This won’t top the story my daughter told me last week. Someone she worked with got fired for stealing. There was a confrontation. There were tears. A tense meeting. A storming out of the office. Very dramatic.
But that’s a slice from her life, not mine.
No, this won’t top that, but hey, it’s summer vacation, and I’m home alone, so the drama is a little more lame. This afternoon, I ventured out to our screen porch and was attacked by home invaders…the avian sort. I am not really a bird person, which means that not only can I not tell you what kind of birds were flapping frantically above my head, but I can also tell you that I did not respond by saying, “Oh how cute! There are birds flapping frantically above my head. I hope they don’t hurt themselves.”
No, in fact this was not my reaction. It was more like, “Oh crap! What was that? I’m being attacked by rabid birds?!”
Now, in a calmer moment, I might have reconsidered the disease descriptor that I attached to these beasts, but it wasn’t exactly a calm moment. When massive wings are beating near your face, when at any moment, giant scaly talons could be skewering your neck, when a spear-like beak is hurtling toward your eyes, you sometimes conflate bat diseases with bird diseases.
I did recover quickly, I’m proud to say. I scrambled out to the backyard, caught my breath, politely held the door, and invited my winged guests to exit. From this safer distance, I could also ascertain the size of my feathered foes. I believe they would fall into the category known to bird experts as…tiny. Massive wings? I’d give ‘em about a 5-inch span. Giant talons? Uh, no. Now, I tend to call all birds of this size sparrows, but I could be wrong. For all I knew these could have been wrens or titmouses (titmice?).
Whatever they were, they were not taking me up on my polite invitation. Instead, they preferred flying headlong into the screens. I tried to inform them that tiny as they were, they still were not tiny enough to fit through the holes in my screen. They paid no heed. “Pretty sure we can,” they seemed to say, “All we need to do is get up enough momentum.”
It didn’t work. I tried whistling for them at the door. I whistled every birdsong I knew. I tried “Rockin’ Robin,” though even I knew that was unlikely to be a match. I tried “Blackbird,” (again, just a favorite of mine, not really appropriate for these greyish-brownish fellows). I switched to inspirational, and tried “The Wind Beneath My Wings” followed by “Fly Like an Eagle.” Nothing seemed to attract these birds. I wracked my brain for the lyrics to “Bye bye Birdie,” but eventually realized that wasn’t actually a song. It probably wouldn’t have worked anyway. I finally resorted to “Freebird,” (usually an audience favorite). Still no luck.
After a few minutes of whistling and holding the door, I concluded that perhaps my presence at the opening was actually the problem. I propped the door open with a patio chair and bravely scurried through the porch toward the door to our house. This caused some consternation for my pair of beakbangers. They took a brief break from their face-plants and buzzed over my head. I managed to slip into the house without letting the birds in. This allowed me to observe their escape attempts from a safe vantage point. It was fascinating.
The screen porch has one wooden wall that is the side of our house. To their credit, the birds did not try to fly through this wall. The rest of the porch is mostly screen, including the “wall” with the opened doorway facing the backyard. The two birds seemed intent on trying the screen that faced the front yard – surprisingly impenetrable. And the one that faced the side yard. Similarly unyielding. After a few minutes, they discovered some other attractions. The wind chimes made a good perch, from which they could survey the entire scene…before again trying the front-facing screen. “Damn! I thought I had it that time!”
“Ya know, we haven’t tried the side screen in the last 15 seconds. Let’s try it again.”
“Good ide–” Crash. “Nope. Still locked.”
I felt fortunate that we had a double-paned glass door, because if these guys ever discovered the house side of the porch, they could do some damage. At this point, my dog, McGee padded up to the door (on my side) and politely asked if he could exit. Now McGee is some kind of herding mutt. Again, I’m not so good with the particulars of breed, but we know he’s very bossy, and he becomes concerned when we wander off. I thought perhaps he might be helpful in this situation. After all, he has totally mastered the concept of door, and he’s not the world’s brightest dog.
McGee exited the house, sniffed around the porch for a bit, and proceeded through the open door. Leading by example. If the birds were impressed, they didn’t show it. At this point, they had explored the table, the couch, two of the chairs and both wind chimes. They had even rammed the screen just to the left of the open door. No luck. This really was a tough puzzle to solve.
I (like you, several paragraphs ago, most likely) lost interest and returned to the book I was reading. When McGee whined at the door, I let him back into the house and discovered that one of the birds had (probably by accident) exited the porch, apparently leaving his wingman to fend for himself. This little fellow was becoming discouraged. I felt bad for him. “Perhaps I should try to steer him toward the door,” I thought. Summoning all the bravery that my compassion could inspire, I cautiously slipped onto the porch, being careful not to let this bird into our house. If he thought screens were tricky!
Our little jailed bird was catching his breath on the back of a chair. I veered to his right, thinking I would leave him fewer options, and he’d have to fly toward the door. Wrong. He panicked. Flew into the rear screen, side screen and rear screen again in the space of two seconds, the last with a thud, followed by a sigh and a plummet to the floor. “Geez, I’m trying to help, here, buddy.” He managed to stumble under a chair, and I decided I’d done enough to help. I moved his favorite roosting chair in front of the doorway, thinking perhaps if he were actually perched in the open doorway, he might be able to problem solve his way through it (in school we call that scaffolding).
I returned to my book, and 30 minutes later, when my daughter got home, I updated her on the dramatic stand-off. She shrugged and said, “So, we should eat inside?” I was hoping for a bit more interest, but then, she did have the robbery drama for comparison. To humor me, she watched for a while as our dinner heated up. As we stared through the window, I gave her the blow-by-blow of the afternoon’s adventure. “Wow, Dad, and I was worried you might be getting bored.” I’ve noticed she is prone to sarcasm after a long day at the office. Just then, our bird of little brain, hopped up on the ottoman, flapped to the table, launched, and glided through the doorway. Sarah turned back toward the kitchen. “Well, that was exciting.”
I started whistling, “Norwegian Wood,” (subtle, I know) wondering what excitement tomorrow would bring.