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Published: Sunday, September 8, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

Trial and error leads to a starling-proof feeder

  • Mark Messing designed this suet bird feeder to keep the starlings out.

    Photo by Mark Messing

    Mark Messing designed this suet bird feeder to keep the starlings out.

Starlings have been a years-long problem at Herald reader Mark Messing's suet feeder.
"At that time, large flocks of starlings would clean out the suet feeder in an hour. Over the years I tried to adapt my feeder to defeat them. My first response was to cover up all but the bottom row of the suet feeder; that helped some," he said.
"They would grip the outer edges of the flat tail board and eat more than I was comfortable with. The next thing I did was put the suet in a horizontal box with an open bottom and a round tail brace. The starlings were defeated but flickers (and others) used it less."
Messing returned to the drawing board, opting for a vertical covered cage with a round tail brace.
"The starlings would hang on to the wire of the cage and became a problem again. The next solution was to mount free-turning perches along the bottom of each side. All birds that came to feed would land on the perch, and would brace their tails in the round tail brace to feed," Messing said.
Then Messing moved the perch out 1/4-inch so that the starlings weren't large enough to brace their tail and feed at the same time without flapping their wings.
"A few of the starlings seem to stand side ways on the perch so they don't have to flap their wings. I'm now satisfied with the result. There are (fewer) starlings then there used to be. I wish they would all disappear in America."
As to the upside of starlings, while they eat the larva of crane flies, Messing points out that so do flickers.
Robber flies: Dragonfly and bird expert Dennis Paulson, who writes Northwest Nature Notes, a blog of Tacoma's Slater Museum of Natural History, is a great communicator of many things natural.
His latest blog focuses on robber flies and their prey.
"An inch-long robber fly can latch onto a flying dragonfly three times its size and bring it down to the ground instantly with a paralyzing bite," Paulson wrote on his blog, latermuseum.blogspot.com.
Arrows and bullets: It's almost fall, which means rifles and bows have entered the woods. For hikers sans arrows and ammo, it's a time to remember who are your forest companions and add a bit of caution to your 10 essentials list.
Archery hunts for deer are underway, as well as hunting seasons for grouse, mourning doves, cottontail rabbits and snowshoe hares. Other seasons set to open this month include archery hunts for elk and muzzleloader hunts for deer.
Bear season is on the books, and a youth-only hunt for ducks, geese, pheasant and other game birds is this month.
The chances of being mistaken for a deer or a bear are slim but wearing bright hunter orange, also called safety orange, may be worth your peace of mind.
It's the same color used for traffic cones and other construction zone markings, as well as the required color for parts of hunters' gear.
For more information about fishing, hunting and wildlife viewing, go to Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife at wdfw.wa.gov/weekender. These reports are updated throughout the month to provide current information about recreational opportunities around the state.
A mix of art and nature: The "Endless Forms Most Beautiful" exhibit at Seattle's Burke Museum runs through Sept. 15 in the Burke Room.
For nine months, the students of the University of Washington's Natural Science Illustration certificate program have learned a centuries-old tradition of combining art with the intricacies of nature.
The result is beautiful and educational.
The museum is open daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. The Burke Room is open most of the time. For more information, call 206-543-7907 or go to www.burkemuseum.org.

Columnist Sharon Wootton can be reached at 360-468-3964 or www.songandword.com.

Story tags » Libraries & MuseumsBird-watching

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