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One of the few benefits of this pandemic is that it’s at least provided the opportunity for us to tap into our inner-Thoreau and let loose with a little deep introspection (in between non-stop YouTube videos). But ol’ HDT had the benefit of Walden Pond to help him get deep into belly button contemplation—how does an urban dweller such as myself get into the chill drill?
Dollarama. (I bet you didn’t see that answer coming!) Wait, you ask, what does a skeezy low-cost purveyor of poorly made crapola have to do with achieving enlightenment? Well, on one of my super infrequent trips there to buy dish brushes and Nibs in a package just a wee bit smaller than you’d find in a regular store, I came across the key to pandemic salvation: a $2.50 bird bell. For those of you who don’t know, a bird bell is a pressed mass of bird seed that you hang in your tree in the hopes that it will attract birds. Or at least more birds than squirrels. Or if you like squirrels, you’re golden from the get go, you secret rat lover.
I don’t know what compelled me to buy it. It clearly wasn’t the price—$2.50 is a princely sum at Dollarama. There are entire aisles that don’t cost that much. But we’d been talking about birds in our editorial meetings so I decided to give it a whirl…and that’s when my life changed forever. I hung it in my tree and almost immediately after heading back in, nature beat a path to my door. The first to come were the chickadees (black-capped chickadees I later learned), and these li’l fellas were so inquisitive and seemingly grateful for the sustenance that it made the rest of my stupid worries melt away.
And that was just the start; in the days that came they were joined by the always kind robins, and the truly gorgeous Northern flicker.
And then, my personal choice for the bird of Canada, the Steller’s Jay. No bird more personifies how jacked Westerners get it in this country that the obviously inferior Blue Jay gets all the press and the Gordon Lightfoot songs, while the badass, but still-approachable Steller’s Jay plays second fiddle.
Sure the squirrels showed up and tried to ruin everything, but I was so serene I just chalked it up to them being squirrels. Nature, man.
There are a few provisos I should offer. First and foremost, I have no idea if these bells are good or bad for the birds, and I mean that both nutritionally and behaviour-wise. Given that they come from Dollarama they’re inherently suspy in terms of nutrition. The ingredients are listed as cut corn, red milo, white millet, black oil sunflower seeds and gelatin, all of which seem healthy enough (well save for the one made from cow hooves). The website says it’s a “quality pet product,” which is 100% not the case. Also, did you know Dollarama has a website?
I did source an obviously superior product from Wild Birds Unlimited called Hot Pepper Cranberry Bell, which seems like a joke item you’d buy in a novelty store but it turns out the hot pepper keeps the squirrels away and doesn’t bug the birds. But it’s almost four times the price. Plus, as funny as it might be to see a squirrel sweat like Dua Lipa on Hot Ones, I’m pretty sure you’d lose the Thoreau vibe. Other than that though, pony up the toonie and two bits and get ready for the zen.