The Nesting Box. My First and Last.

This is a definition from Wikipedia. Emphasis mine

“A nest box is a man-made box provided for animals to nest in. Nest boxes are most frequently utilized for wild birds, in which case they are also called birdhouses. Birdhouses are the most common types of nest boxes as they are small and easy to take care of while attracting many birds. Birdwatchers often use them to lure birds into their private land.”

I purchased a nesting box a few years ago that was made of wood with a clear, fiber glass back. It had four, large round suction cups so it would adhere to a window. Once secured on the outside of the house, you placed a black board on your side of the window, creating the illusion to an unassuming bird that the house is solid on all four sides.

This was in hopes that if a bird did decide to nest in your box, the viewer could slide the flap ever so slightly and peek in from the other side of the window to watch the progress of the bird making. Like so….

I had no idea what I was getting into “Wild Kingdomly” speaking.

One morning, while the girls and I were doing math, we all three noticed a blue bird go into the bird house. We got excited but did not look in for fear of discouraging the bird. As the morning progressed, we watched as the bird diligently brought pine straw and twigs into the nesting box. I could not believe that this was actually going to work. Because though I home school, I often miss what is exciting and educational, because I tend to sleep in.

Days later, I checked behind the flap and to my amazement, found four small eggs tucked into the nest. I was so happy, because I love tiny things. One of my favorite words in the English language is “puppy.” It just gives me a warm fuzzy feeling.

As the time progressed, I loved to stand by the window during feeding time after the birds had hatched.(*note photo above) I would not look; I’d only listen. First it was very quiet, and then as the mother bird perched on the lip of the bird house opening, the baby birds would begin chirping and peeping like mad.  It just never got old to me.  I guess you could say, I was a proud parent.

One morning when the baby birds were a few days away from ‘fledglings’, I went for a run. After finishing, I sat on my front porch steps to catch my breath. It was a beautiful spring day.

But, even with my iPod on, I could hear very disturbing and chaotic noises. I heard what sounded like very loud, innumerous squawks. I took off my headphones and noticed that almost every bird in the neighborhood was a top a tree close by and freaking out. I had never seen such a thing outside of an Alfred Hitchcock movie.

I dismissed it, got up, and walked around to the back door. I remember thinking as I walked that someone had left a very, very long black hose dangling off the front porch.  And then it registered. We did not have a black hose. I turned, and to my horror, saw a 5 foot black snake slithering about 6 feet from where I was sitting.

Well, I’m allergic to snakes. Profoundly. They absolutely terrify me. Immediately, I flashed back to hanging up my cute, little nesting box. My husband said prophetically, “You know, Carrie….you’re not going to like it when you find a black snake crawling up that window.” I was shocked. Appalled. Mortified. Who had ever heard of such a thing??!!! Besides a snake CAN’T climb a window.

I panicked and ran to the back door making such a ruckus that the snake shimmyed off the porch. I wasn’t ‘shimmying’ it mind you. I was pounding on the door in tears trying to get my girls to open it.  Once inside, I dropped down to the floor, shaking and out of breath.

I called my husband in hysterics, who happened to be all the way across town. “You HAVE to come home!! Now!!” I screamed.  Once I explained the situation, he was not happy with my handling of the matter. But, he came home and that’s all I cared about.

I knew that the snake was after the baby birds.  When my husband came home, we sat on the front porch discussing our options. He told me how ecologically unsound it would be to kill such a helpful snake. Black snakes are known to eat rodents and poisonous snakes. We have small children and a dog. Plus, Copperhead’s have been known to occupy my neighborhood.

I sat there, exhausted and embarrassed by my outburst. He said, “You know Carrie, you have got to get a hold of yourself and this irrational fear.” He went on to talk about the meeting he had to leave to come home and help me. As he spoke, I nodded. “I know,” I said. “You are right. My fear is border line ridiculo,” I stopped.

I stopped talking because I heard something. A slithering, swishing sound. I turned and saw the snake coming back around the side of the house, moving towards us through the pine straw. “FORGET this,” I said with my flight instinct kicking in.

I jumped up, ran inside the house, and locked the front door….leaving my poor husband outside.  He threw my daughter’s bicycle helmet at the snake.   It was undeterred. Then he shooed it away with a broom.  It went around the corner and then under the house.  What a nightmare.

That evening we decided to take the girls out for ice cream to “debrief” the afternoon.  With our DQ Blizzard’s, we sat around the table discussing the day’s events. They were fine overall, but had never seen me that unglued.

I began the discussion by saying, “Girls, Mommy was a little worked up today.” My oldest interrupted and said, “No Mom, You were hysterical.” Really, there was nowhere to go after that. Except to bed.

The next morning, I woke up earlier than normal. I showered and got ready for the day, very refreshed and determined to strive for emotional stability. As I walked down the stairs, it hit me. I stopped and thought to myself, “The snake is in the nesting box.”

I just knew it deep, down inside of my ‘knower.’ The house was very quiet because the girls were still sleeping and my husband was already at work. I was stunned and stood there for a moment a bit overpowered.

I slowly walked up to the flap of the bird house, but was afraid to look. I was afraid to move it aside. It is hard to describe that type of feeling. Knowing something is true, without having any proof. I moved aside the black square. Pressed up against my window was a thick ribbon of black, nasty scales.

The snake had come back in the night and eaten the four blue birds. I stood there in shock, not really believing what I saw. I looked out the window and there was the mother or father bird. It was hovering right outside the entrance to the bird house with a worm in its mouth. It would not go in, but would not fly away.

I wanted to scream, “Where were you, you stupid bird!!??” “You EVEN had a warning!!”

I got very angry. I envisioned hacking into the snake with a garden hoe like a crazy person. I saw all of the little birdies hopping out whole and unharmed like the seven little goats swallowed by the wolf in Brother Grimm’s fairy tale.  But, who was I kidding. There was no way I could get close enough to a snake without suffering from cardiac arrest.

My husband came home and took care of it for me.  Again, we decided not to kill it. He was going to take the nesting box down the street and toss it into the woods. Just when he was about to leave, two older gentlemen walking in the neighborhood advised him against it. “I just killed two copperheads in my yard yesterday,” one said. So, my husband set it free. Which is a whole other story.

I threw away the nesting box, and vowed never again to have anything but bird feeders in my yard. I mean, feeder’s that the birds eat from and are not eaten from.

It took me a few months, but I finally made it back into the Bird Store. I wanted to tell the staff that the nesting boxes needed a Surgeon General’s warning label. I needed to confess to someone that I felt like I had just opened an “all you can eat” bird buffet on the side of my house and was riddled with guilt.

I pulled one of the workers aside and told him my story. He was kind and patient in his listening. When I finished, he enlightened me that lots of people were finding snakes in their bird houses due to the severity of the drought in Charlotte.

He said optimistically, “Next time, you can purchase a “Predator Guard” for your box, and we’ll happily attach it for you.”

“A predator guard?” I asked incredulously.

“Yes, you attach this to the entrance of the bird house so that snakes and raccoons can’t get in,” he said while holding up a wiry, prickly cap.

A Predator Guard. What a concept.

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