"THE BIRDS OF SUMMER - Offpiste Humor"
  Flicker on stove pipe




Humor Column by Noma d’Plume

It was the 6 a.m. tapping that heralded the arrival of summer. We’ve lived in our current house for four years and every May it’s the same routine. We wake up at the crack o’ dawn to the sound of a woodpecker rat-a-tatting on our gutters. This normally goes on until we give up trying to sleep and get up.

Our woodpecker friend continues tapping throughout the day. Hubby has a long pole that he uses for window washing, and he occasionally tries to scare the woodpecker away with that. But the woodpecker has learned the pole is a bit of a hollow threat. And even if he does fly away, Mr. Woodpecker only goes as far as the neighbor’s metal chimney cap, on which he pecks relentlessly still within our earshot. If you thought the sound of a woodpecker drilling into a tree was loud, wait until you hear one going to town on metal. The reverberating, cacophonous percussion is deafening.

Joining Mr. Woodpecker in annoying the heck out of us this summer is a returning robin who poops in the exact same place on our deck every morning. Our deck borders the back of the house and the kitchen. Every morning (after the woodpecker wakes us up), I’m usually at the kitchen sink, whose window looks out over the deck. And there’s the robin, sitting on the corner post of the railing. I swear he smirks at me before he lifts his tail feathers, proudly poops on the post, and flies off.

We’ve taken to referring to that special corner of the deck as “the poopin’ post.” We’ve also taken to keeping an old cleaning brush, gloves and cleaning solution on the deck, so that we can scrub off the droppings each day and then hose down the post. You’d think the robin would get the hint, but no dice. He seems delighted to have a nice, newly cleaned place to do his business each morning.

There are two types of birds, however, that we are happy to see this summer. First is the American goldfinch, which is also our state bird. We see these dazzling little guys at our front yard fountain most days. The goldfinches usually swing by the fountain for a quick drink, but other times they stop for a bath. It’s adorable to watch them splashing their bright yellow feathers in the water.

Second are the hummingbirds, who we’ve now gotten to successfully overwinter for the past two years. We have a feeder on our front porch that’s protected from the wind and rain, and we fill it with fresh nectar twice a week. The pair of hummingbirds we saw over the winter has now increased to three or four. (They’re so fast that it’s hard to identify them individually.) We love watching them and are amazed at the incredible noise they make with their tiny wings, so disproportionate to their body size – and so much sweeter sounding than the woodpecker’s racket.

After being awakened by the woodpecker’s incessant drumming one morning, I channeled my frustration over not being able to sleep into doing a little research on why woodpeckers would peck on a gutter. According to my Google search, male woodpeckers (of course, it’s a dude) will drill on metal to establish their territory or attract a mate. Apparently, metal amplifies their mating/territorial song, carrying the message to a much larger audience. Think of it as the avian version of Tinder. “I enjoy eating grubs, quiet nights in the nest, and long flights over the beach at sunset.” We’re just hoping the mating call works and that Mr. Woodpecker finds a girlfriend soon. We could use the sleep.

About the author:

A woman of a certain age, Noma d’Plume lives in a beautiful, rainy, semi-rural corner of the Pacific Northwest. She enjoys baking/making things that start with the letter “P” (pecan pie, pumpkin-chocolate-chip bread, peanut brittle, pound cake), gardening, bowling ambidextrously, traveling to supposedly haunted places, and browsing second-hand bookshops.