Battle of wits with the birds

By Marla Boone - Contributing columnist

Thank goodness John James Audubon isn’t alive to witness this. The birds he admired and memorialized in prints have pitted their wills against mine. It’s still too close to call.

When the sun starts to set and that beautiful rosy glow lights up the sky, it’s like an uncoiling sigh of relief to the body to sit on a quiet porch and enjoy the view. A little peace and tranquility never hurt anyone and these days peace and tranquility have become rarer than diamonds and almost as valuable. I personally prefer my peace and tranquility to be absorbed in a relatively tidy setting and birds have taken it upon themselves to create the very antithesis of tidy. Untidy to too weak a word. What the birds are doing to my porch is something akin to an open sewer.

I don’t blame the birds for wanting to be on the porch. There are a dozen enticing rafters and a nice plump ledge all the way around. Both are perfect for roosting and nesting and other assorted bird-intensive activities. It’s dry and sheltered from harsh winds. There are nearby strawberries and pears. The birds eat, nest, and then do what follows eating and they do that a lot. If I were a bird I’d want to move in, too. But, to paraphrase Gary Cooper, this porch ain’t big enough for the two of us. (And if there were just one bird I could probably live with that.)

Birds, of course, are all part of nature’s plan so I didn’t want to resort to firearms to discourage them from defiling my space. Well, not at first anyway. I read in a magazine that hanging CDs (remember those?) from strings will humanely discourage the birds from visiting. The idea is that the glittering shards of light created when CDs waft in the breeze will frighten the birds away. That magazine article was obviously written by someone unacquainted with tough country birds. I imagine city birds are made of strong stuff too, but their rural cousins certainly aren’t afraid of a little shiny metal. My porch looked like something out of a disco movie and the birds, while they didn’t exactly start to boogie down, were totally unaffected by the flashes and reflections of Fleetwood Mac.

Since the birds weren’t going to leave on their own volition, the next step was to roust them out. Out came the power washer. Down came years of dusty nests and other unsightly debris. There are trees all over. There is absolutely no reason the birds can’t condominiumize those and leave my porch alone. I hung netting from the rafters of the porch, thinking this physical barrier would be enough of a deterrent. The birds could live in a tree or a bush or my neighbor’s porch. After much cutting and fitting and stapling, I had the entire top of the porch barricaded. I went into the house to clean up and to pour myself a little no-bird celebratory beverage. Then I intended to sit and enjoy a doo-doo-less environment. No doo-doo was a boo-boo.

I was in the house approximately 15 minutes. When I came back out, there were no fewer than five — count ‘em — five — birds up in the rafters, inside the netting. I did not like the birds up in the netting and let me assure you the birds didn’t either. They were fluttering about frantically trying to get out. Every once in a while, one of them would touch down on the netting and this provoked a whole new level of frantic fluttering. I, of course, was mad at the birds. This was not fruitful but you have to understand the birds were being unreasonable. First they couldn’t wait to get in and now they couldn’t wait to get out. Very childish of them.

There may be more hazardous duty than standing under a bunch of trapped birds who are displaying their dismay in a most unpleasant, not to mention messy way, but I can’t think of it right off-hand. There I stood, staring up into this vortex of panicked birds. Looking up was not a good idea. After I put on some eye protection, I tried to find out how the birds were still getting up in the rafters. Here is what I learned. Birds can squeeze through a small space. A very small space. Even after I hammered over every visible access, birds were still getting in.

Birds have a brain that weighs 15 grams. The most surprising thing about this is that Google contains even this sort of minutia. Fifteen grams is about one-thirtieth of a pound. From this I concluded birds aren’t very smart but they’re intensely driven. Their drive to be on the porch was apparently much stronger than my drive to, well, drive them out.

We (meaning me) declared a truce. I agreed not to get out the pellet gun and to cover the porch furniture with a tarp. The birds agreed to keep living on the porch and to continue to make a mess. It’s an uneasy peace but it’s the best I can do until I find better net, more patching material, or a hungry cat.

By Marla Boone

Contributing columnist

Marla Boone resides in Covington and writes for Miami Valley Today.

Marla Boone resides in Covington and writes for Miami Valley Today.