JULIA BAYLY

Bird-brained behavior means war at Rusty Metal Farm

Posted July 10, 2014, at 1:16 p.m.
A northern parula warbler sizes up the bay window before launching an attack.
Julia Bayly | BDN
A northern parula warbler sizes up the bay window before launching an attack.
Not sure if it's the guard cat, the toy chicken, the hanging cans or the snow fence, but no attacking birds or zombies have been spotted at Rusty Metal Farm for a few days.
Julia Bayly | BDN
Not sure if it's the guard cat, the toy chicken, the hanging cans or the snow fence, but no attacking birds or zombies have been spotted at Rusty Metal Farm for a few days. Buy Photo

FORT KENT, Maine — It would seem I am at war with nature. Which is a bit odd, given my longtime and unflagging support of all furry and feathered creatures.

It is not a battle of my choosing, but here on Rusty Metal Farm, I was left with no choice other than to adopt a defensive posture.

Like many such wars, the root cause may well go back to a lack of understanding between cultures, or in this case, species.

Yes, the battle lines have jumped the species line and, for the moment, they are winning the air attack.

It began last weekend, a day after Tropical Storm Arthur blew through Maine, washing out the July 4 holiday.

The rains were letting up Sunday and I was starting to contemplate what sort of outdoor cleanup was awaiting me when the surprise attack was launched.

An onslaught of distinctive thuds and scrapings on my front bay window made me leap almost to the ceiling.

Quick disclaimer: Normally, I am not quite that jumpy, but the previous rainy day had been spent watching an AMC Walking Dead marathon. Trust me, 20 hours of zombies will make anyone a tad jumpy.

Turns out, the sounds made by birds flying into one’s windows do bear a disturbing resemblance to the sounds made by zombies when they come knocking.

“Poor little fella,” I thought after the bird slammed into the glass. “I hope he’s OK.”

He was more than OK. He was, in fact, just fine and dandy and on a mission.

For the next hour, this same bird attacked the window over and over again. Then he was joined by several of his friends, who were called in as reinforcements.

I had gone from Walking Dead to feeling like Tippi Hedren in Hitchcock’s “The Birds.”

Clearly, some recon was in order, so I managed to get a photo of the ringleader and post it to Facebook with a query on its breed and how to end the feathery barrage.

Never let it be said my Facebook friends are not responsive.

Two of them identified it as a northern parula warbler, with one adding, “they are very common here in the summer and have a very distinctive call, an ascending buzzy trill that falls over a cliff at the top.”

My other bird expert friend deemed it a “cool find,” with which I might agree if not for the nonstop thuds that were beginning to drive me a tad cuckoo.

Numerous friends posted comments on why the birds were behaving badly including confusion, flying under the influence after consuming fermented wild berries and “defending” their territory from their own reflections, which they perceived as interlopers.

Well, those birds looked pretty sane to me and I was not about to administer teeny-tiny breathalyzer tests or ask them to fly a straight line.

But I was ready to believe they were seeing reflections of trees, sky and themselves, which all combined to put them on DEFCON 1.

One suggestion was to place a black cutout of a bird of prey in the window to scare them.

Given I had not created an avian cutout since I used a tracing of my hand to create a Thanksgiving turkey back in first grade and was all out of construction paper, this did not seem a viable plan.

What did seem viable was an attempt to frighten the birds off by waving a stuffed toy chicken every time the warblers came for the window.

Not only did it have little effect, every time I shook that chicken I swear the birds’ “buzzy trill” turned into disparaging laughter.

Several other friends suggested hanging things in the window to break up the reflections.

That might work in some cases, but I can now say a series of empty Polar Seltzer cans hanging at different levels by twine does nothing.

I was down to two choices — introduce the birds to my cat Boris as suggested by one friend, or go all Star Trek on them and raise the shields.

In this case, the “shields” are sections of day-glo orange snow fencing stapled around each window, creating a net-like barrier between all of outdoors and the glass.

Finishing up, I put away the ladder and tools and waited. It did not take long. Soon, the squadron was back and somewhat stymied by the netting.

From late afternoon until dark they swooped down, landed on a cross section of the fencing and glared in the window.

I’ve not seen them since, which does leave me wondering if they are out there, just beyond my sight in the woods, conspiring with the squirrels for a ground invasion.

In the meantime, it may look a bit goofy and I doubt it will keep the zombies out, but that snow fence is proving to be warbler-proof as it enforces an uneasy truce.

Julia Bayly of Fort Kent is an award-winning writer and photographer who writes part time for the Bangor Daily News. Her column appears here every other Friday. She can be reached by email at jbayly@bangordailynews.com.

 

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