The subject of this column will be the birdfeeder in my backyard. I see your eyes rolling back in your head — your birdfeeder? Really?

Really. There are plenty of worthy issues to talk about, from local to global, but I’m guessing you’re tired of hearing about them. So I ask you to read on; there are lessons to be learned.

Birdfeeder veterans will guess that this will have something to do with squirrels, but this is only partially correct; the situation is far more complicated.

Our backyard is a 20-foot-wide enclosure behind our house. A little deck with a table and two chairs can be reached through a sliding glass door from the kitchen. Just off the deck, a pole-mounted birdfeeder attracts several dozen species of birds. We love our birdfeeder exactly where it is.

Enter the squirrels: relentless, acrobatic looters who must be completely defeated before any birdfeeder can survive. Much human ingenuity has gone into birdfeeders to thwart them.

We have a well-designed, carefully placed birdfeeder. The squirrels can’t make the jump to the feeder from anywhere, and the sleek metal cylinder joined to the feeder from below cannot be scaled; only winged creatures can reach the perches.

But the tight quarters of the yard has led to unintended consequences.

Squirrels would wander through, take a quixotic tilt at the feeder, and move on. I reveled in their repeated and abject failure.

But they soon discovered that they don’t have to go to the trouble of trying. Voracious and messy grackles and jays hogged the perches, making the seed level in the feeder drop as fast as an SUV gas gauge, and sending showers of seeds floating to the ground like manna.

Word has gotten out. The area under the birdfeeder has become an all-day tension convention. Fights break out as squirrels, chipmunks, and other ground-feeding birds vie for space.

The action has spilled onto our deck, turning it into a rodent Club Med. If they’re not chasing each other, they’re lounging brazenly on the table and chairs. Are those licorice Tic-Tacs on every deck surface? Nope — squirrel poop.

We had had enough; we would retake the backyard.

The root problem, ironically, was not the squirrels; it was the birds. But we couldn’t ask the grackles and jays to stop throwing their food.

We went up Burr Street to the Audubon store on for a consultation, and learned that we lacked a key accessory to deal with the grackles and jays — a clear plastic skirt that fits snugly around the birdfeeder, four inches above the perches. Voilà!

Now, I tip my hat to the rare grackle or jay that can get to the perches, but they’re too cramped to settle in and chow down.

This created more perch time for the small and midsize birds. Mission accomplished? Not even close. Smaller birds are messy, too, and they made just as much manna as the big guys.

The squirrels saw no difference at ground level. It was only a small consolation to see a black squirrel, and watch a fox sleuthing through the yard.

We still needed to intercept the seed before it reached the ground while denying the squirrels the chance to climb to the Promised Land.

A deep dive into the garage and a trip to Home Depot for chicken wire led step by step to the construction pictured here. I think you will agree that I have gone where no man has gone before.

This was not one grand stroke of genius, but rather the end result of a test of wills between human and rodent.

As the squirrels revealed the defects of each prototype, I countered with an improvement. Version 6.0 seems pretty good. There’s a bonus: I can recycle the seed I catch.

I have come to see version 6.0 as a metaphor for the lengths humankind will go to arrange the natural world to their liking. We can succeed, but there is a price to pay.

Have I gotten a little carried away? Maybe a little. Is 6.0 perfect? No; some seed still makes it to the ground. But for now, order has been restored. If you appreciate functional beauty, here is your paradigm.

I suspect there is a gifted squirrel out there who will defeat 6.0, but I will calmly respond with version 7.0. It will be nothing personal.

I, the human, will have dominion over my patch of earth.

Ron Blumenfeld is a Fairfield writer and retired pediatrician. His "Moving Forward, Looking Back" appears periodically. He can be reached at: