Editor’s Note: The Quackers are three awesome ducks — Rusty, Richard and Sydney — from the canals of Venice who are on a mission to educate the community about the dangers of global warming and the importance of practicing sustainability, all while surfing the most gnarly waves possible.

Richard has always been a problem solver, the “go to” guy whenever something sticky came up. He has the ability to see things from many different perspectives, which really works for him. If Rusty or I hit a wall on a project, we run it by Richard and snap, a solution is born.

Recently something happened that turned Richard’s world upside down.  The “problem solver” ran into a problem that seemed to defy resolution.  That problem was a squirrel. It caused so much havoc and built such a lengthy “rap sheet” with Richard that he stopped referring to it as the “cute little squirrel” and started calling it “Public Enemy No. 1.”

Richard welcomes all creatures to our wildlife friendly yard. By providing food, water, cover and a place to raise young, he has created a magnet that attracts local, and on occasion, migrating wildlife.

Richard throws out a special welcome mat for his favorites, the birds.  When the weather starts to change, leaves begin to fall and food gets harder to find, he goes out of his way to make sure each bird feeder is brimming with black oil sunflower seeds. He says during this time of the year the nutritious protein and healthy oil from the seeds are just what a bird needs to fuel up for the coming winter days.

In a big tree in the courtyard, Richard set out multiple feeders and a combination drinking station/birdbath, creating a haven that allows us to enjoy the musical chirping of many different birds. Black phoebes, house finches, bushtits, hummingbirds, doves, and Richard’s favorites, tiny American goldfinches, all grace us with their presence. It was a place of joy and tranquility but that all changed the day Public Enemy No. 1 sauntered into the yard.

He was not the first squirrel to drop by. Scores of others had been quite content to nibble on fallen seeds, nose around a bit and move on. Not Public Enemy No. 1. He wanted it all and was determined to take it, feeder and all if necessary.

Richard met the challenge head on. He moved the feeders higher, lower, sideways and finally from the tree to a pole. He tried new designs and experimented with different materials but Public Enemy No. 1 would not leave those feeders alone. That acrobatic, high wire aerialist, one squirrel demolition crew continued to chew through wood, plastic and even metal to achieve his goal. As his “piece de resistance” that greedy little rodent chewed off all the perches so not a bird could eat.

Richard became desperate. He heard adding chili peppers to birdseed would not harm or bother the birds but would deter a worrisome squirrel.  He added his hottest, fiery New Mexico chili to the seed and was sure his problem was solved. He heard a noise as he walked away and turned to see Public Enemy No. 1 dangling upside down from the top of the bird feeder using both paws to shovel handfuls of chili laced birdseed into his mouth with no ill effect.

Richard was so obsessed with his problem he began to lose it. One day when we paddled out to surf, he just kept paddling. He might have ended up in Catalina if Rusty had not yelled and screamed for him to stop. When he finally did catch a wave that day he shot out in front of me, pearled, flipped his board and took us both down in a tremendous wipeout.

Since he had always been the “go to guy,” it made it hard for Richard to ask for help, even from us. The turning point for him finally came the night he served us ice cold pizza and bubbling hot ice cream for dinner and never realized it. At that moment he put away his pride and asked for help.

The first thing we did was call for take-out and then we dove into action. Rusty and Richard designed and built a new, finely meshed, steel reinforced feeder. After an exhaustive search of every yard sale in Santa Monica, I found a perfect large, slick surfaced, smooth-lipped, dome-shaped lampshade. I re-purposed it by hanging it as a guard between the hanging wire and the roof of the bird feeder. If my theory proved correct, Public Enemy No. 1 had just run out of luck.

It may have been Rusty’s last minute brainstorm that made it all work.  Thinking the squirrel might behave better if he had his own food and a place to eat, he borrowed an old dog dish from a neighbor, filled it with a blend of nuts, seeds and a big dollop of peanut butter and placed it in the newly designated squirrel zone. 

Several weeks have passed and still peace continues to reign in the courtyard. Since there was a name already on that old dog dish, Public Enemy No. 1 is now known as Fido.

Phyllis and the Quackers can be reached at phyllis@phyllischavez.com. The Quackers have a new, amazing Web site! Stories, pictures and a blog at www.thequackers.com.  

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