The Glory Has Departed


Norma Boeckler, Artist-in-Residence

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Luther's Sermons, Lenker Series
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Monday, July 4, 2016

How the Squirrel Broke the Bird Swing

Squirrels in Bella Vista were aggressive and fearless,
so they mocked my squirrel-proof feeder and used the
mechanism to jiggle seed into their mouths.
They had oak trees galore but tore into every feeder I had.

I have three feeding stations for the birds, next to our bedroom window. The fourth is empty since suet is a mess in the heat of summer. The hanging and platform feeders have black oil sunflower seeds, and the alleged squirrel-proof feeder is filled with thistle for the finches. Thistle is the least likely to be raided by squirrels, so  using thistle or nyjer has worked well. The tiny seeds last a long time.

The Jackson EZ Bird Swing is just above the platform feeder, used by all the birds as they look over their feeding options or use it to open seeds with their beaks, as the chickadees always do.

The platform feeder gets a large cup of seeds daily, so the birds can stand ankle deep in snacks and rummage for food. That is how Grandson Alex saw a male cardinal close-up for the first time. He was quite impressed that I loaded up the feeders just for him.

The young squirrels also like the platform feeder and spend an inordinate amount of time sitting there eating and batting birds away. Sometimes I tire of that and open the sliding window, protected by a screen - of course. The squirrel will launch himself as far away as he can. Some have learned to move out of sight, a few inches away, only to return and resume the feast a few seconds later. I have even seen a rodent head slowly come into view as he searched for my presence near the window.

The other day I looked for birds on the platform feeder and saw only a young squirrel. I walked over to the window and opened it quickly. He was so engrossed in stuffing himself that he did not notice. "Getting saucy with me, eh?" I said, and I slammed the window shut with a bang. The squirrel jumped straight up instead of flinging himself away. He collided with the bird swing, breaking it open with his flinty noggin.

This is our style of hanging feeder from Lowe's.
Someone had a squirrel too full to stay alert.

The swing consists of two chains hanging down with a metal bar across the links. To hold the bar in place, I used electrical tape, which worked for a year. I found the roll of tape and fixed the problem. The squirrel came back, as I expected.

Several young squirrels eat at the platform, but not the mature ones. Nevertheless, the squirrels do not eat all the food and let birds eat there often. Some visitors are:

  • Mr. and Mrs. Cardinal, whose love nest is in the Crepe Myrtle bush in the front.
  • Mourning Doves
  • Chickadees
  • Various Woodpeckers
  • Starlings
  • Finches
  • One Crow
  • Grackles
  • Tourists - unidentified.
The feeders are good entertainment all day. When the sun is setting, the birds cast shadows across the wall above my computer. I can blog or grade homework while enjoying their silhouettes. 

Creatures Imply Creation
Funny how everyone says "creatures" without wanting to say Creation. Someone who plays baseball is a player. Someone who gardens is a gardener. And yet we have creatures without a Creator in this Age of Secular Rationalism. Although our Founders varied quite a bit in their religious convictions. the men who established our freedom and wrote our Constitution believed in right and wrong based on Creation.

Our simple feeding set-up assumes that different birds were created to favor certain foods. A large number will eat sunflower seeds, which are rich in oil, protein, and vitamins. The Finch family loves nyjer, and budgies love the seed formed by Cow Vetch, which grows freely in the back. The best insect eaters (Woodpeckers, Starlings, Grackles) love suet, and many others will eat the fat during the winter when food is relatively scarce. Doves and sparrows gladly work through the mess left behind by others, and clean up the seed scraps.

The diversity of food preferences and nesting sites mean that many species can live together and thrive in a fairly small yard. Because their food varies so much, their ability to devour insect pests is enhanced. Each bird is created and engineered for specific purposes, and their software management system (called instinct) tells them what to do and how to carry out their work.

The birds must love our yard, because the Wild Strawberries that once grew near our house, even in the shade, are now all over the backyard, sharing ground-cover claims with the clover. The birds have around 10 kinds of berries to eat, but I never see a ripe Blackberry or Blueberry. The birds and squirrels know when they are ripe and harvest them for me.



Birds Bathe Out of Necessity
Birds need baths more than they need our food, so I have three children's pools for them, which I keep reasonably clean with about two inches of water in them. The old water is dumped on the plants, which thrive on the combination of stored water fortified by bird guano and dust. Various flat, ceramic pans around the yard fill with water from the soaker hose or rain, to provide hydration for toads and spare baths for shy or tiny birds.

Long ago, when I learned how shy Cardinals are, I put one birdbath in the back of the yard (Midland). I could see the male splashing in it from a distance and kept it clean for him and others.

Mosquitoes love pools of still water too, so that is another reason to dump and clean the baths often.

Norma Boeckler's Bluebird.
We saw them often in Bella Vista, but not in Springdale - so far.