Something is radically different this year on my apartment balcony and it has nothing to do with climate change! My second floor apartment balcony is my most used living space all summer. At 6 x 19 feet, that is meager 114 sq. feet for my garden of twenty some planters, room for a couple of lawn chairs and a small table. For seven years I have successfully grown and enjoyed exotic and everyday common plants here.
The change started this spring when the tenant on the floor above me decided it might be great to have a couple of hanging plants and a birdfeeder. I would venture a guess that he had no idea of the hoards of squirrels and chipmunks would soon follow. A birdfeeder in a seven storey high rise apartment building and above the main entrance to the building? I have no objection to feeding birds in the fall and winter seasons…but in the summer the birds are quite capable and expected to feed themselves. If one wants to enjoy and feed birds (even by hand) check out the nearby waterfront trail or town parks.
The change happened rather suddenly this spring. After many hours of cleaning up leaves and refuse after the snow melted, in a few days the balcony was covered in what was determined to be bird seeds. This went on daily for several days, I could not get the balcony floor clean. To make matters worse, every time I enter the apartment, there are seeds tracked onto my carpets, now I daily have to clean the balcony and vacuum my floors. Did you know that squirrels and chipmunks can climb straight up the walls of a multi-story brick building, I am here to tell you that they can do this quite well, I have seen them do it a thousand times recently.
After some hesitation, I approached my neighbor, introduced myself and asked if he happened to have a bird feeder on his balcony. Turns out that yes he does. He has a normal feeder suspended from the balcony ceiling and a rather large ‘table-top’ feeder as well. Seems every squirrel and chipmunk for miles around really enjoys this ‘free-range’ feeder. To his credit and my hell, he is very successful in attracting every bird species in the Port Hope area! I explained that I thought it only fair to discuss my problem with him rather than going to the building management to see if they had a bird feeding policy…or maybe they should. It seems appropriate to mentioned here that getting results from our building management is slower than an ice cube melting in the freezer.
After a very amicable conversation with Lenny, he agreed to clean up all the loose seeds and try to control their migration off his balcony. Because his job takes him away from home for many days at a time we decided to wait a few days to see if the situation improved. At the time of this post, we have not had a chance to talk again. The seed problem has only improved slightly but the squirrel and chipmunk problem has intensified. These two varmints have caught on to my plans to get rid of them. One evening last week end while I was out for a few hours, I returned home to find my prized mint plants obtained from Linwood Trout Farms pure, cold water stream, overturned and potting soil everywhere. They really enjoy digging holes in most of my other potted plants. Are they looking for food or a place to store their winter nuts or are they just trying to peeve me off?
This is the one and only point I have scored on them. A couple of coat hanger metal ‘spikes’ cut about five inches long and inserted into the planter soil near the top seems to cure their digging habits considerably, not sure it if hurts them but it works well. Another trick (that sure does not work) is to catch them coming down the brick wall from the third floor of the building and give them a heavy dose of water spray from a spritzer bottle with a touch of vinegar added. They have to move slower coming down the wall versus going up which gives me more time to douse them. I really believe that they think I am only playing games as they are back a short time later for more!
The squirrels have no fear of humans and I have snapped many pictures of them. The chipmunks on the other hand are somewhat afraid of humans, they are so lightning fast and maybe they recognize a camera. These ‘cute’ little creatures are the terror of the other local pests. Trying to get a good close-up photo of them scaling the wall is proving to be near impossible. I have spent many hours on the balcony with the camera on the tripod (very unusual for me) and set it to flash at just the right moment. I have two days before this post is due to be published, maybe I will get lucky with the photo.
One day now until this post is due to be published and everything has changed dramatically! Upon stepping out onto the balcony for my morning coffee…disaster! In the early morning hours, the varmints have discovered that if they can’t dig up the ‘spiked’ planters on the shelves…they will simply dump them onto the floor. Hey, I never said they were stupid, guess that changes the score in this post’s tittle. The problem now continues much worse than ever. Every time the ‘bully’ mourning doves, and this happens continuously during the day, fly onto the third floor balcony for a snack, you can expect to see a massive cloud of bird seed (the same thing with the varmints) come floating down to my second floor balcony. What the heck are they doing up there and how much feed is available to them? As I cannot possibly keep these seeds continually cleaned up…guess what happens now. Yeah, now all the smaller birds will congregate, eat and crap everywhere on my balcony.
My gardening has pretty much stopped for this season and the battle continues to save what little I have. It is said that once the varmints and birds are treated this well, that you will never get rid of them. It seems that unless I can come up with a reliable cure for the problem, does this mean I will have to give up my right to a clean, quiet and peaceful retreat (balcony) that is supposedly guaranteed by monthly rent payments? No way, the battle will continue.
PS: No varmints (or birds) were harmed in anyway during the penning of this post only because they are just too fast and smart for this old guy!