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BY THE WAY

Huzzah! Bird-feeding maven 'baffles' problem chipmunks

Friday, October 4, 2013 - 11:02 am

I have been one very unhappy gardener/bird feeder/clean sidewalk maven. For the first time in years I have been the landlady for a family of chipmunks.

Now up until the present time my knowledge about chipmunks has been confined to Alvin, Simon and Theodore. I know they even have a Christmas song. I know they appear in online games. I have learned that there are music videos featuring the trio and their human. And they are adorable, aren't they?

But they're not the ones who have adopted me. No, mine don't sing. They make holes in my garden space. They kick mulch onto sidewalks. And they hop freely up the birdfeeder and eat as though they were elephants, not tiny little things.

I fill the feeder and wait for my family of cardinals to appear. Summer, winter,

spring and fall their beauty fills my yard and my heart with joy. The finches are welcome. I admire them and love it when three or four are sitting on their perches nibbling away. The doves have voracious appetites, but, OK, they're doves.

Occasionally, other birds come to Stein's Bird Feedery, and they are welcome. The ducks gather around when they see me outside because they enjoy the bird food I drop for them. Little do they know I do it deliberately. They sometimes ignore the bread I throw out, but safflower they love.

The rabbits have become very brave. When I go out back they stop running and try to stare me down. It's almost as though they are accusing me of being on their territory. But we have learned to accommodate one another.

Not the squirrels. They, too, have learned to shinny up the pole, but when I clap my hands (not to applaud their physical skills but to shoo them away) they jump back down and run away. Not the chipmunks. They really must think I am applauding their antics.

Well, I'm not. So I turned to my good friend Google, and do you know there are pages of suggestions for getting rid of the little varmints? It makes for fascinating reading, better than some books I've been starting and not finishing. I learned that they are of Algonquian origin and have stripes on their backs, etc. I learned that there are traps available, and they work well. And when the chipmunks are in the traps, you have the pleasure of taking them out into the country and releasing them. I learned about sprays I can use that they don't like. Google is full of information.

But my son urged I try something very simple. “Why not buy a baffle for your feeder?” he asked. Why not?

So I drove to Steve's bird shop and learned how to apply the baffle and brought it home, and there it is on the pole and — guess what? I sat out on the porch watching. First, two cardinals came to celebrate the fact that their feeder was full again. Then the chipmunk appeared. He started up the pole, then looked up, paused, and backed down. He ran around, then came back, started up the pole, saw the baffle and slid back down. After a few more attempts, he ran away.

“Huzzah!” I silently shouted. (I have been wanting to use that word, “huzzah,” since I first read it in a British novel decades ago.)

I waited, but he did not return. Now it is four hours later and there is still food in the feeder, which means he has been unsuccessful so far in solving the mystery of how to get his little tummy filled at the Stein cafeteria. Life is beautiful. I called my son to say, “Thank you.”

Now if someone can please teach me a way to keep the mulch from being scattered all over the sidewalk.

Betty E. Stein is a retired teacher in Fort Wayne.