, partially buried in the snow, beside half a feeder’s worth of sunflower seeds.

“I just put out peanuts for them,” said our publisher, a fellow bird-lover, when I told her of my personal sciurine war.

You can buy squirrel-proof feeders that contain a battery-operated motor. As soon as the squirrel’s weight is on the feeder perch, the bottom portion begins spinning, jettisoning the critter across the yard. Sounds effective but the ‘Twirl-a-Squirrel’ comes with a $90 price tag.

I thought I’d found an easier, cheaper solution by putting a dull table saw blade on top of the feeder where it would act like a sharp-edged awning.

“Does it spin?” asked hubby.

“Not yet,” I told him.

“You’re starting to take this personally.”

I don’t know how the critter navigated the sawblade but sure enough, a day after I hung it, the feeder had been emptied at a rate of which even the chickadees are incapable.

With the freeze/thaw cycle of the last week and tired of losing birdfeed to the rodent, I neglected to fill the front feeder figuring the birds had another source of feed in the backyard. This was a short-lived Pyrrhic victory as I came home recently to find individual Christmas lights chewed off their string and strewn on the front porch.

Since sharing this anecdote, I’ve been regaled with many a story of squirrel revenge, from the one that stole an entire string of patio lights to use as nesting material to the one who urinated through a screen door when he was denied food.

Hubby texted me yesterday, “I’m at the grocery store. Do we need anything?”

“Yes,” I caved. “Bring home a bag of peanuts.”

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