Thursday, April 10, 2008

Killer Woodpeckers

No, it’s not the title of my next book. In fact, I may not finish my next book in time because of the woodpeckers that have been plaguing me since January.

Back then, a red-headed woodpecker with the charm of dear old Woody began pecking at the birch tree outside the window where my desk is located. I thought, “What a cool bird. He’s gorgeous!”

By February, I wasn’t so fond of him. He had begun to drum on the gutters and then eventually made his big move: pecking the wood siding of our house. This was done brazenly, when it was abundantly clear that four humans and three felines lurked just on the other side of the wall which he was studiously chipping away.

My first step was to consult Wikipedia. From there, I researched several sites on controlling woodpeckers. Certain members of my household were all for purchasing a pellet gun, but I soon learned that ALL woodpeckers are federally protected and that one needs a federal permit (and sometimes a state permit as well) in order to “implement lethal control.”


So we chose the humane methods, which I found a relief. As much as that bird was bothering me and tearing apart our siding, I didn’t want to see him shot. Therefore, we hung several rubber snakes from the window. The snakes blew in the breeze and looked altogether ridiculous, but they seemed to work. For about a day. The woodpecker simply relocated to the back of the house. Thus, more snakes out that window. Even the mailman asked us what was going on…

March. Snakes are a total failure. Instead, we hang Mylar Elmo balloons and silver streamers from the windows and the birch tree. Woodpecker’s move: he gets a mate. Yep. Now there are two of them.

My deadline is approaching. Peck, peck, peck. I call an exterminator. “We don’t deal with woodpeckers,” he informs me. “Forget the birds!” I shout. “Kill the bugs they’re eating!” He promises to smear the walls with ant-annihilation paste.

Peck, peck, peck. Then, eureka! My cat kills one of the woodpeckers. But the feathered widow seems mad. He/she goes nuts just below the attic and finally, pecks their way THROUGH the house and inside. I hear them flying around up there, just above our bedroom. Now I can’t sleep or write.

“Buy the gun,” I tell my husband. He’s in the car within seconds.

April. The woodpecker has mysteriously vanished, but dozens of little wrens or finches or freaking chickadees are chipping away at the damaged siding. I call a carpenter. He replaces the boards. I call a painter. I call the exterminator. He’s dusting the foundation for ants again.

The cost of all this? $1200, a book that might be more violent than usual., a new pellet gun, and perhaps, therapy.

Have you ever had a negative brush with Nature?


paul lamb said...

This reminds me of the movie Funny Farm. Chevy Chase plays a writer who moves to the country and is enchanted by a bird singing just outside the window near where he writes. By the end of the movie, he's pouring his coffee on the bird because he's so sick of hearing it.

Nina Wright said...

Hilarious, JB, but only if it's happening to someone else.

I lived in the country for ten years, so of course I had disrupting brushes with Nature.

Mice were a frequent enemy despite numerous cats on the premises. One mouse lived under my stove for weeks. I used to catch him watching me cook. Then he'd scurry out of sight again. I'd summon the indoor cats who were too well fed to care. Mice also nested in the box that housed our phone lines and consumed every single wire. Often.

I like the clause “implement lethal control.” Sometimes we must.

jbstanley said...

Paul, I love the scene where he lets the dog out and it just keeps running.

I wouldn't waste coffee on any creature, I fear!

jbstanley said...

Cats that are too well fed... That must be our problem. I'm going downstairs to dump their food dish over the deck.

Wilfred the Author said...

Similar story, substitute squirels for woodpeckers. The pitter-patter of little rodent feet running in the attic above our bedroom, waking us up at 5 am on Saturday.

Luckily, locating and closing their access did the trick, but I was ready to resort to violence. I had a soft-air gun, but the damn things are too quick.

On the opposite side, this winter, I attracted a Red-Bellied Woodpecker and a number of Downey Woodpeckers to my bird feeders this winter. We have Vinyl Siding, and a composite deck, so I'm not worried about a full frontal attack.

The little Downey Woodpeckers are quite brave and will even let me touch them occasionally.

Sue Ann Jaffarian said...

This was so much fun to read this morning! And I'm happy to say I've never had any such annoyances. I live in a concrete jungle. I ignore the sirens and car alarms outside my window, and the drug entrepreneurs on the floor below me are quite civil and quiet, as are their customers, who drive much better vehicles than I do.

That said, we do have squirrels and opossums inhabiting the alley and our car port. We have to make sure our windows are up nice and tight when we park to avoid our car interiors being used as nests and/or playgrounds at night. There is one rather brave pidgeon that likes to sit on my balcony and taunt my male cat, who goes nuts and tries to go through the glass on occassion, but that's rare enough to still be considered amusing.

Shawna Avery said...

Oh my gosh, JB! It's a wonder you've gotten any work done. I don't think I'll ever look at another woodpecker the same way.

We have a chipmunk who has infiltrated the house. At least I like to think it's the chipmunk and not mice... It's time for an eviction.

G.M. Malliet said...

I had squirrels in the attic once. (I mean, literally.) I called animal control and they told me to play loud music - apparently squirrels don't like that.

I asked what kind of music. They didn't know, so I went with rock and roll.