I thought I could outsmart the squirrels.
I recently purchased a “squirrel-proof” birdfeeder called the Squirrel Buster. In all fairness, the salesclerk at the Audubon Society shop had warned me that the smartest squirrels would figure out how to bust the Squirrel Buster. And she was right.
After putting up the feeder the end of December, I saw many birds enjoying the feast, but no squirrels even attempting to climb up the pole in January and February. I thought the feeder and the chili pepper seeds the clerk recommended had kept them at bay. Then one morning in early March, I saw one at the top of the pole. It skittered down without a look at the bird feeder. Then I saw a squirrel try to get into the feeder, first by attempting to reach it from below on the pole, and then by climbing down the feeder. In both instances, the feeder worked as designed: It slammed shut under the weight of the squirrel.
Soon, another squirrel tried, taking a different approach. It must have understood physics a bit better than the first. It hung by one foot near the top of the pole so the pole was bearing most of his weight, and it reached to the bottom of the feeder where it could access the seeds.
As its foot tired it would slowly slip down the pole, but it managed to grab a few extra bites before its weight slammed the feeder shut, and it slid to the ground.
For a while the squirrel would feed from the seeds it had dropped and then go back up the pole. It did this four or five times before scampering off to new adventures.
I started to debate with myself whether to get a baffle to prevent the squirrels from getting up the pole. Really, it was more to see if they could outsmart this hurdle. I ordered a slippery metal baffle in the shape of a cone, which arrived a few days later. Once installed, squirrels would not be able to climb up to the feeder, and if squirrels jumped on it, they would slip off. The instructions suggested the cone be installed at least five feet above the ground. I measured, but did not factor in limbs of the bushes underneath the feeder.
I came down one morning and saw a squirrel on top of the pole. I wondered how it had accomplished that feat. I was soon to learn. It scampered down the pole and slid off the cone. Then it attempted to go back up. It tried from the ground and from branches, which could not support its weight well enough to get a good push off. It was obvious the squirrel had not learned from its initial success. Then it gave itself a big push from a sturdy branch near at the bottom of the bush. It sailed over the cone and grabbed onto the pole. I thought for sure this squirrel was the one that had figured out how to get at the seeds. But I was wrong. This one had figured out how to get over the cone, but getting to the seeds still remained a mystery.
Then, as it descended once again, it stopped on the cone to nibble at some dropped seeds. It did not slip off. A design flaw perhaps?
The next morning I found the bird feeder on the ground with the detachable hanger lying nearby. Was this the result of an overexuberant squirrel or a raccoon? I look forward to solving this mystery. Seeing the squirrels and birds at the feeder has provided me endless entertainment.