Thursday, 10 May 2012

What Daphne and Alfred Knew

In 1952, Daphne du Maurier wrote a story called "The Birds".

In 1963, Alfred Hitchcock released a movie by the same name.

In 2012, I am becoming increasingly aware of why something as seemingly benign as birds was the subject of both a horror/thriller novelette and movie.  In the book and movie, the people are plagued by seabirds - pretty common in coastal areas.  I am plagued by Starlings - pretty common in eastern Ontario.  

About 10 days ago, I was sitting having coffee with my husband and we could hear a rustling noise.  We have pigeons roosting under the eaves of our porch and I thought it was them so didn't really think any more about it.  A few hours later I had to go into the basement for something.  I opened the door and was immediately set upon by cawing, and flapping and claws and huge gnashing teeth and...OK - maybe not the teeth but you get the idea.  I'm not sure who was more frightened - the bird that was now flapping around my living room being chased by the dog and stalked by the cat all while Chuck tried to throw a blanket over it, or me - a statue at the top of the stairs with a death grip on the doorknob.  I know Chuck managed to get the bird outside quickly but it took me a long time to calm down.

A few days later I needed to go into the basement again.  So I carefully listened at the door, knocked and listened again.  I didn't hear anything.  I took the latch off and opened the door a crack.  Nothing.  No birds.  We're good.  I went downstairs, only to find a bird down there.  Sadly, this one was dead.  Another Starling.

Then again this morning, I was sitting with my dog Jake having a coffee when I suddenly heard a terrible commotion coming from the basement.  There was rustling and chirping and banging around.  I knew it was a bird and was willing to bet it was yet another Starling. So I got smart and decided to use the ingenuity that has put humans at the top of the food chain.  I took Jake, went outside around the house and opened the basement door.  It took about five minutes to flush it out (I know this isn't the kind of bird Jake was breed to deal with but hey - it worked) so now I'm happy and the bird is happy.

Which brings me to this:  How are all these birds getting into my basement?  

Old houses are full of surprises.  In my case, when we bought the house, the chimneys had been blocked off at the bottoms, but weren't sealed or screened at all at the top.  Careful examination of the sheet of metal blocking the basement fireplace shows that one corner has come open and is free of cobwebs.  Seems they're coming down the chimney.  That's three storeys!

We're getting the chimney's capped properly next week.  In the meantime, I'm scrubbing bird doo off the inside of my windows.

But this isn't where this story ends.  After a few weeks away, the Northern Flicker is back.  This is exactly why four and twenty blackbirds were baked in a pie.....

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