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Q: We were having trouble with squirrels getting into our feeders, even with a “witch’s hat” predator guard around the pole. Then the owner of our local feed store advised us to wrap flexible tin flashing, the kind used for stovepipes, around the pole. We did it and it works beautifully. It has grooves and snaps together and our seed bill has gone down dramatically, now that the squirrels can’t crawl in.
A: I love it when people are creative and come up with solutions to bird feeder challenges. You also mentioned that you’re very dedicated about cleaning your feeders regularly with a vigorous wash, followed by dip in a bleach solution, then a thorough rinse. This is one of the best things each of us can do to ensure bird health, since feeders unnaturally concentrate birds and this may spread diseases.
Q: During nesting season there was an unusual occurrence in my back yard: I heard a great deal of chattering coming from a tree, then a red-tailed hawk flew out, with four robins chasing it off the premises. I was in absolute awe at being able to observe this scene.
A: That must have been quite a sight, and it confirms what excellent parents robins make. I’d bet two of the four were parent birds who didn’t appreciate the hawk landing in their nesting tree. Their loud protests brought in two more robins and all the commotion was enough to convince the hawk to find another perch.
Q: We’ll be having out-of-town guests in mid-October and they’d really like to see bald eagles. Do you know where they’re likely to be seen at that time?
A: One of the most reliable spots for viewing bald eagles in fall and winter is along the Mississippi River in South St. Paul. The Kaposia Landing Dog Park area offers free parking and great viewing. There almost surely will be eagles perched in the trees across the river near this spot. Do an online search under Kaposia Landing Dog Park and you’ll find good maps.
Cats in, or out?
Q: I know my cat never catches birds, so what’s the problem with him going outside?
A: Many of us who are cat owners would swear on a stack of Peterson Field Guides that our pets don’t harm birds, but all the studies show otherwise: Cats outdoors take a terrific toll on birds each year. Researchers at Wichita State University conducted a yearlong study of cats allowed to roam outdoors and found that every single cat — even those that had been declawed — killed birds. In some cases, pet owners were certain that their cats weren’t bird killers, until their pet’s fecal material told a different tale. Cats are attuned to movement, and birds are very active, catching the eye of these highly skilled predators. The best thing I’ve seen for allowing cats outdoor time with no danger to birds are cat enclosures, providing plenty of room for cats but keeping them from roaming. Do a search for “cat enclosures” and you’ll find many examples, some you could build yourself, others are ready to purchase. These aren’t cheap but they do save birds.
St. Paul resident Val Cunningham, who volunteers with the St. Paul Audubon Society and writes about nature for local, regional and national newspapers and magazines, can be reached at email@example.com.