Remembrances of Birds Gone By

On February 27, I was stunned by a huge shadow flitting past the sliding glass door

Welcome to my blog!

Welcome to my blog!

which leads to my terrace. Alarmed, I feared it was a small plane about to crash. I live on the third floor of my apartment building and don’t generally see anything so big passing so closely. I heard the honking as I rushed to investigate. It was a flock of geese flying southwest. My first reaction was one of great happiness. Spring is near! (How wrong was I!) The birds are coming back. But wait, aren’t they going in the wrong direction? A few hours later, a flock headed northeast. The same flock? Who knows? I identified them as Canadian geese, then went about my business, not giving it at thought until…about three hours later when I went out for a walk.

A flock of about thirty geese had congregated in the grassy area outside my building, busy chomping on whatever grass emerged from the melting snow. I was forced to play hopscotch to avoid the green turds on the paved walkway. My beautiful grass area with its crepe myrtle tree and perennial spring and summer flowers not yet in bloom, was being slowly consumed. I told them to go away, no longer welcoming this harbinger of spring. One of them honked at me, but only flew five feet away. I guess I’m not as scary as these creatures are. I thought about flocks of these babies crashing into engines of planes departing and landing at JFK Airport, causing crashes and near misses. Why are these birds here and when are they leaving? And please, please, please, make them go back to Canada and away from JFK.

Right next to the Canadian geese, about ten wrens were daintily pecking into the earth, accompanied by a sole pigeon nervously strutting back and forth. I believe pigeons only eat people food, rendering it incapable of eating grasses, bugs and seeds and therefore, starving, since food for its species wasn’t available. Maybe this pigeon will learn to go with the flow and change its eating habits? If it can travel with wrens, maybe it’s ready for a more global approach to living?

As I walked, my mind wandered to past experiences with birds. I have no luck with birds, try to stay away, and do my best to keep them away from me.

In a previous residence, my parking spot was located under a tree. It was virtually impossible to keep the car clean. Besides the tree sap, acorns, leaves and twigs, I also had a daily coating of bird droppings. I did my best with my Lysol wipes to clean my car each day, but needless to say…

In this same location, I encountered a crazy squirrel. It jumped on my terrace, attacked my upholstered chairs, scratching and biting until it was able to take the stuffing out to build a nest. If I ate a meal on my terrace, it would jump on the table and stare at me until I either gave it food or chased it away. Yes, I know this blog is supposed to be about birds, but squirrels also live in trees and cause aggravation. I eventually had a screened terrace enclosure installed in self-defense.

In a residence before that one, the problem was pigeons. They congregated on the wooden deck outside the triplex condo in which I lived. In early spring, they laid eggs. Once the eggs hatched, the babies walked back and forth with the whole family until they were old enough to fly. When that group left, it was replaced by another mother pigeon who began the process over again. I learned to remove the eggs and dispose of them so they could not hatch. I felt sorry for the frantic mother who searched for her missing eggs. However, my wooden deck was rendered unusable with its streams of  bacteria filled guano and I believe the health of humans comes first. Guess what? There were no more pigeons after that. My neighbors thought I was a cold-hearted bitch. C’est la vie.

In this same neighborhood, I had a sad encounter with a duck when I went for a walk. Separated from the flock, it wandered frantically in the streets. It appeared to be young and either couldn’t fly or didn’t know in which direction to go. It quacked at me and followed me as I walked. I couldn’t imagine keeping him as a pet and was actually about a mile from home. I considered carrying it, but then decided not to. I didn’t have my cell phone with me that day, and asked a man watering his lawn if he would call the game preserve which wasn’t very far away, and ask them to come to get the duck. He assured me he would. I then went out for the evening and pushed thoughts of the duck to the back of my mind. The next day, I drove my car to look for the duck. I found it almost in the same place I had left it. Apparently run over by a car, his body lay lifeless and flattened against the pavement. I went home and cried that I hadn’t been proactive the day before. Too much too little too late.

To change the mood to a humorous note, in another ridiculous encounter with geese – which I cannot say were or were not Canadian, but boy, were they big – my car was a target for a flock passing directly overhead. My car was just washed, shiny and newly simonized. I was stopped at a red light, minding my own business, when I heard the honking. I looked up and I knew what would happen next. My windshield was almost completely covered with streams of guano. I sprayed the wiper fluid and ran the wiper blades, but it only made matters worse. I had a two-hour drive in front of me. I was still close to home so I was able to go to my neighborhood car wash. The car wash attendant laughed when he saw my car. I don’t remember laughing with him.

I remember so many years ago when my family used to go to the Catskills for a week in the summer. It was a family affair and we would meet up with cousins and close friends. I was about ten years old when a younger cousin, Lorraine, who is now deceased, cracked open what should have been a soft-boiled egg. Instead, it was a fertilized egg with a little yellow chick inside, dead of course, from being boiled. She went crazy. I was sitting next to her and had a clear view of the pitiful creature. I only ate my eggs scrambled for many years after that.

Getting back to where I live now, we also have problems with pigeons in the spring, looking for places to roost and lay eggs. My neighbors and I have sticks which we use to bang to make noise to scare the pigeons away whenever we see them resting on the rails of our terraces or, heaven forbid, walking on our terraces. It does work. Last year, I had one very stubborn pigeon who would only fly three feet away and kept coming back to taunt me. I’m not sure exactly where that stick landed but that pigeon didn’t come back after that.

Also, these pigeons come to find materials for nest building in the spring. My poor Harry, a moss covered three foot high wire heron, is a constant target. Every day I wake up to see parts of Harry’s head missing. It’s too much for me to bear, but more about Harry next week.

So much for my relaxing walk under the winter sun. It brought back memories, but not the kind I wanted to celebrate a day with a warmer temperature of 28 degrees, no wind and a strong sun which seemed like a heat wave after our sub-zero wind chills. I realize I must sound like a crazy woman recounting battles with pigeons, geese and squirrels and tales of lost ducks. City dwellers and creatures live in close proximity because of the density of the population. You get the picture.

I’m a nature lover, but I want to visit it when I’m in the mood. I don’t want it to show up uninvited on my doorstep – or my terrace! Its sudden interference in my little world startles and unsettles me. I act in ways that are out of character.

And If anyone has helpful suggestions for how I could have saved that duck, please do let me know.

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