Monday, August 17, 2009

July 4th, 2009: Living with Nature

And when I say living "with" nature, I mean literally sharing my living space. In the days leading up to July 4th weekend, I had heard birds chirping. Loudly. I thought they were in my chimney. I tried ignoring them. But my chair was feet from the chimney, and gosh darn it, those birds were LOUD. I was losing it. I was instant messaging with a friend in Minneapolis, and she asked me if I had actually looked up the chimney. Looked? Up the chimney? And if I saw birds, what would I do? And by then I would surely have scared the bird poop out of them, which would likely land on my face, as I was looking up, right? Not a good scenario.

But then... the chirping just wouldn't stop and the idea of looking had been planted in my brain. I got my big flashlight, moved the very old andirons out of the fireplace, and laid down on my back... like plumbers do under sinks. I tentatively turned on the flashlight and peered upwards. Nothing. In fact, I could see a bit of sky up there -- encouraging. Satisfied I got up. Put the flashlight away. Settled back into my chair.

And heard chirping. But this time the chirping was accompanied by fluttering of wings. Mystified, I got up, and starting bending over towards the fireplace and walls, listening. Oh my gosh! I have birds IN MY WALLS! As in BEHIND THE SHEETROCK!

The next day Tom was over. The chirping and fluttering continued. He could hear it too, and now so could Greta -- who was certain that if she sniffed vigorously enough in that part of the wall where the wood trim met the fireplace brick she could pull the birds out of the wall. I moved furniture to that corner to keep her away. Sensing confirmation of what she already suspected -- prey was in the house! -- she paced and tried to strategically end up in that corner of the room. Night came. I went to sleep to chirping.

The next day I went knocking on neighbors' doors. These were can-do women. I needed help. I was pulling down sheetrock. The birds must be set free. Alas, they were not home.

I emailed a neighbor -- "I have birds in my walls!" She shot back, "Wait until winter. My first year here I had 3 exterminators with rifles shooting tree rats out of trees in my backyard. I nearly moved out of my house the first month I was here." Tree rats? Rifles? Clearly that's a story I must hear, but right now? Birds. Behind sheetrock. And remember the neighbor's story about raccoons and floor furnaces? Insert that story here.

So now it is Friday night, July 3rd. The Friday before a long holiday weekend. 5:50 p.m. I am contemplating a hotel. I call Wild Birds Unlimited, and explained my situation: birds, sheetrock, trim around fireplace... They suggested I call the DFW Wildlife Coalition. I do. The woman on the phone suggested a net. And a friend. And that maybe I should open the windows. Um yeah. The windows that are painted shut. Then she suggested I call 911 Wildlife. A humane animal rescue group. By now it's 6 p.m. -- the phone mail system says they close at 6 but to leave a message. Dubious but desperate I leave a voice mail describing my plight.

Less than 10 minutes later, my phone rings. It's them! They get the story, and tell me they will dispatch a "team" to my house -- will 9 a.m. be okay with me? They will call first. The team leader will be Robert.

Encouraged, I go to bed.

The one man "team" arrives: Robert. he has an array of cool tools and gadgets. Me, I am crouched on a chair in a launch position with my camera. He removes the mantle, removes the trim, and snakes a camera on a cable into my wall and begins making bird noises. Impressed, I joke with him about that being part of the interview process for his job. He says this isn't even his real job -- he's a sociology student. (?!) He fishes around in the wall for a few minutes, "shushing" me so he can listen. Then he sits back and prounounces, "I'm afraid our little friend has shuffled off his mortal coils." ? I have William Shakespeare in my livingroom, making bird noises.

Short cut to the end of the story: One bird didn't make it; it did its final shuffle in a used McDonald's sack. Robert left, 20 minutes later we heard more bird noises, Robert returned, apologizing (needlessly -- those Eastern Sparrows are feisty little things) profusely, located a second bird out of reach, we left it 2 exit routes, and we just hope he flew out and didn't shuffle.

I learned all sorts of helpful tips from Robert. And the visit was only $75 for probably 3 hours of work. He answered all my questions about raccoons and possum, and gave my house a winter critter preventative maintenance review and me a list of things to do. Handy, that. Here's a link to this great resource:

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