Those rotten squirrels! My favorite quiet pastime is birdwatching; I love just gazing into my yard and seeing the wonderful variety of feathers and activity. But the squirrels always knew how to ruin the moment. They would eat most of the birdseed, dump the rest on the ground, and chew up all the feeders! I’ve lost a lot of nice birdfeeders, and even more birdseed, to squirrels. I’ve cluttered my yard with unsightly dome squirrel bafflers, hung feeders in hard to reach (and hard for me to see) places, spent (too much) money on feeders that only birds are supposed to be able to get seeds from. I have made desperate efforts to convince the squirrels to leave my bird feeders – my yard! – alone. But what was supposed to distract and discourage the squirrels unfortunately discouraged me as I watched them find ways around my fancy tricks, distracted me from enjoying my bird-watching time.

Then I began to observe them. Squirrels actually get along with most birds, can eat shoulder to wing with doves, nose to beak with cardinals. Occasionally, they’ll get in a blue jay’s way, or vice versa, and squawks and squeals ensue. But they all seem to have a system worked out to avoid that: eating in shifts. Most squirrels come eat first thing in the morning, then when they’re about done the birds come to breakfast. Often, it’s the same pattern in the evening, so squabbles are pretty infrequent. But even when meals aren’t taken in their proper turn, everyone still gets along. According to Nature then, I should be able to have both the birds and the squirrels too.

So, I started removing the distractions. I took down the ugly bafflers. I replaced the “no squirrels allowed” feeders with simple, open, flat ones, made of either plastic or wood, and placed all of them in more accessible and visible locations. I found some less “bird specific,” less expensive seed, which allows me to buy more, and I try to be sure the feeders are always full. And because the squirrels can climb into and sit comfortably in each of the feeders, very little seed gets spilled out anymore.

Now I watch the beauty in my yard without frustration, without distractions, and I see so much more. I see the squirrels playing chase (the young ones are so skittish!); I see the brown thrashers following after squirrels as they dig through leaves for acorns, eagerly snatching up disrupted bugs. When I stopped trying to make my backyard bird feeding what I thought it should be, I started to appreciate what it is. When I took away the fancy tricks, the diversions, I started gaining more than I’d planned. When I stopped trying to make the squirrels be something they’re not, I learned to enjoy what they are.

And I haven’t lost a bird feeder since!