Tips for squirrel-proofing your bird feeder

Squirrels and bird feeders go hand-in-hand. While the occasional visit from a furry friend is delightful for most people, the frequent presence of squirrels around your feeders can quickly become a nuisance. Not only can these critters eat you out of house and home, their rodent acrobatics can damage feeders. These factors can end up costing you time and money.

Here are some tips for squirrel-proofing your bird feeders and keeping the peace in your yard.

Invest in a squirrel-proof feeder

Certain types of bird feeders are designed with squirrels in mind. Some have cages designed to keep anything other than birds from accessing feed. Others have small motors that are activated by weight sensors that gently nudge squirrels in the right direction.

Avoiding platform feeders and other easy-access food stuffs will also help ensure that birds have feeding areas to themselves.

If you don’t want to invest in a new feeder, there are still plenty of things you can do.

Keep the ground clean

Frequently raking the ground near and around your feeders can help keep squirrels at bay. In many instances, discarded seeds and shells laying about are a squirrels first hint that there is a food source present.

By not providing a low-effort feeding opportunity, you are less likely to encourage the presence of squirrels to begin with.

Pick the right pole

It’s no secret that squirrels are excellent at climbing. Most wood and metal poles that hang bird feeders are no match for the prowess of these four-legged critters. However, PVC pipe can prove to be more of a challenge.

If you don’t want to go that route, you can do what my grandpa did and apply a thin layer of Crisco to the bottom couple of feet of the pole. For a little less maintenance , consider adding a slinky to the base of the pole.

Tweak your feed

Squirrels aren’t too picky about bird feed varieties, but they are a little more selective than many bird species. Tinkering with your offerings can lead to different results. For instance, switching to a mix that features safflower has been known to deter squirrels.

Another option is adding a bit of spice to your feed. Adding chili peppers or chili flakes to your mix will nip your squirrel troubles in the bud since these animals are sensitive to the taste and sensation of heat. Birds, on the other hand, are not.

Give the squirrels their own feeder

If you want the best of both worlds, you can simply feed the squirrels in your yard as well.

Providing peanuts or dried corn in a squirrel-friendly feeder can take away the need for squirrels to ransack your bird feeders. Accessibility is key because, like most living creatures, squirrels are much more apt to take the easy meal over one that requires exerting significant effort.

You can keep everyone happy by offering appropriate, approachable feeding opportunities for a variety of animals that inhabit your yard.

Nathan Woelfel Outdoors Podcast – Episode 14: Birding and the importance of citizen science

It’s Episode 14 of the Nathan Woelfel Outdoors Podcast!

Nick Anich, Breeding Bird Atlas Coordinator – Bureau of Natural Heritage for the Wisconsin DNR, joins the show to discuss birding and highlight the benefits of utilizing the eBird app.

Nathan and Nick discuss bird feeders, how to get into birding, and the impact of citizen science.

You can listen to the episode in the player below or wherever you get your podcasts. Like what you hear? Be sure to subscribe on your podcast platform of choice.

For more information on eBird, click here.

If you enjoyed this episode, you may also be interested in these articles:

How birding has made me a better outdoorsman

6 tips for maintaining your bird feeder

Jump Day

Caring for the birds in your yard

Why you should buy a federal duck stamp (even if you don’t hunt)

For those of us who are avid waterfowl hunters, purchasing a federal duck stamp is part of our yearly routine. It’s required by law, after all.

While it’s true that hunters make up the vast majority of those who purchase this stamp, the benefits from the revenue generated reach far beyond the hunting community. That’s why, if you love the outdoors, you should strongly consider purchasing a federal duck stamp, even if you don’t hunt.

The fact is: there is a cost that comes with keeping the wild parts of our country intact. Purchasing a federal migratory bird stamp (or “duck stamp”) is one of the easiest ways to do your part.

Stamps cost $25 and can be purchased online in most states through the Department of Natural Resources or at most local post offices.

Over 98 percent of every dollar spent on a federal duck stamp goes directly to preserving wildlife habitat. This money is allocated by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service. You would be hard-pressed to find an instance where the dollars of a goodwill investment work harder. In fact, the more than $900 million generated by these stamps has helped protect and restore over 6 million acres across all 50 states that birds, fish, and other wildlife call home. Approximately one-third of animals that utilize these lands are species that are listed as threatened or endangered.

This habitat produces wildlife and clean water that is enjoyed well beyond these properties. It can also help minimize the impacts of flooding and storm surges.

A classic example of duck stamp dollars at work is Wisconsin’s Horicon Marsh National Wildlife Refuge. This 33,000-acre property is one of the largest freshwater marshes in the United States and nearly 99 percent of the land was acquired with funds stemming from purchases of federal duck stamps.

If hunting isn’t your thing, buying a duck stamp can still offer some great experiences. For instance, a current federal duck stamp can be used to gain admission into any national wildlife refuge that charges an admission fee.

For those who consider themselves philatelists, these stamps have become collector’s items. Each year dozens of artists submit their work to be considered for the stamp, with only one being featured on the new edition. Year-over-year, no two duck stamps are alike.

If you want to make an investment in the outdoors, a federal duck stamp is a great place to start.

For more information on how you can help support wildlife, check out Episode 10 of The Nathan Woelfel Outdoors Podcast below or listen wherever you get your podcasts.

How you can help support Nathan Woelfel Outdoors

Since I first launched Nathan Woelfel Outdoors late last year, I’ve been humbled by how many people have reached out asking how they can help support the site.

Personally, with my journalism background, I view it as my job to share compelling stories, helpful tips, and delicious recipes for all of you to enjoy. Hopefully, by doing this, I can help those of you who spend time with my articles and podcasts view the outdoors in a different way. I’ve always felt that if I need to ask my readers to read, I’m doing something wrong.

However, the support questions keep coming and I’m very grateful for that. So, if you take enjoyment from the content here at Nathan Woelfel Outdoors, here are a few things you can do to support the site (and most of them won’t cost you a dime).

Tell your friends!

Word of mouth goes a long way. If you enjoy what’s going on here, don’t be afraid to tell other people about the site.

“Like” or follow NWO on social media.

You can find me on Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube.

If you see a post you enjoy, like or comment on the corresponding social media post. If you think your friends or family could benefit from something, share it. All of these actions expand the reach of the page and this content.

Visit the website.

Fact is: Most social platforms pick and choose who gets to see which posts. The overwhelming odds are that most of my followers do not see every post. I try to post at least one new article per week to the website. The only way to be sure you don’t miss out is to go directly to nathanwoelfeloutdoors.com every once in a while.

Subscribe to the Nathan Woelfel Outdoors Podcast.

Get inside tips from a host of outdoor professionals and explore the more philosophical sides of hunting and fishing.

By subscribing on the platform of your choice, you’ll be notified every time a new episode drops and the latest shows will be downloaded straight to your mobile device.

Buy NWO gear.

Occasionally, I place an order for branded hats and I put out a call for orders on Facebook. I also have Nathan Woelfel Outdoors vinyl decals available for purchase by messaging the Facebook page or by emailing me at natewoelfel@gmail.com. I also plan to explore other apparel options in the future. Proceeds from all of these items go toward covering expenses such as website licensing and podcast support platforms.

I am incredibly grateful for the level of support I have received from all of you. Frankly, if no one was reading, watching, or listening to the content I put out, there wouldn’t be much of a point to any of this. Thankfully, that’s not the case.

I hope those of you who want to assist in growing the site find these actions as a good place to start. I look forward to continuing to grow Nathan Woelfel Outdoors in the months and years to come.

Caring for the birds in your yard

If you have a bird feeder or bird bath on your property, there are several steps you can take to care for the birds in your yard.

Avian diseases are a threat to all types of bird species and, if you’re not paying close attention, your yard can become a breeding ground for some of these ailments.

Earlier this summer, reports surfaced that a mysterious illness is killing off a variety of birds in portions of the Midwest and South.

This sickness impacted a variety of birds that frequent backyards and feeder areas including: common grackles, European starlings, and blue jays — species that are commonly found in Wisconsin.

Affected birds can show several symptoms such as the inability to balance, crusty or puffy eyes, or signs of seizures.

Unfortunately, this isn’t the first or the last time something like this will happen. In fact, disease is a risk many birds have to deal with, even when it doesn’t make headlines. This is especially true in summertime.

Oddly (but thankfully), this illness appears to have vanished.

However, there are still some things you can do to help keep the birds in your backyard healthy. These procedures are best practice to keep the birds in your yard healthy, regardless of if there are known bird diseases circulating in your area or not.

Reduce or eliminate feeders in summer

Many people choose to take down their bird feeders in the summer months. There are two primary reasons for this decision. The first is that food is readily available to birds during warmer times of year. Removing feeders forces birds to rely on their natural food-gathering skills and helps keep them wild.

The second reason is to help prevent the spread of disease. Many avian ailments are spread through contact. Congregating birds in an unnatural setting can increase the chances that a virus, fungus, or disease can work its way through a larger segment of the population.

Personally, I choose to reduce the number of feeders in my yard from two to one starting in late June. I maintain this setup through early September. I find this to be a happy balance between suddenly taking away a reliable food supply from my local birds while taking a step toward promoting the safety of the animals through minimizing close contact between birds or encounters with surfaces that are often used by other birds.

Wash your feeders and bird baths

Cleaning your bird feeders and baths is always critical. But frequent washing becomes absolutely crucial in the summer time.

Be sure to regularly wash your feeders and baths in a solution made of 10 percent bleach and 90 percent water. Use a brush to help work the solution into all the nooks and crannies.

If you have a bird bath, be sure to frequently change the water between cleanings. Stagnant water can quickly become a breeding ground for all sorts of nasty things that can negatively impact birds.

It’s is also important to keep the food in your feeders fresh. As bird seed ages, it can become damp. This promotes bacterial and fungal growth that can be harmful to flying critters.

Monitor the birds in your yard

Even if you don’t have a feeder or bird bath in your yard, you can still do your part to help prevent the spread of bird diseases.

Take an extra second each day to observe the birds in your yard. Make note of any that are acting oddly or appear to have any sort of crusty buildup or puffiness near their eyes or beaks.

If you notice a bird that fits that description, be sure to take down any feeders or bird baths you have and give them a thorough cleaning. Wait a week or two before putting the feeders and/or bird baths back out and be sure to watch them closely once you do.

Report suspicious-looking birds

If you see a bird that looks sickly, either due to its appearance or its behavior, notify your local department of natural resources office. They will be able to point you in a direction that will help you provide the information to the proper wildlife official.

Also, as tempting as it may be to try to rush to the bird’s aid, don’t do it. For the safety of you and the bird, it is best to not attempt to approach or handle it. Let your local wildlife officials take care of that side of things.

If you enjoyed this article you may also like Episode 14 of the Nathan Woelfel Outdoors Podcast, featuring tips on birding an maintaining bird feeders from Nick Anich of the Wisconsin DNR. Listen below or wherever you get your podcasts.

Jump Day

Sometimes, you don’t have to travel far to enjoy the wonders nature has to offer.

In many cases, it can be as simple as taking a deep breath, stepping back, and having a look around.

When my wife and I bought our first home, we were quickly treated to a pleasant surprise — a house finch had constructed a small nest above our back steps. The dwelling was situated just between the porch light and the awning that covers our back entrance.

We were given a firsthand look at the beginnings of several small lives courtesy of the window atop the door that leads from out kitchen to the back steps.

Within a matter of days, the small bird became more hesitant to leave her nest. Shortly after that, frequent cheeping was audible during most daylight hours. Before long, several small heads became visible as the newly-hatched offspring rested on the edge of the nest.

During this time, we did our best to quietly come and go when we used the back entrance. On some occasions, we avoided it altogether.

As the action picked up, we began stealing peeks at the nest more frequently. The thought of being able to witness the latest developments became addicting, in a way.

It was astonishing how quickly the young birds grew, morphing from helpless, naked blobs to fledglings seemingly overnight.

One day, I went to check the nest and found it completely empty. In the blink of an eye, the birds left and were on to the next phase of their lives. I was disappointed. It felt investing a bunch of time in a T.V. show, only to miss the finale.

Luckily, a short while later, the mother finch was back for Round 2. This time, I was determined not to miss the ending of this story. At some point, I dubbed this moment “Jump Day.”

This time around, I had the benefit of knowing what to look for since I had seen this process play out from start-to-(almost)-finish once before. I checked the nest much more frequently following the first week after hatching than I did during the first go around. I also kept my camera nearby on the back counter, hoping to capture the action.

Then, the fateful day came. My wife and I awoke to find the young birds wandering around outside of the nest on the awning supports. It was clear they were going to blow this popsicle stand at any point.

It’s a weird feeling to watch a bird leave the nest for the first time. This first leap is all or nothing. The difference between life and death or, at the very least, serious injury. It’s an incredible juxtaposition between complete lack of experience and serious consequences. These birds are expected to fly (or gracefully fall) on their very first attempt and there’s nothing mom can do but watch from a safe distance. It’s amazing to realize that every bird you have ever seen has gone through this process at one point. It’s hard to draw the proper comparison to any human experience.

I remained within arm’s reach of my camera, awaiting the dramatic conclusion to this story. Eventually, one-by-one, the birds made their leap. By the end of the morning, each of the four fledglings was happily bouncing around our backyard.

We left the nest in its place the remainder of the year, hoping to see it used again.

The following spring, a robin found the small nest. She immediately got to work making upgrades, expanding it significantly while shoring up the exterior of the existing foundation with additional mud, grass and twigs. Once the renovations were complete, she made herself comfortable.

At one point, I looked out the window and discovered the robin sitting on the edge of the nest with her mouth open, it looked like she was panting. We came to the conclusion she was laying her eggs. After that day, she refused to leave the nest. Her male counterpart would occasionally visit, bringing her worms and other food while she continued the incubation process.

Roughly two weeks later, the cheeping started. Shortly after that, four small heads appeared, with yellow beaks just barley peeking over the side of the nest.

Just as with the house finches, the young robins grew at a staggering pace thanks, in large part, to frequent feedings from both mom and dad.

Then, Jump Day came. Or, in this case, Jump Day(s).

The first two newborns left the nest about 10 days after hatching. Mom was nearby and quickly got to work educating her young on the ins and outs of hunting for food.

However, two of the more reluctant babies remained on the following day. Both mom and dad continued to show up for feedings. Space was at a premium in the nest as the two rapidly-growing birds were quickly becoming too big for their first home.

The next day, the third chick flew the coop. Leaving just a single hold out. The following morning, the last of the hatch finally followed suit.

For about a week or so, the young family continued to make appearances in our yard. But, as time passed and the birds matured, it became nearly impossible to tell the freshly-hatched robins from the other ones that frequent our property.

This particular mother robin went on to hatch two more batches of eggs that season. She produced a total of 10 offspring that year.

Due to the pandemic, my wife and I have been working from home during the last two springs. One of the upsides has been more time to keep an eye on the nesting robins that have graced us with their presence.

I feel so lucky to have witnessed this incredible process of new lives beginning, in its entirety, during that timespan.

This year, the first Jump Day came quite early – barely two weeks into May. I watched, as I normally do, with my camera in-hand as the story played out once again. There is just something special about watching life happen from such an intimate perspective.

When the time comes for everyone to get out of the pool, I am always met with a unique combination of emotions. Jump Day is filled with excitement, wonder, anxiousness, and a little bit of sadness.

Though everything happens so quickly, at some level, it’s hard not to feel some sort of attachment to the hatchlings as you spend a few weeks going through the journey of life’s beginning with them. Watching the young birds becomes part of my daily routine. Then, all of a sudden, they’re gone. The cheeping is replaced with silence. You’re reminded of the absence of life every time you look at the window, only to find an empty nest. Meanwhile, the world keeps turning.

By my count, nearly two dozen robins and six house finches have been hatched in that nest alone during our five years in this house.

Our world seems determined to develop and rid itself of its natural roots, all in the name of progress. I feel incredibly blessed to have the opportunity to witness a small part of the beauty of life play out in front of my eyes.

For now, the nest sits empty. But I am optimistic we will get the chance to see another batch or two of baby birds start life’s journey before spring comes to a close.

In the meantime, my wife and I will continue to do what we can to provide a safe haven for all of these miracles to occur.

Introducing the Nathan Woelfel Outdoors Podcast

I am extremely pleased to announce that the Nathan Woelfel Outdoors podcast is now available on most major podcast platforms.

After much deliberation and a lot of encouragement from some impactful people in my life, I have decided to take the plunge into the podcasting space.

The show will focus on providing perspective and advice on a host of outdoor topics including hunting, fishing, and birding. The format will include a mix of solo episodes as well as appearances from guests who are involved in the outdoors.

It is my hope that this podcast will be an extension of the community I am trying to create with this website. I encourage each and every one of you to submit questions or provide topics you would like to hear discussed on the show either via email or by reaching out on Facebook or Instagram.

Follow the links below to listen. If you like what you hear, be sure to subscribe on your platform of choice so you can be sure you’ll never miss a new episode.

Thank you for your continued support of Nathan Woelfel Outdoors. This is an extremely exciting time, but we are just getting started.

The Nathan Woelfel Outdoors Podcast is currently available on:

Anchor

Apple Podcasts

Breaker

Google Podcasts

Pocket Casts

Radio Public

Spotify

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