Spring has sprung and summer is just around the corner, time for my annual ritual of waging mortal combat with the critters who think my bird feeders are free smorgasbords.
I like birds. I’m not sure why, but I guess I’m fascinated by the fact that they can fly, and I can’t.
I especially like the northern cardinals, chickadees and yellow finches that visit my feeders on a regular basis.
The feeders also attract a bunch of other feathered friends, including sparrows and crows, but I tolerate them, even though they’re messy and nasty to each other.
After all, bird seed is fair game for all birds. Squirrels ... forget about it!
I buy special feeds for the cardinals and finches because I especially enjoy seeing them every day on my deck.
The feed is definitely not cheap, but the serenity I get from watching nature’s finest feed every three hours makes it all worthwhile.
But don’t ask my wife if she likes birds, unless you’re wearing ear protection and can tolerate ribald profanity spewed forth by an otherwise gracious and charming grandmother.
She hates birds because of what they do to her nice clean deck, and I don’t mean just re-arranging the deck chairs either.
I used to wage war every summer with squirrels stealing my bird feed.
My first choice for ammunition was a supply of tennis balls which I kept by the deck door to throw at the creeping marauders (see “The Christmas Story”), but I was never fast enough or accurate enough to do anything but make them laugh at me.
Squirt guns were equally ineffective, even the Super Soakers. But then I scored a home run one year when I bought a marked-down feeder at Lowe’s that sends those rats-with-bushy-tails flying ... literally!
I had seen the feeder advertised on TV, but it was pretty pricey.
Then one day the price was right, and I had a gift card in my pocket, and voila, predator problem solved.
The feeder holds a whole bunch of feed, so that was attractive to me too, but the best part is the circular perch that is connected to a battery-operated motor. When the birds sit on the perch, nothing happens.
But when that fat old grey invader tries to hang on the perch, the motor starts turning the perch around and around and around until that bad boy goes flying off into greener pastures! Score one for the home team!
So I thought my troubles were over and I could go back to the peace and quiet of enjoying nature, and quaffing down Diet Pepsis in the heat of Western Maryland summers. Then a new little critter scampered across the deck.
At first I wasn’t sure what it was because it ran pretty fast and was sort of stealth-like.
But then I saw that little SOB climb the pole and chase the sparrows away, and I knew the Critter War was moving onto a new front, this time with a chipmunk.
I fought with that little creep (who I think was named Chip, of Disney’s “Chip and Dale” fame) for a few months by banging on the deck doors every time I spied him, and sometimes hollering at him like the raving maniac my neighbors probably thought I had become.
Then my son loaned me a humane trap he had. Chip avoided it for about a week, but one day, when we were away, my son found the little criminal, trapped like a speeder on Interstate 68!
I didn’t get the satisfaction of seeing him hauled off to critter jail, wearing really tiny handcuffs and screaming for Dale to bail him out. Parting is such sweet sorrow.
So here we are on the brink of another bird-feeding season.
I have my squirrel eradicator all charged up, a can of grease sitting in the corner of the deck waiting to be used on the pole in the event any of Chip and Dale’s family members dare carry on the family tradition, and my .410 loaded with rock salt in case I have to resort to more definitive measures.
Have a nice summer little thieves, bwha-ha ha-ha-ha (maniacal deep-throated laughing)!
Bill Crawford is a Cumberland freelance writer. His column appears in the Times-News on the third Sunday of each month.