January 1, 1996
It is time once again to thank all of you who have written and called over the past year. Your communications extend my understanding of the wildlife of the Niagara Frontier, add interesting sidelights to subjects with which you have direct personal contact, and — even more important — inform me about the topics in which you are most interested.
I wish that I could share the letters with all ³Nature Watch² readers as I am certain that you would enjoy them. Unfortunately space allows me to comment here on only a few.
Many sent photographs. Just the other day, for example, Lloyd and Ella Conable forwarded pictures of a pileated woodpecker at one of their backyard trees. Their timing was perfect because the day before the photos arrived, our Beaver Meadow Christmas Count team had found a pair of these crow-sized birds with their Woody Woodpecker red crests. We were able to approach within 40 feet to watch the handsome birds hammering away at grub infested stumps.
But the finest picture I received this year is Herb Weihrich's prize winning photograph of an ichneumon wasp. In it this dragonfly-sized insect raises its abdomen almost vertically to direct its long ovipositor straight down into a maple trunk. As I reexamine the photograph now, I am once again hypnotized by the spectacular physical characteristics of the wasp, the wonderful ability of the photographer to capture this activity, and the remarkable detail of his shot.
The column that brought most response was a recent one about Mr. S, the gray squirrel at our feeder. Apparently many of you have also matched wits not only with squirrels but also with other wildlife. Bird feeding is clearly not as simple as proponents would have us believe.
However, some have answers to my squirrel dilemma. Ed Duryea has attached a short length of stove pipe to the bottom of his platform feeder to extend down around its support pole. When squirrels climb the pole, they find themselves stymied by the metal tube. They can reach it but they cannot gain a purchase on the slippery metal.
Gerould Stange has another method. He mounted a garbage can lid on the feeder pole. Cutting a hole slightly larger than his pole cross section in the center of the lid, he then passed the pole through that hole. The lid now sits loose on a wooden disk attached to the pole with masking tape. When squirrels shin up the pole and reach out to grasp the edge of the lid, it tips down to drop them to the ground. His photo shows a dozen house finches and sparrows at his tube feeder atop the pole, many more sitting on the lid, and on the ground below crows, pigeons, and Mr. S's brother-in-law searching for seeds the smaller birds have scattered.
T. Ferguson's similar method was to cut a hole in the bottom of a gallon plastic jug and pass his feeder pole through that hole and the jug mouth.
All of these innovative ideas are commendable, but there is an even more straightforward solution. Research chemist and seventh generation Buffalonian Joseph Dunn has developed hot bird food that turns away mammals — mice, rats, raccoons, and deer as well as squirrels — but is especially attractive to birds. He and his brother Chris have formed Snyder Seed Company to market seed and suet treated with extra hot chili pepper, which is distasteful but not harmful to all mammals. Look for their products in local stores labeled "Squirrel Free."
Unfortunately for me, this evidence suggests that Mr. S's IQ lies somewhere between that of these creative correspondents and my own.
Please continue to keep in touch.