Yesterday I did it. After meticulous examination, logistical speculation, scenario determination, and plain old wishful thinking, I put a bird feeder on my second floor window pane.
Of course, it’s a bird feeder in name only. In a matter of weeks, perhaps even days, the pretty little feeding station will garner the attention of the resident squirrel population. Then it will become either a squirrel feeder or a wreck on the concrete below from which squirrels will eat the contents through shards of shattered plastic.
I had a pole feeder with a squirrel baffle in my back yard when I first moved in, but when I saw the neighbor’s cat chowing down on hapless titmice, I disassembled it and sold it. For a long time afterwards I had a window feeder that seemed to be out of reach of the squirrels, but eventually they found it. Ate it clean. Then wrecked it.
Part of my problem is that I like squirrels. They’re cute, with those fluffy tails and big, dark eyes. Also, I feel their plight. Every creature gets hungry in the cold weather. It seems unfair that the little birds get seed while the squirrels huddle below, hunger compelling them to attempt a perilous ascent to a second-story window. That’s why I especially hate the idea of using those red pepper powders that discourage squirrels from visiting feeders. Imagine clinging to a cliff side, finally getting a chance to fill your belly, then the food burns your mouth and causes you to plunge to the hard ground like Wile E. Coyote!
Last year I bought a squirrel-proof feeder. The squirrels destroyed it within a week. So, as I contemplate the newest feeder acquisition, I can only ask: When will they come?
A few years back, a friend gave me an ingenious squirrel feeder – a box that sits on the ground. You fill it with inexpensive wildlife mix, and the food trickles out a small hole in the bottom of the box. Forget it. Once the squirrels determined that there was sunflower seed in the wildlife mix, they pulled out all the less desirable items, like cracked corn, and blew through the stuff they liked. A few hours later, they were back on my window feeder, hanging upside down whilst shoveling prime songbird seed into themselves at a rate that would burst a human like a balloon.
I suppose there ought to be a lesson hidden amongst this rant. Here it is: Humankind vastly overrates itself in terms of relative intelligence. We call ourselves “the thinking man” (Homo sapiens) as if the rest of the animal and plant kingdom can’t string together some serious reasoning. Take the humble squirrel for instance. First it has to see the birds eating the food on the feeder. Then it has to know that this kind of food is something it, too, likes to eat. Then it has to speculate the logistics, determine the scenario, and attempt to conquer the difficulties presented by the location of the feeder.
The capacity for thought is everywhere in our natural world. Off your high horse, Homo sapiens.
Anne Johnson is the author of “The Gods Are Bored,” http://godsrbored.blogspot.com, as well as a few other things here and there.