Creatures at the feeder

moon phase Week of 12/06/2009 Good time to do general farm work.

The month of November has come and gone. I'm wondering if it really came at all. The weather never really seemed like the usual November weather for Wisconsin. Late November apple Late November apple It's no wonder, considering it was the third warmest ever recorded. By now, the ponds and backwaters in the valley should have a thin layer of ice covering them. The temperature just hasn't dropped cold enough to do any serious freezing yet. I ate an apple that I picked from a tree on the last day of November that was still fairly firm. Before I picked it I noticed a live fly that flew off as I reached up.

I heard they got some snow in northern Minnesota for Thanksgiving but we didn't get any of the white stuff. There was some white that passed over. Rock outcroppings on the Kickapoo River Rock outcroppings on the Kickapoo River While I was outside taking in the beautiful, bright moon last night, a flock of Tundra swans passed over. There wasn't enough moonlight to make them out, but there muffled calls told me there were about 20 of them. The change in the weather up north may have made them head south to the Carolinas. In my mind I could see their lovely forms as they drifted along single file on their giant white wings. Once you see them, your memory never lets them go.

Most years, the swans pass through during the time of freezing. That's when it gets cold enough to freeze the ground and make hard ice on open water. Kickapo Valley sunset Kickapo Valley sunset That usually happens here around the second week of December, and the swans may pass through in large flocks for a couple of weeks, flying mostly at night. It will be interesting to see what kind of temperatures December will bring to us. I'm also curious to see when the other Tundra swans will come through on their journey south.

At 26 degrees F, an apple can freeze and begin to turn brown, but the apple I ate wasn't frozen yet, and the fly hadn't felt the effects of a freeze. The weather has been very comfortable but strange, a little unsettling. House finch House finch The all-time low in southern Wisconsin for November is 34 below zero, and the record high is 84, proving that November weather can be unpredictable. Who could predict that November would stay above freezing for its duration?

The last November sunrise was a memorable one, and set my tone for the day. When you start your morning with such beauty, the rest of the day just falls into place.

A little male House finch visited the bird feeder looking for Thanksgiving leftovers. For him, it doesn't get any better than sunflower seeds. He thanked me by letting me snap his picture. The showy summer colors of the finches have failed from bright orange red to a subtler version, but it's still a joy to have them around.

Fat & happy squirrel Fat & happy squirrel Many of the questions I've gotten over the years are about squirrels and how to get rid of them. They can be the ultimate problem if you're not willing to pay the price for the extra birdseed. They are nearly impossible to keep away from the feeders. I've learned to live with them and enjoy being able to see them close up. To keep them busy and away from the window feeders, I like to scatter some sunflower seeds over the ground so that they have to find them. It slows down their eating habits enough to make a difference. Putting out other things that they like is also good, like ear corn, nuts or an apple, but they always seem to prefer the sunflower seeds.

There hasn't been much sound advice on how to deter squirrels from your feeders, and I doubt there ever will be any. It's much easier to accept them until they start doing damage, then deal with that. Ugh!

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Robert from from Worthington, Ohio on December 16, 2009 at 04:23:40 PM
Hi Dan,
You're the greatest.
I purchased a bird feeder from a large national dept. store that has a spring-loaded wire cage surrounding the main body of the feeder. Birds can feed unobstructed, but the weight of a squirrel causes the wire cage to drop down and block the openings to the food. It is totally foolproof.
For awhile, the squirrels would climb on it and drive themselves crazy trying to defeat it, but eventually they gave up and are happy with the sunnys I throw on the ground for them. The food I like to supply for the birds is too expensive for the ever-hungry squirrels, but I love them anyway...
eden from from colorado on December 16, 2009 at 09:47:09 AM
This is a very informational thanks
Z T from from Ohio on December 11, 2009 at 05:28:28 AM
How about just accept squirrels as God's creation, and just let them have some food as well?
Judy from from Ohio on December 9, 2009 at 09:27:59 PM
Hi Dan, About those pesky squirrels. We bought a packet from our hardware of squirrel deterrent that had red pepper in it. My husband poured it into a bag of birdseed and mixed it upl, like it said to do and filled the feeders. Then when he came inside his sinuses starting acting up. Evidently red pepper clears them up too. It was me. So the birds ate the seed and loved it but guess what? The squirrels hated it! And it was only $1.49. Well worth it!
Peter from from chicago on December 9, 2009 at 03:46:53 PM
Squirrel problem? At least you'll eat tonight! Seriously, I see you with an owl, ever have a pet crow?
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