Archive for May, 2009

Third Shift

May 13, 2009

I enjoy awakening to the song birds each day and watching twilights as the busy birds end their days and return home to roost. I dread the third shift.

The third shift happens when I am sleeping. The birds added it to their day about a week ago when they moved into a hole in the facia board of my wooden-boxed gutter, just outside and above my bedroom window. The local paper, had it covered this story, would have probably run the headline, “Birds seize housing opportunity while Recession hinders home repair” and reported their ingenuity.  I view it as a home invasion crime story.

These criminal birds have a bunker mentality. They have burrowed their nest deep inside of the wall that separates my bedroom from the outside world. I think they got the idea from the tribal cave dwellers in Afghanistan.

On the third shift, the bird on duty does a lot of pecking, and pieces of plaster and lathe fall down the wall shaft. The noise awakens me and continues until I bang my shoe loudly and repeatedly on the wall to scare off the nightbird. It usually works and I soon hear him scramble up the wall and fly off for a few hours, always to return later.

Mission accomplished, it’s o’dark thirty, I am wide awake and my adrenalin is flowing like the river at flood stage. I know I will have to set up my extension ladder to 30 feet, flush out the family of birds, and put a temporary patch on the hole. I do not look forward to doing this — the ladder is cumbersome, the birds are a threat to peck my face rather than my facia, and I really don’t want to displace the bird family.

Maybe we can negotiate an end to the third shift instead. Maybe they’ll think I’m soft on crime and up the ante. That could escalate the whole thing. I better sleep on it…

June 12, 2009 — I did sleep on it — and discovered new evidence, too.  Last week, John Paccitti and I discovered not just birds but squirrels, too!  We rid the soffit of a vacant birds’ nest and made repairs at that point of entry and at the attic dormers, where squirrels were entering. The squirrels came in at the dormers and at a downspout connected at a point of rotten wood. We sealed the dormers, inside and out, but ran out of daylight on the downspout.

Fred Heller came by the next day and manhandled the extension ladder, sans pull rope. He crafted a downspout-surround of wood and screwed it into a new wood block he had placed inside the soffit. Then he caulked it to complete the job. Done!

Except — one young squirrel hadn’t gotten the memo and lagged behind. He was sealed inside the attic. The young rodent and I began a game of hide and seek over the course of the next few days.  He actually left the house at an attic egress we had not previously noticed. At one point, I was nearly eyeball to eyeball with him as he was within seconds of reentering the attic from the roof at the dormer and I was lying on the roof looking at the unnoticed space, a space just large enought for a small critter to enter. My presence scared the youngin away. He ran along the roof peek and leaped intop a holly tree next to the house. I went inside the dormer and sealed the remaining gap, using wood, chicken wire, nails, and that expanding foam you spray from a can. Just to be sure, I set a Havahart safe trap with bait inside the attic by the dormer.

Two or three days have gone by and there has been no sign of baby, but now momma squirrel hasn’t read the latest memo, and she’s come looking for her offspring. This morning, a mother scorned has shown her ire. As hot as it is here in Virginia, we have to pass on opening our bedroom windows. We suffer through the heat as madamme squirrel spends hours trying to enter our bedroom by gnawing and scratching at our bedroom window screen. I used squirrel repelent outside our master bathroom window [sprinkled it on the lower roof of the addition below our bathroom], and it seems to be working. But we can not place the peppery repellent outside the bedroom window because there’s no platform for it. The squirrel, hunting for her kid, is climbing down our window shutter and striking at our window screen. She’s relentless.

So am I. No more sleeping on it. It’s become personal. Me against her. I promise no poisons or firearms. But I will win…

June 14, 2009 – Flag Day, and I wave the flag of surrender and take up the flag of collaboration — because things aren’t always as they seem.

First, my apologies to Mama squirrel, who as earned the capital “M”. Her baby is in danger, I found out yesterday. There’s a hole in the siding of the house where the wood meets the chimney. Baby has gnawed it from inside the wall cave where he and Mama S. had lived together before my onslaught of contractor friends waving tools and testosterone. Ever since we sealed off all entry points, after Mama had left for the day about a week ago, baby [unbeknownst to us, he was still inside the wall] has been trying to escape by gnawing himself a new egress. It’s like miners trapped in a coal mine. Now baby can see light. Fresh air flows in through his peephole, which is not yet big enough for an escape. Mama’s challenge is to get to the location and help enlarge the hole. There’s a step-ridge of brick where the chimney narrows and goes straight up vertical. The steps lead right to the hole but for some reason Mama doesn’t perch there and gnaw away. Instead, she climbs a circuitous route that takes her past my bedroom window [still closed, despite the heat, for anti-squirrel security reasons] onto a shutter and over to baby, where she pauses long enough to shove some edibles through the peephole for baby’s survival. I can see baby’s little face through the hole! I have to convince Mama that I can help her free her baby– I’m not trying to hurt either of them.

It’s a matter of trust, as Billy Joel wrote. But Mama S. lives by “trust no one” without a bushy tail. I have no time to convert her to “In God we trust” because baby can’t go on living this way much longer, and I can’t imagine how badly Mama S. would freak out if junior began to decay inside my wall [not to mention “Mama” Grogan, whose side of the bed is closest to the window in question and who would notice the stench of a squirrel cadavor, causing a major major freakout].

I can’t get close enough to help baby. Every time I approach, Mama S., perched on the rooftop like a sniper, threatens to attack. I am fearful of rabies shots so I back off. I thought of moving the Havahart trap from the attic to the ground, trap Mama S. and then free baby, but how will I know if I trap Mama or some random squirrel. I could set myself up for an ambush.

The whole incident stirs up the old debate about i.d. cards for squirrels. OK, I admit, there never was such a debate… but think about it… while I think of another way to end this nightmare [to be continued]…

PS on 6/14 – Mama S. seems to have gnawed the peephole a bit. I’m not sure, but baby may be out! We’ll hear in the morning. It couldn’t come sooner — Mama S. knocked off a loose brick from the chimney top, and it landed on the hot tub below. I am thankful that the lid was on and no one was in it at the time…

June 17, 2009 – a day past my 57th birthday, I am happy to report that the ordeal is over. Mama S. gnawed the hole open large enough for baby to escape and all the drama is over and the noise is all gone. All I have to do is seal the hole. I waited an extra day just to be sure but haven’t seen a squirrel on the south end of the house in three days. Mama S. is my hero.