Saturday, 25 October 2008

Bloody Birds!

Bill did tell me the workman had called to say he'd be here next week, but I forgot all about it by Monday morning. So at 9am he got to see me in my 1980's coke-bottle-bottom glasses with no make-up, in spite of the fact that I'd been up and dressed for a while. Not that I needed him to find me attractive, it just wasn't how I like to start my day. Then the porch door was locked and I had to go back upstairs to get my key. We didn't really need to talk, but it only seemed polite to greet him properly. Mind, he turned out to be sort of a funny character.

He set about unloading ladders and I set about washing the morning dishes (with the addition of lipstick and contacts). Then, remembering something I needed to tell him, I went out to find him driving off in his van at about 10 am. I didn't know if he'd had an emergency phone call or forgotten tools or just went to find a public toilet. The next time I saw him he was parked in front of my kitchen window. As I peeled potatoes and onions he sat in his van reading his paper and having a cup of coffee. It was about 11. I didn't want to disturb his break (I was paying for the job, not his time), but I could see I would have to watch him carefully to catch him working!

There were only two smallish jobs to be done: reattach a gutter that had broken loose in one of the last major rains and replace a triangular piece of wood near the roof line. Our neighbour, George, had mentioned this piece of wood was missing some time back, but we'd not seen to it sharply once Bill established there was no access to the loft. This was a mistake.

Pigeons had taken up roosting over the summer. Whenever I was in the loo I could here them cooing (a more talented or possibly mentally unbalanced person could devise a poem here, there are all sorts of words that rhyme...). They shut up when I banged on the window but it didn't disturb them too much and of course they had a family. There was pigeon poo on the paving in the side yard and the occasional bit of egg, so in addition to the annoying noise, they made a mess.

Anyhow I was telling the workman, Danny, that a guy from another company had given an estimate and just put a screw into the gutter to affix it, something that didn't impress Bill at all and why he didn't get the job, so it still needed fixing properly. Also, when this other guy had gone up the ladder he'd found a chick in the nest and it might still be there. I warned Danny to be careful when he got to the top of the ladder in case the bird attacked. He laughed at me, saying 'It's a pigeon, not an eagle!'

I was curious and he let me climb up to see. The ladder was a bit shaky once you got half way up, about the top of the bay window in my kitchen, but I remembered not to look down. I could see a large chick with not quite mature feathers scuttle to the back of the hole, which was quite deep, maybe about 3 feet. When I came down, Danny said I was like a human cat -- I suppose that was a compliment, but I'm not certain. I'm not afraid of heights, but I wouldn't want a bird flying at me whilst standing at the very top of a shaky ladder.

We didn't want to board up the bird and starve him, besides being cruel a dead bird might stink up the loft even if he couldn't actually get in. We thought it late in the year for a bird not to have left the nest (fledged, I learned is the word). I wondered about moving the nest so he would have to leave and take his chances, thinking him a lazy adolescent bird.

I called the council which does rat control, but they didn't want to know about pigeons. The girl suggested I might call a private exterminator, or I might call the RSPB (Royal Society for the Protection of Birds). I thought that was an interesting dichotomy. I chose the latter on the basis that it might be free.

Well, it was free other than the cost of the phone call, but I was informed that all nesting birds in the UK are protected by law, even pigeons. We could not disturb the bird in its nest. We would have to wait until he happened to fly out and then close up the hole. I did explain that the hole was barely reachable by a very tall ladder and the repair man couldn't spend his days watching for an opportune moment. The guy at the RSPB gave me the number of PiCAS (Pigeon Control Advisory Service) -- no I couldn't make this up.

I rang PiCAS, but had to put the phone down to respond to the smoke detector which had gone off, the potatoes now being boiled down to a black sludge. After throwing open the back door, turning on the extractor fan, and waving a shopping bag at the smoke detector to silence it, she was actually still on the phone upstairs. However, she could only take a message and have someone more qualified return my call. Danny had fixed the gutter by then and packed away his ladder. He said he would come back another time, though he clearly considered it a nuisance.

Disposing of the potato sludge was a problem as my trash bin was now full of compost because Bill painted the back porch floor and I couldn't go out the back door all weekend, but fortunately now I could. So it was a matter of emptying the compost so I could clean the bin and line it, and then put in burnt potatoes, scrub the pan and peel more potatoes. I wondered if I should have got out of bed that morning.

It all did settle down after that. I got some work done on my taxes, made some phone calls about financial stuff, got clothes organised for running that evening. The PiCAS lady did return my call. Pigeons reproduce all year round, so it would be an ongoing problem if not dealt with. It takes about 4 weeks for chicks to fledge so Danny could return in about 3 weeks. It takes 19 days for eggs to hatch and it is legal to get rid of the eggs and the nest if there aren't chicks in. Pigeons that can fly generally leave the nest in the daytime and so it shouldn't be too hard to catch him out, as it were. So, ring PiCAS if you need practical information about pigeons.

The 'potato muffins' turned out great: roast tomatoes in olive oil with basil and puree; make mashed potatoes and mix with this puree, some steamed onions, and tarragon; stuff mixture into a muffin tin and brush top with egg to brown the tops.

It did cross my mind whether going to work was any harder than all this. Then
the next morning Bill went off to catch a 6:30 Metro for a 7am train to Hull, beginning a 14 hour day, while I sat cozied up in bed with coffee and my laptop, and I decided maybe birds and burnt potatoes weren't so bad after all.

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