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Going to the Birds

Noisy was one feathered friend I truly didn’t want.

November 19, 2015
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“It’s like a Hitchcock movie out there.” Steve Haefele

My wife, Nelia, is a lifelong Audubon’r. Over the years, she’s invested a fortune in suet and seed. She’s built homes for owls and condos for purple martins. She once sheltered a free-range parakeet until the miserable creature took a piece of her mother-in-law’s lip. I avoid picking on her feathered friends, but I had to speak up when our dock started looking like the jungle gym at the Bodega Bay schoolhouse. “It’s like a Hitchcock movie out there,” I groused.

“The crows will move on,” Nelia said. “It’s Noisy that’s the concern.”

Noisy is an exhaustingly vocal osprey. Nelia had studied the bird since it was able to fly from a nearby nest. While past generations of the bird’s family had come and gone, Noisy remained. Nelia had attempted to shoo the osprey away, but it adopted our boat lift as a perch for performing its rather annoying call and for processing mullet into a vile slurry. Last week it arrived with construction materials.

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“You must do something!” Nelia said. “Noisy is preparing to build a nest.”

“Why, dear, you are practically an ornithologist,” I answered. “Perhaps if you talked to the bird instead of screaming at it, it might listen. You know, like that dog whisperer fellow.”

“No,” she said, “it will do no good. She is not normal.”

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“She?” I quibbled. “I admit, the bird is no Enrico Caruso, but I certainly wouldn’t judge it by its gender.” (I’m not certain how, but Nelia had managed to “sex the bird,” as birders call it.)

He or she, my mission was clear.

Plan A: I searched online for “bird ­deterrents” and ordered the lot. The standards were a must: a large plastic owl, an eagle windsock, a 6-foot inflatable snake, a thing that whirls about like an airplane propeller. Just in case, I went high-tech with a device that makes an “inaudible noise” that “drives birds nuts.” Our dock was dressed up like an amusement park, but Noisy was not impressed. She made herself comfortable atop $40 worth of “bird-friendly anti-bird spikes.”

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She made herself comfortable atop $40 worth of bird-friendly anti-bird spikes.”

Time for Plan B! Noting that Noisy had no interest in sitting atop the bobbing wooden mast of our catboat, Puss, I created an equally unpleasant perch atop the boat lift with a 20-foot length of plastic sewer pipe strung across a nylon line. It probably wouldn’t have worked even if it hadn’t become hopelessly entangled in the lift. Just the same, Noisy was so ­disturbed by our fussing about with boats that she began providing regular service for struggling mullet to our neighbor’s dock.

For the past week, Noisy has been airlifting yard debris and assorted beach refuse to her new homesite: the half-tower of our neighbor’s boat. I’m not sure they’ve noticed, and I don’t intend to mention it. They haven’t used the boat much in the past few years, and if Noisy completes her project, it could be some time before they use it again. Nelia tells me that disturbing an osprey nest is some sort of a crime.

My advice to boaters struggling with the birds: Try Plan C. Go boating!

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