Keep a shovel handy

When we bought this place, the living room had a large 1950’s picture window on the North side of the house. The window, like just about everything else here, never got the attention or maintenance it needed for the last 60 years and was in quite a state when it became my problem. Plan A was to rebuild the window because it is double hung and retro cool, but it was too far gone when its turn came up, and Plan B was invoked. We had a local glass guy come out and measure the hole in the wall, and come back a week later to stick a big piece of glass in the hole. 4 screws and a little silicone caulk, now we had a huge chunk of insulated window that made it look like we still had a big hole in our North wall.

Great for us, as it really opened up the view of the backyard and I immediately saw that I needed to mow the lawn. So, maybe not all that great after all. This was in the winter and yes Kansas winters are warm enough lately that mowing could still be an issue. I had not yet put up any bird feeders so the cheat grass was left in peace. (Cheat grass is a weed that has invaded this part of the prairie, grows quickly and is a source of early spring grass fires.)

Then spring came and with it thoughts of… hey, let’s put up a bird feeder and see what shows up. You were thinking maybe I was gonna mention spring inspired thoughts of romance and such? Look, I’m at the far end of 5 decades and when spring gets here, A: I am just happy I survived the winter, B: Spring’s here, now I gotta mow the damn lawn and get chigger bites. Not a lot of romance happens when you’re continually scratching yourself.

So, I built a bird feeder in the classic style and also made a platform feeder for the picky birds that don’t want to hang with the itty bitty birds, as it harshes their Tao, man. It took awhile for anybody to show up, and then awhile longer for word of beak to spread the news that a hip new food joint opened up and it’s all buffet all the time.

And that’s when the trouble started. We’d be sitting in the kitchen, the Mrs watching some angsty drama queen comedy on her laptop, while I was plumbing the depths of youtube on how to make an autonomous robotic snowblower with Radio Shack parts and some duct tape. All of a sudden thwonk! The distinct sound of bird flesh smacking into something “see through but solid.” Sweet Pea the dog jumped up and demanded to go outside and investigate, I announced that a bird hit our picture window, and the wife, who likes to concentrate real hard on things, looked up 5 minutes later and went “What?” Never mind, dear.

Now normally, a bird will smack into a window, bounce off, look around to see if anybody saw that, and fly off with more than a hint of embarrassment in the set of their wings. However, there was a day about a month ago, the 2 feeders were standing room only and hopping, plus there were also at least 3 dozen Robins on the ground, eating juniper berries. Robins don’t eat at the feeders. I don’t know if it’s too low class for them or they prefer something a little more ethnic or what. They pretty much stay on the ground and grub for hackberries and other things that appeal to their exotic palette. Suddenly, all the birds took off in every which direction, which they like to do now and then. One of those directions happened to be our big window. End result, one Robin, pining for the fiords, as the saying goes.

A week or so after that, a dapper and cute as a bugs ear Cedar Waxwing does a head on with our kitchen window. No rhyme or reason. Possibly it was an avian take on rolling off the travois as the rest of the tribe pretends not to notice and moves on. For those of you who slept through American History, that was one of the ways that elderly Native Americans used to not burden the rest of the tribe and go out on their own terms. Tough love, eh?

The dog, who loves living things, dead things and smelly things, can’t bring himself to bothering these guys. I guess he just doesn’t like rolling in stupid, which is kinda funny as stupid is what most dogs do for a living. And, it’s not like these avian knuckleheads were stacking up like cord wood, but enough that a less hardy soul might think about wearing a hard hat when wandering around the great outdoors. Don’t come to the prairie, Mother Gaia doesn’t care that you eat lentil greens and sport eco-friendly slogans on your local sourced and oh so hip T-shirt. She will kill you. At which point it becomes another shovel ready project or as I like to tell the dog, more tough love, to love. Sweet Pea has learned he gets a treat when he gives me a discreet golf clap.

Then yesterday, the dog and I, as the Mrs had up and left us for a colder climate, so just us lonely and forlorn beings heard a rather large boom on our picture window. The dog looks at me with a “crap, not again, and when is Mom coming home?” look. I just shake my head at him with a “Mom ain’t coming home ever again” look and go outside to see whose number was up. It turned out to be one of our beautiful Red Bellied Woodpeckers. We have several in the neighborhood and they have an endearing trait of dive bombing Blue Jays and just acting large and in charge when at the buffet. One of the males was laying in a heap, about 10 feet from the window. That was quite a bounce and he even left a feathered imprint; a little wad of downey feathers was stuck to the glass. I walked over to him and gave him a look over to see if I needed to bring the shovel. This is a fairly big bird and woodpeckers are built to take some abuse. While I was eyeing him, he sort of gathered himself up and glared at me, so I backed off. I didn’t want to freak him out any more than he already was, and told him to walk it off. That’s what the coach always told us. Walk it off. You could have a compound fracture of a leg or have an eye hanging out in the wrong place, just walk it off. Some of my best scars and broken parts, I just walked off with a little bit of jumping around and cursing, because dang, that hurt!

It took a good 35 minutes but by golly, he finally got his marbles put back in order and flew off. A little wobbly, but he made it to where he was going. And later that evening, I noticed him chowing down at the platform feeder. How did I know it was him? He had a crazy glint to his eyes and had a ruffled mark on his head that was still ruffled. I notice the other birds giving him a wide berth. Don’t mess with crazy.

I guess glass is Mother Gaia’s way of telling her feathered children they’re not all that special. To put it in the vernacular of prairie redneck, “if it’s clear and see through, you can’t get there from here, son.”