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15 Crazy minutes at the feeders
Lens: DA 55-300 Camera: K-70 Photo Location: Home 
Posted By: Tako Kichi, 12-23-2016, 10:24 PM

Recently my wife has been complaining because the local squirrel population has taken to raiding the bird feeders and she's tired of constantly having to fill them up while the birds are going hungry. We researched so called 'squirrel proof' feeders but all of them are extortionately expensive. We finally found some info on a cheap method of deterring the little tree rats and from the videos we saw it looked quite effective, further research also revealed that the same basic component can be used to make a dedicated squirrel feeder, two squirrels with one stone as it were! Armed with this info she set off to the local dollar store and returned with two metal 'Slinky' toys and a bag of peanuts.

'Slinkies!' I hear you say and we thought the same but they actually worked quite well. The trick is to slip the slinky onto the upright pole of the feeder and attach it at the top with zip ties. When the squirrel tries to shinny up the pole he encounters the slinky and has to go around the outside of it whereupon his weight causes the slinky to extend and he's plopped back onto the ground again! No matter how many times he tries he can't get past the slinky.

As to the slinky feeder that consists of a wire coat hanger with the 'twist' undone and then the wire is bent into a circle with a small hook formed into the end so that it can clip around the base of the original coat hangar hook part. The slinky is fed onto the wire and secured with more zip ties and it is then filled with peanuts (still in their shells) before the wire is hooked back onto itself. It is very effective and works well and costs practically nothing to make!

We put the stuff to work and sat back not expecting to see any action for a while, how wrong we were! The new feeder was soon noticed and then it turned into a feeding frenzy! In the space of 15 minutes we had multiple squirrels, at least 6 blue jays, a flock of finches and sparrows, junkos and a nuthatch! The new squirrel feeder kept the tree rats busy, the jays were going crazy picking up the stuff the squirrels knocked down and the smaller birds could enjoy their feeders in piece without being chased away by the furry raiders!

'There's no proof without pictures' as the old saying goes so here is a condensed version of those 15 crazy minutes:

'Oh, what's this? I've not seen this before!'



'It certainly smells interesting, in fact it smells like peanuts! Yummy!!!!!!!'



'Ha ha! Got one!



'Oh look, I can reach it from this side too!'



This little guy was content to pick up the dropped peanuts.



But when it came to eating them he got shy and scampered half-way down the driveway to hide in a pine tree. You'd hardly know he was there if you hadn't watched him run up there.



The commotion the squirrels were kicking up had attracted the blue jays who were waiting for their chance to grab a few goodies too. There were a couple of blue jay vs. squirrel spats. Here's one keeping look-out on the top of the bracket.



Meanwhile two of his buddies were grabbing peanuts off the ground.



This one was greedy! Several times we saw him pick up one peanut, move it backwards in his beak and then pick up a second one before flying away only to return a couple of minutes later to do it all again!



While the squirrels and jays were going crazy over the peanuts the small birds were able to use their feeders without being chased off by the usual bullies. We had several finches and sparrows turn up.





This is the first time we have ever seen a house finch on our feeders too (we had a hard time trying to decide if it was a house finch or a purple finch but according to our bird books and Mr. Google it is a house finch).



The suet feeder was also seeing some action with visits from a nuthatch and a junco.





All shots taken inside 15 minutes, through a window, using my K-70 and DA 55-300 (non-WR version) on a mono-pod in overcast conditions.

Conclusions:-

1. The slinky actually works as a deterrent to prevent squirrels climbing the pole (who-da-thunk-it!)

2. The slinky squirrel feeder works well although we did later modify it to make it even better. We reduced the diameter of the circle and added more zip ties to better distribute the slinky coils around it so that the gaps between the coils are smaller and more even and less peanuts fall out.

3. The small birds are actually getting some food now instead of the squirrels stealing it all.

4. I am liking this combination of K-70 and DA 55-300 more than I did on my K-30. The extra pixels and better ISO performance make a big difference.

5. I can't help wondering how much better the new 55-300 PLM would be. Yes I would lose a half-stop at each end but I would gain in less weight and super fast focusing and we all know how that one goes on the 55-300 right! Hmmmmmmmm??????

6. I noticed when posting these pics that despite it being the start of winter that the sap is still running in the old maple tree as shown by the 'bleeding' caused by driving screws into it's trunk!

Thanks for sticking with this very long post and I hope you enjoyed sharing my 15 crazy minutes!
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12-23-2016, 10:54 PM   #2
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Now that's a great story telling series.
12-23-2016, 11:11 PM   #3
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Thanks EM, glad you liked it.
12-23-2016, 11:41 PM   #4
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QuoteOriginally posted by Tako Kichi Quote
The slinky squirrel feeder works well although we did later modify it to make it even better. We reduced the diameter of the circle and added more zip ties to better distribute the slinky coils around it so that the gaps between the coils are smaller and more even and less peanuts fall out.
Nice, Get it patented !
You will be a squillionaire in no time.

12-24-2016, 08:49 AM   #5
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QuoteOriginally posted by Schraubstock Quote
Nice, Get it patented !
You will be a squillionaire in no time.
LOL...no chance to patent it I'm afraid, there's too many designs out in the wild already.

slinky squirrel feeder - Google Search
12-24-2016, 09:19 AM   #6
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My own solutions are a bit different but yours work.



The feeder on the right hanging from the fencing wire is our latest. The small birds can get inside it, the Jays tire of getting seeds from it quickly, squirrels can't get to it.

I have three feeding areas, the ground, the hanging feeders and a 12 foot long 1x6 rail ( a few inches can be seen on the far right, attached to the tree.)attached to two trees for the squirrels Jays and larger birds.
12-24-2016, 10:20 AM   #7
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Nice set-up Norm. Our biggest problem, photography wise, is that the window we are shooting through is tall and narrow so it really restricts where we can place feeders and still see them. It's not helped by the fact that the bottom of the window is 4.5 ft (1.4 m) from the floor and my wife is height restricted (5 ft 4 in or 1.6 m) so she can't see anything at ground level as her desk is under the window and she can't get close to it. In addition it's a south facing window so we constantly have to deal with a strong back-light unless it's overcast.

We do have a larger and lower window in the west wall of the house and we are thinking of putting some more feeders on that side (or moving the ones we have) which means we could sit and shoot as standing still for any length of time makes my hips hurt and you know what that's like!
12-24-2016, 12:06 PM   #8
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My biggest issue is the birds see the big huge "eye" looking at them and move to a spot where they are out of view. Because my set up is so big, there's lots of those places. You just never can completely win.

Sometimes I come out and there ae birds on the hanging feeders, I set up and take a couple of shots, now they are all over on the 1x6 deck rail. I turn 90º, now they are either back at the hanging feeders or on the ground.

12-24-2016, 12:43 PM   #9
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I know that feeling, I was all over the shop yesterday. Focus on the squirrel feeder, now the ground, then the bird feeder(s), then the squirrel half-way down the drive. Rinse and repeat as required!

I certainly gave the focus screw on that 55-300 a workout but boy is it slow to focus, the hunting doesn't help either. I learned my skills in the film days (like you) and I still get stuck in the old film mode of 'make every shot count 'cus every shot costs money' but yesterday I actually tried out burst mode on the K-70 for the first time. It's not a mode I generally use but I can see it has uses on fast moving subjects, yes the keeper rate went way down but at least I got some to keep!

I do have the DA 18-135 DC WR and could try that too I guess as the focusing would be way faster but I might miss the reach of the 300. I also have a 2x converter with aperture contacts (no AF unfortunately) but that would mean having to manual focus the 18-135 and I might lose out on light gathering too. The new 55-300 is looking more attractive every day but I've already spent way more than I wanted to on cameras and binoculars recently.
12-24-2016, 01:03 PM   #10
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My experience would be set the camera to first frame focus... then fire a burst, you need a bit if luck to catch the critters, sometimes I get 6 in focus, sometimes one or two, with the small birds you are totally dependant on them moving inside your depth of field. They are unpredictable about doing that. You are at the mercy of the gods of random bird movement. If you can shoot ƒ8 and higher ISO, the increase in DoF is your friend. ƒ11 and you start to lose resolution.

I've taken a few 18-135 images, but only on Chickadees and other birds I can walk right up to.



Some birds see me coming and rush the feeder when food is being put out. (I put a few chopped nuts and raisins on the top of the homemade feeder's sunflower seeds and there is competition to get them) For a few minutes I can get them with the 18-135, but it's kind of novelty thing. I have to have the camera around my neck when I'm filling the feeders.

All my early images were shot with the Sigma 70-300, the 55-300 is a much better lens.

Another thing I used to do with he Sigma 70-300 was shoot on the tripod with the 2 second timer for maximum clarity. The shots were random, but when it worked out it was definitely the ultimate for the combo.

Last edited by normhead; 12-24-2016 at 01:24 PM.
12-24-2016, 03:13 PM   #11
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Check out back AF button focusing. I have the DA 55-300, and I can focus on the feeder wires and shoot to my heart's content without the camera even thinking about AF. Change view, press back button to focus, back to no hunting. Best trick I ever learned from this forum's denizens and I have learned a lot here.
12-24-2016, 04:36 PM   #12
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I do have my camera set to the back focus button but I was rapidly changing what I was shooting at rather than concentrating on the feeder(s) or the base of the tree. The birds and squirrels were very active in all areas at the same time so it was a bit frantic to try to cover all the bases! I was also using a fairy large aperture (a) to allow a higher shutter speed, (b) to give me some bokeh, and (c) to try to keep the ISO lower so DOF was a bit shallow at times. I am new to the K-70 and still learning just how high I can push the ISO and still get acceptable images especially in overcast, flat, light. One thing I did learn is the K-70 is a lot more forgiving than the K-30 in those conditions.

I just checked the exif data on the above shots and all were shot at 1/750 sec, the aperture was either f4.5 or f11 and the ISO ranged from 400-6400 and I was shooting in TAV mode.

Last edited by Tako Kichi; 12-24-2016 at 06:39 PM.
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