Sunday, December 30, 2012

A New Bird Feeder

It is the time of year when our garden birds need food for survival – food that predator birds, cats and squirrels cannot reach.
            On a suspended sunflower feeder, when a pigeon learned how to balance on the side of it and extract the seeds, I added a painted plywood disc, positioned so that these large birds were unable to raise their wings high enough for landing or take-off. It worked.
            Now the problem was how to allow birds to enjoy my winter mixture (stale bread soaked and squeezed dry, with bran, currants, pounded peanuts and melted lard) and protect the food from marauding squirrels.
            So the latest device is a bought wire tube, made for commercially-produced, fat ball food, with my addition of anti-pigeon spikes pointing upward through the lid and downward from its base.  The theory is that squirrels will be unable to approach it descending from above or jumping up to it from below.
            It is a rather frightening, medieval-looking kind of torture device that the birds will have to get used to.
            This new addition has been placed with other feeders of sunflower seeds, peanuts, niger seeds, dried maggots and hemp seed. In London I have an arbour from which to hang such contraptions. There the latest device will stay until birds start to demand food from it. Then it will be re-located to just outside the kitchen window, where we can obtain a better look at our avian friends.
            In the country I made an elaborate double cage atop a greased scaffold pole. One cage of vertical wooden dowel rods had the bars 1” apart for small birds to push through for the food inside, and the other 1 ½” apart for larger birds. Some of the bars could be raised for me to place the food inside.
            On a drained platform, as part of the cage contraption, curtain wire, with screw eyes and hooks held down carcasses, half apples and scraps.
            This arrangement worked so well that I wrote a piece on it for the Financial Times in 1987.
            The 1” and 1 ½” gaps in the above cages are useful sizes to remember as they are the same for the holes in home-made bird boxes of skip-gathered timber. The sides and top of these boxes are best screwed together. With the lower part hinged, the nesting material can be taken out in the autumn and the inside sprayed with bleach (to kill off any resident mites that might lurk there).
            These boxes can be screwed to a tree, but are best positioned on a north, east, or west wall (not south) above the reach of cats.