I've spent a lifetime trying to outsmart the squirrels; my wife gets quite a kick out of the battle. I've been using duct work for years as a cheap and reliable way to keep the furry rats off the bird feeder. Don't get me wrong, squirrels are welcome to some feed, but they have to eat at a feeder just for them.
Ductwork certainly isn't the prettiest solution, but it can be painted. I don't mind the looks, I'm just glad to keep the squirrels away.
Attracting birds is a great idea for gardeners. Once they get used to coming around they'll continue the practice during the spring and summer feasting on all sorts of bugs. Besides food, the birds need a place to hide and nest like evergreen shrubs or trees and they need a source for water. Moving water seems to attract them better than just a bird bath, but any water will help.
Feed the birds and squirrels -- just not at the same feeder.