Monday, December 21, 2009


One of the first things I wanted to do when we moved into our new house was hang up a bird feeder. With eight acres of woods surrounding the house, I figured the feeder would attract a lot of colorful and exciting birds…and maybe even a cardinal.

I have waited a lifetime to see a live cardinal. I think I've actually seen one, but that's still up for debate. I mean, the sun was in my eyes at the time and just about everything looked red.

I've also waited a lifetime to see a live moose. My husband and I once spent an entire day driving up and down Moose Alley up north, but the only thing we saw that even came close to a moose was a statue of one.

While I don't expect to see a moose at my feeder, a cardinal still might be a possibility.

The first feeder I bought was a round one with glass panels. The tree I selected to hang it on stood all by itself in a clearing and was directly in line with the kitchen window, so I figured I could be entertained watching the birds' antics while I stood at the sink and washed dishes.

The tree had no low branches, so I bought a wrought-iron arm-type plant hanger and figured I'd just screw it into the tree and then hang the feeder on it.

Little did I know that the tree I'd selected was a hardwood tree. And it wasn't just hard, it bordered on petrified. A jackhammer couldn't have penetrated that thing.

I bent so many nails trying to get the wrought-iron arm to stay on the tree, the ground soon was littered with a heap of twisted metal. The fact that I was using my dainty little flowered hammer probably didn't help the situation. So I picked up a rock and started banging the nails with that. Still, they did nothing but bend.

Screws weren't much better. After 450 turns of the screwdriver, with the screw sinking barely a hair into the tree, I was ready turn the tree into firewood.

Finally, by hammering the nails until they bent over the edge of the wrought iron enough to hold it onto the tree, I hung the feeder. I then filled it with shelled sunflower seeds, unsalted peanuts, plain popcorn, some raisins and cracked corn. I figured it was a gourmet meal by any bird's standards.

The next morning, I watched a squirrel do a swan dive from a high branch and land on the feeder. The feeder swung back and forth like a carnival ride until it and the wrought-iron holder went crashing to the ground, spewing the contents everywhere. The squirrel then hungrily attacked his bounty.

He soon was joined by three huge black birds that looked like crows on steroids. All three of them started squawking at once, which eventually ticked off the squirrel. Every time the birds came near him or his food, he charged at them like a bull until they backed off.

Five minutes later, blue jays started to arrive, also squawking. The yard sounded like an orchestra of really bad musicians tuning up for a concert.

I decided to buy another bird feeder. This one was solid wood and shaped like a little house. It had a plastic panel on the front that slid up and down for easy filling.

Once again, I bent a bunch of nails, even though I used the biggest nails and heaviest hammer I could find in my husband's toolbox…which probably hadn't been opened since 1981.

The next morning I saw the squirrel perched on the feeder, stuffing his furry little face. The crumbs he dropped were being attacked by a bunch of blue jays waiting below.

Things pretty much went on that way for a few days. An occasional chickadee showed up to break the monotony, and the big black birds returned, making enough noise to wake the dead (a.k.a. my snoring husband).

I hated to admit it, but my feeder was a bore. I mean, I had a bunch of run-of-the-mill noisy birds and a cranky squirrel. No colorful finches, no pretty songbirds, and most of all, no cardinals.

One night, I didn't put out any food for the birds. It was too cold and windy out there and I was too warm and cozy inside.

The next morning, I looked out the window and saw my feeder hanging upside down on the tree. I went out to make a closer inspection. It was covered with teeth marks and a whole corner had been gnawed off. Obviously cranky Mr. Squirrel had not been pleased to miss his free meal.

Rather than risk the safety of my fingers in a futile effort to pound more nails into the tree, I decided just to forget the feeder idea and toss the seeds and nuts directly onto the ground.

The critters seemed to like the new arrangement. The birds returned and the squirrel brought his wife and kids. The big black birds and the blue jays feasted and squawked. And some small red-headed black-and-white striped bird that could run vertically up and down the tree joined them.

I still haven't seen a cardinal, but just yesterday morning I saw huge tracks in the snow not far from the broken feeder. I looked them up on the Internet and they most closely resembled moose tracks…about 1200 pounds of moose, according to my calculations.

Even though I've always wanted to see a moose, I'm pretty sure I don't want to come face to face with a 1200-pounder.

Although, I'm pretty sure the squirrel with the anger-management problem might scare him away.