Greasing the pole

By Marion Tucker-Honeycutt | May 01, 2014


I have had a running battle with squirrels gobbling up my bird seed for years. They have outsmarted me every time, wily little buggers.

As spring started to show its appearance a few weeks ago, I put black sunflower seed out on the far side of my drive, under the pines, for the squirrels. The forest critters had a hard winter and there was still a lot of snow cover over a layer of ice, making it still difficult to get to ground food — and hidden nut stashes. So I gave ‘em a boost until the ground was cleared.

Then it was time to hang and fill the bird feeders. I have one for mixed seed that most birds like and a thistle feeder to bring in the gold finch and purple finch.

But the dang squirrels can clean a feeder out in a day or two. That gets expensive.

One year, I hung the feeder from my clothes line. Come morning, there was Mr. Squirrel, hanging atop the feeder, enjoying his breakfast. When I opened the door he skedaddled, jungle gym style, upside down, hand over hand to the trees.

So I went and got a feeder that had a snap lock on top and hung it from fish line in the open arch of my Quonset Hut. Next time I looked, there was a red squirrel, sitting down inside the feeder, munching away. How that little fella sprung that latch, let alone managed the fish line, is beyond me.

One year, I spent money to buy a handmade "squirrel-proof” feeder. It held a lot of seed, enough to last a week or more. Except to Mr. Squirrel, it was a smorgasbord. He and his guests cleaned it out in two days flat.

Next, I got one of those black metal poles with the hanging hooks up top. But I had put the pole too close to my picnic table and they simply jumped to 6-7 across to the feeder. I moved it further away and they simply shinnied up the pole.

I took an aluminum pie pan, cut half way through and duck taped it around the pole about 3 feet off the ground. They not only did it not slow them down much, it moved in the breeze and scared the birds away.

So this year, the battle commenced again. I have just one big grey that has come for the feeder this year, so far. But knowing he’d soon alert his friends about the free dining hall, I was desperate to finally defeat these robbers. This one was cleaning out the feeder in two days.

So I made sure to place the pole well away from anything he could climb up on to use as a launching pad and slathered the pole with coconut oil. I came back in the house with a smile on my face. “I gotcha licked now!” I said to myself.

Got up next morning, got my cuppa coffee, sat down at the laptop, looked out the window and — you guessed it — there he was, perched on top of the bird house, looking right at the window as if he’d been waiting for me to see he’d beat me again. Thing is, with this less than warm weather, coconut oil, and butter, which I also tried, congeals and just give him a good grip.

Now what? I don’t use Crisco or vegetable oils, oils that don’t harden when cold. But I went to the village store and bought a small can of Crisco and slathered that pole.

Then I sat in my window just waiting. ‘Wasn’t long before he came humping over the yard, nonchalantly jumped to grab the pole about 3 feet off the ground and slid to the ground. He paused for a few seconds, looking up at the feeder and gave it another go. He side glanced at the window, then gave it one more shot. Hitting the ground again, he looked straight at me and let out a string of Squirrel cuss words, flicked his tail and took off. I had the added satisfaction of his acknowledging he knew I did it. I beat him.

He came back later that day and again the next morning. He circled around the pole, went over and got up on the picnic table, judging the distance, took another lap around the pole, looking longingly up at the feeder and left. I haven’t seen him for 3 days now. Victory is mine!

Marion Tucker-Honeycutt, an award winning columnist, is a Maine native and a graduate of Belfast, now living in Morrill. Her columns appear in this paper every other week.

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