DELAY WITH GUILT – Marilyn Armstrong


I have not refilled the bird feeders. The birds think we are just late. Or really, yesterday they thought it must be a brief delay because the food is always there.


Today, they were back. The squirrels and a wide variety of birds, trying to find a few seeds on the deck they could eat. They were like people who have just discovered the last two decent restaurants have been closed. Some of these birds and baby squirrels have possibly never eaten anywhere else.

A few Brown-headed Cowbirds

It’s pathetic, sad and I feel guilty. Even though I know I have no choice. I have to take them down, guilt or no because we need to fix the deck. I have bought special waterproof paint. My son is readying the powerwasher.


The birds weren’t getting much from the feeders anyway because the cohort of squirrels had taken over the feeders, the railing, and the deck and weren’t letting the birds near the feeders except during the hour or two a day when I managed to chase them away for a little while so the birds would descend and try to get some seeds.

Lady Cardinal on a branch

Apparently, there is no way for a human to balance this relationship between birds and squirrels. I thought the squirrels would like the flat feeder and the birds would prefer the tall mesh feeder. The ground feeders could clean up the pound or so of seeds we always drop while filling the feeders.

Big Red-bellied Woodpecker

Instead, the relentless pressure of squirrels against the birds never stopped. First, there was one squirrel. Then there were two. Eventually, there were squirrels everywhere. Waiting in the trees, hiding under the deck, lurking on the stairs, waiting in rows on the railings.

Mourning Dove on the rail

With each day, they became less afraid of us and I was beginning to think it was going to become of physical confrontation, something I absolutely did not want.

Tufted Titmouse

When they started announcing on the news that the recently-arrived bears were tearing down decks to get to bird feeders and began warning homeowners to take down the feeders now, my choice narrowed from very little to none at all. I can still throw some handsful of seeds onto the back lawn, but really they should remember to be wild.

Chipping Sparrow

Today, there were only a few very small (probably baby) squirrels urgently poking around hoping something edible remained. And besides the two little squirrels, there was a big red Cardinal, a few rather tiny Nuthatches (also probably babies — about half the size of full-grown Nuthatches) and a few forlorn Mourning Doves.


The delay is not permanent. In the fall, as the air chills down, we’ll put the feeders up again and hopefully by then our furred and feathered friends will have forgotten us and the feeders and will start anew. We’ll have a few months before the battle to control our feeders gets fully underway.

I guess this proves once and for all that sharing is not the way of the wild.

Squirrel just holding on to the feeder cage

It seems we don’t actually have much to say about it. This is a bird and squirrel match. We watched while the flocks of Goldfinches got bullied off the feeders by the Cowbirds and woodpeckers. How the bigger woodpeckers chased away the smaller ones. And how the squirrels chased away everything that wasn’t a squirrel.


And I don’t want to hang around until a black bear drops by and chases me away, too.

10 thoughts on “DELAY WITH GUILT – Marilyn Armstrong

  1. We can’t hang feeders out because of bears atm. Momma bear kicked the 3 teenagers out. Some idiot started chasing them, like what the hell would he do if he caught up with them in the first place without any kind of protection, and started screaming and cursing my daughter out because she called the spca to come and tranq the bears. They ran through our yard to the land in behind us, one did, the others dispersed in 2 other directions. Momma went back across the highway. The spca guy said, what do you think it’s going to be like when momma kicks 3 teenagers out of the nest and says your on your own, wooohoooooo prime time! One ran after momma but still, can’t put feeders or garbage out for garbage day cause, free food, right?!


  2. Well, I guess the bears have solved the problem for you for now. The birds will be able to find food elsewhere till autumn and by that time perhaps it will be as you say and they will have forgotten about your deck and then rediscover it gradually. I suppose this will be the pattern, you start off with birds and the odd squirrel and keep feeding until the squirrel population gets out of hand. Unless of course squirrel mamas tell their babies “The Legend of the Deck of Plenty” where there is always food and nobody has to hunt and gather.


  3. I’m curious. Would buying a squirt bottle or gun be too ‘mean?’. Squirt those aggressive squirrels and teach them some aversion therapy? I know that for the spring/summer the problem is solved, but in the fall.


    • I will have to think about it when the time comes. I was really hoping to get some moderation from the squirrels, but they don’t seem capable of moderation. They want it all. It’s like having a bunch of squabbling toddlers.


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