By Kate Perkins (Editor – Our Neck of the Woods)
They call him “The Birdman.” Inside Gordon Seimers’ Crosslake store are the future homes of hundreds, maybe thousands of birds, and feeders galore for squirrels, birds and deer. There are probably more than 100 birdhouses and birdfeeders in Seimers’ store, and nearly all of them were made by Seimers’ own hands.
After retirement, Seimers began making bird feeders and bird houses, and has been selling his creations for more than 10 years. He’d always fed the birds and had bird houses in his yard, and he was always willing to build things from scrap wood he had around. Plus, he jokes, “the birds didn’t care how perfect the house was.” Seimers may joke that his houses aren’t perfect, but the birds sure seem to think so, and so do his customers.
For many years Seimers has sold the houses at flea markets in the summertime, attending 25-30 flea markets a year and selling hundreds of birdhouses and feeders in a summer. But when he had space in a building he owns in Crosslake, he decided to open his own store, called Birds Bats and Beyond. Before he retired, Seimers was an award-winning auctioneer, inducted into the Minnesota State Auctioneer’s Hall of Fame. He used to be in the livestock business, and at the time St. Paul, where he worked, was the world’s largest livestock center. He, along with two of his brothers, were auctioneers. Now Seimers’ nephew is an auctioneer, too. Today, at 88, Seimers makes all kinds of bird houses and feeders and staffs his store himself nearly every day. He also makes bat boxes, which he said are becoming popular, though it doesn’t seem he’s yet been nicknamed “The Batman” as well as “The Birdman.” Bat boxes are becoming popular, he said, because the bats eat mosquitoes- plus providing a place for the bats outside of one’s home can keep them out of attics.
Seimers has learned over the years what the birds (and bats) like- how they like to nest and how they like to eat. The purple martin houses have 10-12 rooms, so the birds can nest in colonies as they like. Wren houses have a small hole, because wrens will only enter houses with small holes. Robins, on the other hand, prefer a covered platform that’s open on three sides.
Some of Seimers’ best-selling feeders are large, recycled glass jars mounted horozontally on wooden stands. People put cobs of dried corn or seed in the feeder, and squirrels crawl inside the clear glass jar, where people can watch the squirrels eat through the glass.
Many of Seimers’ feeders use recycled materials, including the glass jars on the squirrel feeders, which come from Reed’s Market. The small glass containers (often former candle holders or ramekins) that hold jelly on the oriole feeders, another popular feeder, are also recycled. Seimers collects old license plates that become the roofs to birdhouses. Visitors love the birdhouses with Minnesota license plates especially as a souvenir. He also has license plates from several other states and Canadian provinces. The bat boxes are made with wood from former barns. It gives the boxes a weathered, natural look. And while many of Seimers’ creations use recycled materials (though many also use new materials), he doesn’t tout sustainability or “going green.” Instead it seems that the materials are simply the most practical for his desired outcome- a quality feeder or house that looks nice and holds up to the elements. But of all Seimers’ feeders, bat boxes and birdhouses, his best sellers are the wooden raised planters that he builds. They practically fly out of the store. In addition to the feeders and houses, Seimers sells bulk bird food and deer feed at his Crosslake store. While he sells numerous varieties, he prides himself on “Gordon’s Mix,” a special blend of bird feed that appeals to many of Minnesota’s birds and has less mess than other blends.
Through the years Seimers must have made thousands of bird feeders, bird houses, bat boxes, planters and deer feeders. He’s the areas biggest builder, he says, when it comes to the birds. Find Birds, Bats and Beyond in Crosslake on County Road 3, across from Crosslake Town Square.