By Kevin Burton
To the kingdom of animals I say, may God bless you, prosper and comfort you. Just keep your distance and we’ll be fine.
This I say because we had unwanted lodgers at my place last month. A family of birds made a nest in a light fixture in the middle of our front porch.
All visitors who observed this, did so with some hilarity. My wife and I, less so.
You see they didn’t bother to build a bathroom into their nest. Thus their unwilling human landlords were confronted periodically with the latest evidence of the digestive systems of birds and the power of gravity.
This is why I took to charging out the front door like a wide receiver in the mornings on the way to work, with my briefcase and my lunch. It was straight to the railing, then BOOM, quick lateral right to the front of the steps, then out to the car. It’s how I avoided the middle of the porch, the poop zone.
It is almost certainly true, to paraphrase Longfellow, that into each life some bird poop must fall. There are certain mathematical probabilities at work here. Do we not all lead indoor-outdoor lives?
Doesn’t mean I can’t bust a move to try to avoid it.
Enough got to be enough and we started to lose patience. We are reasonable people though. We belong to both the “live and let live” and the “don’t get attacked by mama bird” camps. Nothing in my journalism studies prepared me for this moment, but I had a source to draw on.
I texted my friend Laura, who is the premier animal rights advocate in our entire network of friends, maybe anyone’s network of friends. We turned to her in our hour of need.
I said, “Laura, a family of birds took up residence in a light fixture on our front porch without our permission. We wish the very best for all concerned but we would very much like to have our front porch back.”
“The birds do pay rent, but it’s not the sort of rent that is helpful to our family. How do we do the right thing by us and by them?”
Laura said, “Wait.”
Three years earlier the city of Wichita delayed for months, a $3 million bridge project because workers found about 100 nests of barn swallows, a federally-protected migratory bird, on the construction site.
I didn’t have vision or curiosity enough to determine what kind of squatter birds we had. But the precedent for waiting and Laura’s mandate were clear.
Once I wrote some stories for a newspaper in Washington State about “birders,” people who go looking for birds just to see how many different kinds they can spot. I never dreamed I’d become one, even on a temporary basis, just watching for the birds to leave.
It isn’t clear to me that the birds were any more pleased with us and our proximity than we were with them. Whether they went away mad or just went away, I can’t say. But they did go away. My wife knocked down the nest last Thursday.
I reported to Laura that the birds had flown and that we disposed of the nest. Her two-word response, “Hurricane Burton” was perfect. For it answered my next question: How do we discourage future bird families from taking up residence there?
I’m thinking placards detailing the destructive force of Hurricane Burton and listing housing options. “Mama Bird don’t put your little ones’ lives at risk. This way to a nice tall tree in the Vaughns’ back yard!”
I hope my next close encounter with birds is on a calendar.