Mistakes Made and Lessons Learned
with Mike Lushington
I have written a couple of columns in the past, extolling the virtues of Black Oil Sunflower seeds as the perfect food for feeders, not only for their inherent value as nutrition, but because pigeons didn't much like them. It turns out that my "wisdom" must have been based on luck and good location rather than fact, as a rather persistent flock of the pesky critters has demonstrated to me this past few weeks. I also remember writing that, because pigeons were strong, open air fliers, they wouldn't like to go into brush to seek out food. Wrong again; this bunch has all the panache of a flock of grouse. I even erected a screen, partially blocking access to my feeders - they use the top of the screen as a convenient perch from which to drop down onto the feeder table, for all the world like a flock of Blue jays.
It all goes to show that just when you think that you have something figured out, that something changes its mind, and you have to start all over again.
So, what am I doing about pigeons now? I know of a couple of successful bird feeding friends who have placed cages made with wire of a gauge large enough to admit small birds - chickadees, sparrows, finches, and the like - while excluding pigeons. Vary the gauge of the wire and you could admit, or omit, jays with this sort of arrangement - it will certainly work. However, with the snow about to descend upon us, the cages will have to be moved after every large accumulation - and that may not be convenient for everyone. However, I must confess that I really do not know of any other relatively foolproof solution.
I am not about to start constructing cages, so I have embarked upon a different strategy. I have removed all of my table feeders and have replaced them with tubular hanging feeders, ones that have very small perches upon which small birds can sit to extract a seed or two at a time, but that won't spill seed onto the ground, where pigeons much prefer to find their food. Further I have hung the feeders quite deeply into the branches of the large lilac that is the centre piece of my feeding operation - a further experiment in trying to exclude them. Several days into this latest round of experiments I have noticed that the flock has dwindled from about twenty birds to four or five, obviously the most persistent, or the dumbest, of the lot. If these birds decide to vacate the area as well, I will try to reset my table feeders in a week or two.(I do want to have a couple of them because, like pigeons, sparrows and Mourning doves, among others, prefer to gather their food from the ground, or from low, flat surfaces.)
At the same time, I have relocated several feeders into the woods in back of our garden field. I placed one feeder and a small suet cage in a little opening in a cedar swamp - and it has turned out to be one of the nicer things I have done along this line in a long while. Courtesy of all the rain of the summer and fall, the little brook that usually dries up by mid summer continues to gurgle its way through the patch. Each morning I get to stand quietly watching the birds at the feeder while listening to the sounds of the water; the other morning, a light snow was falling - and the whole scene was idyllic. I just may do more of this.