When my friends over at YourBirdOasis sent me a super squirrel-proof bird feeder to review, I had to think about who I knew who could really put the device to the test. After all, I have my local white squirrels well in hand. My good buddy Seth, on the other hand, does not. So here’s his erudite, unvarnished impression of the Squirrel Buster Plus:
According to Seneca myth, Squirrel is traditionally jealous of Bird’s mastery over song and flight to a point that his envy-fueled and hard won success in these areas leaves him as a caricature of persistence and hard work. As an urban homeowner with two Black Walnuts and a Ginko on the property, I have moments where a squirrel’s work ethic is hard for me to admire. Add to this the fact that I keep a bird feeder throughout the winter months and you will understand when I tell you that spying Sciurus carolinensis outside my window sends me scrambling for my twelve-gauge and a copy of Sun-Tzu. In the context of my backyard, I doubt Bird appreciates Squirrel’s resoluteness either.
“If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles.”
Sun-Tzu’s teachings apply universal principals to the specific context of war. Strategy, economy, and design stem from the understanding of such principals as applied to a specific context. To transfer Sun-Tzu’s teachings, the proper martial analogy to describe the keeping of squirrels from one’s bird feeder would have to be the guerilla war of the insurgent against the occupation of the imperialist. Therefore the question becomes, how much seed am I willing to spill to enjoy the splash of a red cardinal against the winter white snow?
The folks at Brome Bird Care, located in Knowlton, Quebec, are also students of strategy, economy, and design. The proof of this is their Squirrel Buster Plus bird feeder, which I had the pleasure of testing over the last several weeks. The basic strategy of the feeder is the use of a spring and outer shield to create a weight sensitive barrier. This is not a new or original approach, but Brome has greatly improved upon what previously existed on the market. First of all, the spring is enclosed inside the feed cylinder. My current feeder also makes use of the spring trigger; however the springs are mounted on the outside and exposed to the elements therefore prone to rust over time. By placing the spring inside the tube, and adding a venting system designed to keep seed (and the spring) dry, Brome slows, if not eliminates this decay. As Sun-Tzu says:
“When weapons are blunted, and ardor dampened, strength exhausted, and resources depleted, the neighboring rulers will take advantage of these complications.”
Another wonderful feature of the Squirrel Buster Plus is the adjustable trigger weight of the spring. Let’s say that you are facing an onslaught by Grackles or Blue Jays. By simply turning the transparent cylinder, the owner of this most flexible and discerning dispenser can include or eliminate groups avian diners based on how much they weigh. The Brome website also posts a convenient average weight chart for common species of birds as a reference in its FAQ. When paired with species specific seed or feed mixes, the backyard birder can attract the exact types of birds he or she wishes to see. Again, Sun-Tzu:
“We cannot enter into alliances until we are acquainted with the designs of our neighbors.”
My local squirrels are a tough lot. They regularly scrape at any small opening seeking access to my now scarred garage. Once inside, they open storage containers to get at the black oil sunflower seeds, which are my choice of fodder. (Brome should consider designing a squirrel proof garage and storage container!) Looking at the choices offered by my local home and garden store, I saw that most squirrel feeders (really?!) are filled with cracked corn. I chose this as my test. I filled the feeder up and put in its usual spot. Squirrels immediately came to investigate. After several days of jostling and jumping, then wrestling and rummaging, the squirrels largely gave up. They stopped assaulting it. Without the encouragement of even one dropped piece of corn, the squirrels went on to easier pickings. It seems that the ultimate design is the one that needs not be tested. As Sun-Tzu says,
“Therefore the skillful leader subdues the enemy’s troops without any fighting; he captures their cities without laying siege to them; he overthrows their kingdom without lengthy operations in the field.”