The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, May 28, 1999


Country Lines: This season is for the birds!

This article is reprinted from The Carlisle Mosquito, June 16,1995.

I had lunch the other day with a college friend of mine. We were sitting at a table for four, even though there were just the two of us, because my friend needed to prop up her sprained ankle. When I asked her how she got it, she explained that she had taken a tumble down her back steps in the dark because she couldn't turn on her outside light.

"What's wrong with the light?" I asked, expecting to hear some obscure electrical problem.

"House Finches," she replied.

I understood her meaning right away. Obviously, House Finches had built a nest on top of her outside lantern and my friend, being the soft-hearted naturalist that she is, had thoughtfully refused to use the light for fear of frying the eggs. So, instead, she pitched headlong into the dark of her backyard. What had she learned from this escapade, I asked. To bring a flashlight along with her next time, she answered.

Oh, the accommodations we make for these little marauders. Every spring, while others in Carlisle are doing battle with the mosquitoes, I batten down the hatches against the House Finches. Everything that hangs on my house has to be removed, every basket, every birdfeeder. Last year, our Christmas wreath stayed up on our front door until July because House Finches built a nest on top of it before I could take it down. Not only that, we couldn't use our front door for months. I learned my lesson and, this year, everything came down. My house was denuded. Our neighbor asked us if we were having the house painted.

"Nope, just getting ready for the House Finches."

She nodded. She's been there too.

I have to admit I was pretty proud of myself this spring. As I sat in my favorite chair on the back porch, I would watch the finches flit here and there, finding no toe-hold on our house. They even tried pecking at our roof shingles, hoping to find a loose one near the eaves. Again they were thwarted. At one point, quick thinking helped us avert near disaster. I noticed that the flitting seemed to be getting more purposeful and, after observing them for a while, I realized that two determined House Finches were trying to nest in the kitchen vent. So for the next three days, we left our kitchen fan running continuously, even at night. I was taking no chances.

I admit it; I let myself get too smug. I forgot one of the (no pun intended) cardinal rules of Nature (especially here in Carlisle): the birds always win. So I should have known better two weeks ago when my daughter asked me if she could rehang the grapevine wreath on our back porch. I looked at it; it was extremely flimsy. It didn't look to me like a suitable nesting site, so I said "Sure, why not?" The next morning, I looked out the kitchen window and there on the porch railing stood Mr. and Mrs. H. Finch, both with straw in their beaks.

Overnight, they had taken up residence, right above my favorite chair, right at the moment when the old yellow roses that surround our porch were coming into bloom. They only bloom for about a week in June, but their fragrance is so heady that it is one of my favorite summer pleasures to sit on the porch in the early morning and take it all in. Well, forget that summer pleasure. Our porch has now become an avian maternity ward.

As if this weren't annoyance enough, they have declared war on one of my hanging planters on the porch because it contains a mirror. Of course, Mr. Finch is convinced that it is really another cheeky bird trying to horn in on his territory, so all day long he pecks at his reflection, sounding like some sort of insane telegrapher. Periodically, he will rise up and flap his wings at the glass and nearly knock himself out cold. And the noise! All day long, they chatter and chirp, whistle and warble, on and on in a raucous tone of voice. Since they are nesting right next to the kitchen window, they react to my kitchen radio, especially squawking when they hear All Things Considered's signature tune. Obviously, they are Republicans.

The eggs will hatch soon, and then the nest will be empty within a month. I'll be able to enjoy my porch for August, at least, sharing it only with the occasional chipmunk. I shouldn't complain too much; others have it far worse than I. NASA's having a heck of a time with woodpeckers. I understand one of their solutions has been to use inflatable owls. I may just try that next spring.

1999 The Carlisle Mosquito