Monday, May 16, 2011

Dazed with the Doves - or - Let That Be Your Last Birdlefield

After an extensive, yet incredibly dull voting process, the development containing my first solo home was renamed to “Woodland Hills”, but in all honestly, who cares?

The important follow up to my pointless rant about name choices was that the complaints I made about “Pigeon Hollow” back then apparently offended some omniscient pagan pigeon protecting god. The result of infuriating this deity was that I had a gang of invading pigeons move onto my deck shortly thereafter. My initial thoughts about them being the equivalent of non maintenance pets vanished as I quickly discovered how deserving they are of the nickname “feathered rats”.
The invading forces.

Even in giant sea bird colonies, the guano that covers everything is a mostly white coating that isn’t too horrendous looking, if you don’t think about the fact that it is a manure veneer. (A vanure?)  Pigeons, however, leave a volume of waste that seems mathematically impossible for creatures of their size.  The quantity is only the tip of the turdburg.  For some reason, these alleged birds produce droppings that highly resemble overcooked pieces of the sausage Domino’s used on their pizzas before the recent quality upgrades. Almost immediately, my deck looked like the site of a giant marbles tournament played with miniature charcoal briquettes.  Unfortunately, while the shape and consistency didn’t match normal bird surprises, the welded joint like adhesive properties were identical. But enough about poop.  Sadly, that wasn’t the most disgusting aspect of my visitors.

After several long cleaning battles, starting with a broom and eventually working my way up through scouring pads to fireplace tools, I decided that my guests had to go.  My initial solution to the problem was extremely rational and practical.  (Although those definitions are somewhat variable for a single adult male.)  There was only one obvious remedy to my infestation…the purchase of a Super Soaker Monster XL.
I love the smell of wet feathers in the morning...
Between its dual barrels and high pressure, it was capable of emptying its near two gallon capacity in a couple of salvos. Each of those shots could nicely blow a pigeon clean off my railing and most of the way across the parking lot before it would recover enough to fly elsewhere in search of a bird based blow dryer.  As they would immediately flutter up to the roof when I opened the sliding door, I had to lay in wait on my living room floor, with the impressive armament supported on its bipod, and nail the little dove like demons through the screen when they came back to rest.  (Yes, I had quite the social life back then.) While this provided many an entertaining afternoon, it was not solving the problem. In fact, I think more pigeons started to show up, perhaps enticed by the random, yet effective, plumage cleaning service I was providing.  I knew I was starting to lose ground when the nesting began.

Most bird nests are well designed feats of natural construction.  Whether they use weaves, drying mud, or interlaced branches, there’s an artistic aesthetic to them that makes it look like a home.  Pigeons…not so much.  They assemble a random, unkempt pile of the ugliest twigs they can find in the tri state area, and add in some of their sausagey dung, in case it wasn’t repulsive enough.  Realizing that they had moved in, I got desperate and tried various scientific based rational and practical ideas. 

First: I tried the psychological approach, figuring if I removed the nest to the woods behind the complex, the parent birds would follow.  After several fun filled afternoons consisting of shoving the scat covered pile of sticks with either eggs or very unhappy mini evil avians into a bag and hauling them down two fights of stairs, around a fence and into the brush, I gave up on this tactic.  The industrious and horny birds would have a new equally nasty nest, complete with eggs in a matter of days. 

With psychology failing, I turned to chemistry.  I had been using bleach to regularly clean up the filth they were habituating in.  I tried dousing everything with bleach and finally even leaning out the sliding door to pour ammonia over the top (leaping back in because I refused to win a Darwin Award for trying to deal with these pests).  I knew the area was open enough that the small amounts I was using wouldn’t be anywhere near dangerous by the time they returned; I was banking on creating a nasty enough smell to make them nauseous and want to vacate, foolishly thinking I could top the smell they already created. Since I could not, aside from making their living area clean and polished looking, this had no effect. 

Failing again, I reluctantly turned to a mix of biology and urban legend. I was prepared to lower myself to trying to feed them alka seltzer hidden in bread, theorizing the one time clean up (if it really did make a pigeon explode) would be worth it compared to all the cleaning I was already doing, and hoping that one of their own vanishing in a puff of feathers would be enough to give the rest a subtle hint that it was not a safe environment.  Problematically, being a single male, I didn’t have any alka seltzer …or even bread in the apartment that week.  I left some bromo seltzer out in what I hoped was an appetizing pattern, but unsurprisingly it was ignored. (As gross and annoying as they were, I didn’t really have the heart to blow one to smithereens…especially since it was very likely the smithereens would have been blown directly above my truck.)

The battle of the bombastic bastard birds continued long enough that they were still messing up the place after I got married.  With a partner in my war, we came up with new extremely rational and practical ideas.  There were major differences between the new married woman’s, and the original single male’s rational and practical ideas:  A) They were very unlikely to poison or injure me. B) There was some precedence that they may actually work. C) They did not require the purchase of a ridiculously oversized toy.  With extended research and two of us combined against our interlopers we redoubled our efforts.

Investigations indicated several things that pigeons supposedly did not like, the first and easiest to find being mothballs.  We quickly acquired some and placed them in and around the nest sites.  In a very strong prediction of our other efforts, the winged terrorists either completely ignored them or incorporated them into their ugly and smelly homes.

Other family members tried to lend support.  My mother heard we were looking for a plastic owl to frighten the beasties and got one for us. She then left it in my car when we were in town for an appointment …on the driver’s seat. Once I unlocked my wife’s door, I ran around to my side, opened the door, and damn near came close to dropping some of my own sausages when those two giant eyes were staring back at me. The effect on the pigeons was, sadly, not as impressive. I called home from work the next day and asked how the owl was doing.  “Great!” my wife enthusiastically replied, “The pigeon is talking to it.”

We also read that birds are reluctant to stand on sharp objects. (Naturally, we thought.)  Instead of buying one of the pre-made Iron Maiden inspired welcome mats, I constructed my own. Combining several layers of duct tape with several score of extra length thumb tacks, I fashioned a shiny, sticky, spiky surface with a single goal in mind: to remove the leader of the evil flockers.  A very large, important looking bird, the Kingpidge, made his throne atop the small light fixture above the deck.
A possible relation?
This provided him an excellent vantage point to signal his mob to scatter up to the roof when I pulled into my parking space all the way back to the Super Soaker days.  It also let him drop his biological bombs directly into our air conditioner unit, requiring additional charges whenever we had it cleaned.   I firmly attached my deadly duct derived deterrent to the top of the lamp and turned in for the night.  To no one’s shock (but my own, most likely) the boss bird was standing directly in and amongst the tacks the following day as if I’d done nothing, with the exception of the presence of an Ozymandias like cold sneer of command on his beak as he flew up to the roof on my arrival.

As all of our jury rigged attempts had failed, the next step was to try a purchased preventative premeditated for the purpose. (No, not a B-B gun. It crossed my mind, but I had already gotten in enough trouble juggling fire to make me think twice before firing projectiles out toward the neighbor’s cars.)  We bought the torrentially foul smelling adhesive goop designed specifically to make birds dislike a treated surface.  The fact that the pigeons had already covered the deck with their own foul smelling adhesive should have tipped us off as to how successful this was going to be.  It also should be obvious that by choosing to spread a substance that would repel us from the deck, we had given up trying to defeat our feathered hooligans and were hoping to declare a draw by rendering the space uninhabitable to both parties.

The coating of the winged fiends’ favorite surfaces had two measureable effects.  The first major item was that our Christmas decorations became unified with the railing, impeding their removal long enough to net us a cranky letter from the Development Association detailing the rules of holiday adornment duration.  The second major (and majorly unpleasant) item was that the pigeons, who based on internet research, package labeling and marketing claims, should have been greatly averse to even stepping on the noxious goop, built a nest directly on it.  The unfortunate outcome of their sub optimal housing and parenting choice was that after hatching, the baby birds became permanently bonded to the surface.  I needed to resort, once again, to my fireplace tools, using the shovel as spatula to remove what appeared to be angry, fluffy pancakes from my deck.

With our scorched earth (well, sticky earth anyway) plan a total failure, we were forced to cave in and incur an actual measureable expense to end the conflict once and for all. Tired of our picnic set being forced to remain empty chairs at empty tables, we built the barricade. (That’s right; I made a reference to a renowned musical theater adaptation of a French novel after quoting a Shelley poem in a tale primarily about pigeon poop.  See, engineering school graduates can be well rounded too.)  As our war progressed we noticed more and more neighbors installing a mesh hung across the front of their decks (for what must be now a stunningly obvious reason.)  We found the vendor, paid whatever they decided to charge, and sealed off the battlefield.  The displaced troops continued to try to land; hanging on the edges of the deck on tippy pigeon toes, but were finally reduced to only glaring at us from afar as they massed.

Shortly after this, I was walking down the Boardwalk on a family trip to Atlantic City.  We were minding our business eating a funnel cake on a calm, pre-coronary stented day.  Suddenly a squadron of seagulls (with pigeons on the ground, acting as air traffic controllers and artillery spotters no doubt) began running sorties to steal our snack, eventually forcing me to sprint to a nearby trash bin to toss the remains in, enabling me to run for my life while the attackers swarmed over the can.   If they could get word across the entire state of New Jersey in weeks, by now their plan for global domination should be just about ready…watch the skies.
Genius and prophet, he warned us all.

Sing along everyone, it may be our only hope.

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