Monday, May 10, 2010

Wildlife Invasion Number Three

Back in mid-March I mentioned finding a deceased mouse in the trap under the sink, and wondered if we were overdue for a starling invasion. We actually had more mice first—a total of five, I believe, before the end of April. I grew careless about keeping that trap set, so had the fun of starting my day by sanitizing the kitchen countertops on more than one occasion. One of these days I need to pull out the masonite half-wall partition between the under-sink cabinet and the dishwasher. I’m sure that’s where they get in. For now, I make it a point to check the baited trap under the sink every morning. So far, we’ve been mouse-free for about three weeks.

So back to the starlings. We usually get one or two in the “attic” every spring, and they eventually wind up in the vent pipe over the kitchen range. This is a manufactured house, so the gap between the ceiling and the roof isn’t accessible to big critters like humans. We couldn’t figure out how they got in the attic in the first place, nor how they went from there into a pipe that *should* run continuous and unbroken all the way through the roof.

Yesterday, brother Richard noticed the starlings were getting rather aggressive at pushing against the attic vents, trying to get to a nesting spot. Then he heard a lot of noise in one spot, but by the time he got there the bird was inside. He started prodding the overhead (soffit) vents with a pole and discovered that one was loose enough to be pushed up a little. He tried holding the loose vent up for a while, but the bird wasn’t about to come out while he was there. The trapped bird stomped and fluttered all over the attic for hours, and finally got into the vent pipe just as I was preparing to cook dinner.

I knew the drill. Spread a towel over the stove to catch dirt and feathers; take out the screws to remove the vent fan; push up the butterfly valve with a stick; keep pushing and prodding while the *stupid* bird insists on perching on top of the valve flap or jumps from one side to the other as it frantically tries to climb back up the pipe. Mumble a few unprintable words under your breath. Use two stick to hold up both sides of the valve so the $%;*# bird can’t keep jumping from side to side. Consider getting a pair of tongs to grab a leg or whatever presents itself and drag the bird out—in pieces if necessary.

The bird, of course, instinctively tries to escape by going *up*. Falling *down* is not in its repertoire. But eventually it loses its balance and falls through the hole, immediately flying toward what appears to be the nearest exit, the kitchen window. (bonk!) Then, slightly dazed, it makes a beeline for the patio door, which Richard has not managed to open yet. (bonk again!!) Knocks itself out this time. Is it dead? I don’t know, and at this point I don’t care. Richard opens the patio door and chucks it out. Either it will recover and leave on its own, or one of the neighbors’ cats that hunt on our property will find it.

In the meantime, I’m trying to clean up the mess so I can cook dinner. Throw away the shingle nail that came down the pipe with the bird. (How did *that* get in there?) Carefully gather up the towel and shake off the debris outside. Wipe everything down with disinfectant. Try to re-install the fan. Hah!! Try working close-up overhead in a dark space looking through the long-distance portion of your trifocals. I fumble a screw; it bounces as it drops and winds up behind the stove. This isn’t working, and I’m so angry and frustrated that I’m close to tears. Time to call for help.

Son Jon says he’ll be over as soon as he can—he has to wait for Patty to get home so she can watch daughter Raven. So I take few deep breaths, leave the fan dangling by its wires, and cook dinner.

Epilog: Jon arrived, bringing a beautiful flowering plant for Mother’s Day. He put the vent fan back in, did some repair work on the starling’s entry point, and even pulled the dead battery from the van and put it on the charger.

It was, all in all, a pretty good Mother’s Day. I heard from all my kids and got to spend time with granddaughter Britni who is here visiting. I’ll have delayed Mother’s Day lunch with former foster daughter Kristina next Sunday, and probably spend time with son Jeff and daughter-in-law Joyce the Sunday after that. I hope all mothers reading this had a good day, too—minus the starling.