The calendar says it’s May, so it must be time for the annual snowbird migration from the now-too-warm south to the more comfortable north. As I rip up the April page, I automatically shift into transition mode. If you’ve been following my essays for a year or more, you already know that for me this means a week of frantic packing, cleaning, lint removal, straightening and everything else it takes in order to leave our home looking like no one has ever lived there. This also means no time to compose a new blog post. So I offer the one below, which no doubt will be as true this May as it was the year in which it was written. Okay, birds, let the games begin!
How I Spent My Summer Vacation
Winter in Florida is not without its benefits, but each May I do look forward to returning to the Northeast. So it was with considerable delight that I anticipated my few months in Connecticut. Little did I know that this summer would pit woman against nature and I would become an unwilling extra in an Alfred Hitchcock movie!
It all started early one morning in June. The sky had just become light when my husband was perturbed enough to risk awakening me. “Listen,” he asked, “do you hear it?” “This better be good,” I responded. He said “I hear a rapping and a tapping.” “You woke me up to recite The Raven?” “No, there’s a noise, like someone tapping with a hammer.” I hadn’t heard the rapping, but the insistent sound that came next was my car alarm.
I was out of bed and up the stairs to get a good look at whatever it was that had disturbed my vehicle, and my sleep. Imagine my shock when I spied the grand-daddy of all woodpeckers pecking away at my Toyota. This cannot have a good result, I told myself, and began banging on the window to frighten him away. “Take thy form from off my car,” I yelled at the bird, in my best Edgar Allen Poe mode. He flew away, but unfortunately, did not quoth “nevermore.”
Later that day, as I embarked on my endless list of errands, I glanced at my left side-view mirror, and to my utter astonishment, it was cracked to pieces. That deranged bird! He had been pecking away at his own image!
Fast-forward to $200 later, a new piece of glass, and utter disbelief on the part of the serviceman who fixed it. Now fast-forward to two days later, when I entered my car only to find the same mirror cracked again. Obviously, mad Woody had not heard the adage about lightening, and had struck twice. “You had better cover those mirrors,” the serviceman said when I told him to order another piece of glass. And, no, there was no discount for two purchases in the same week.
It was an expensive lesson, but for the rest of the summer I compulsively folded in my side-view mirrors every night, and warned anyone who parked in my driveway to do the same. Management took no responsibility for mirrors that were stationary. I don’t know what became of Woody after that, although I did hear a rumor about a mysterious breakage of a neighbor’s picture window.
So pumped was I by my success in foiling the crazy red bird that I decided to take on the squatter sparrows. There were four of them – two couples who had built nests on either side of my deck awning, under the safety of the eaves. Out of respect for the circle of life, and although I was getting a terrible sunburn, I didn’t dream of lowering the awning and disturbing
the pre-natal activities of the females. And what’s the inconvenience of bird poop all over my chair cushions compared to bringing fledglings into the world? And so what if speaking over their chatter caused us to shout? I even named them. The couple on the right were Lucy and Ricky; the couple on the left, Fred and Ethel.
But May turned into June, June became July, and still the birds were there. The babies, if there had been any, must be long gone, but still the parents remained, causing my entire deck to become uninhabitable for humans. Enough was enough. It was time for the Ricardos and the Mertz’ to move on. I was cancelling the show. Armed with cleaning equipment and thick rubber gloves, I set out to dismantle the nests and reclaim my territory. But like the swallows to Capistrano, the sparrows returned.
I caught all four of them rebuilding. Twigs, grasses, feathers, and of course, more poop were everywhere. I needed professional help. The man in the hardware store sold me a giant roll of mesh netting which he advised I place over the spots where they build. Never underestimate sparrows. They just incorporated the netting into their nests and went on building.
The lady at the Audubon Society suggested shiny mylar balloons. She assured me that birds were afraid of shiny objects. So I hung balloons and ribbon from my awning. But these sparrows had obviously sought treatment for their phobia. The treatment was successful.
A naturalist friend advised me to hang small stuffed animals from the awning so the birds would think that predators were lurking. By now, I was so desperate that I stole teddy bears from my grandchildren when they were at camp, and strung them up by their necks. As a result, besides looking like a bird sanctuary, my deck now resembled a birthday party for the Adams Family.
So went the rest of the summer. The birds constructed and I destructed. My obsession was to stay one step ahead. I’m pleased to report that I finally won, sort of. They had found another construction site. But as I still washed bird poop off my windows on a regular basis, I knew they were nearby, conspiring with the woodpecker, and patiently waiting for next year.