M. Giant's
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Friday, June 05, 2009  

For the Birds

One unexpected disadvantage of living here in the northern latitudes is the short June nights. Actually, it's not usually a disadvantage at all. It's nice to be able to stay outside until after nine o'clock and still be able to see each other. But there's a downside. Like how I went to bed at two in the morning last week and woke up to pee four hours later and it was full daylight. One can't help feeling a bit dissolute when that happens.

Another thing most people wouldn't expect is the early morning soundtrack. Now, our neighbors have a fountain. As I've said on Twitter, the only thing better than owning a fountain is having neighbors who own a fountain. You get to fall asleep to the sound of the flowing water drifting into your window, without having that sleep disturbed by thoughts of maintenance and operation costs. But then, at four in the morning, when the eastern sky is starting to shift from black to blue, the birds wake up, and you just wish one of them would take flight and have a fatal head-on crash with the thing, and then you could sleep even better.

I think it's gotten worse since the addition, and our bedroom has an expansive pair of windows that open out into the backyard, giving us a commanding view of every tree within two blocks. And since we can see those trees, apparently every bird in those trees can see us, and they'd like us to wake up now, please.

I actually woke up a few mornings ago, two hours before the alarm, to a sound that reminded me of a moment from an episode of Lou Grant I saw some twenty-five years ago (which is to say, I saw a moment, not the whole episode). Lou shows up for work grumpier than usual, complaining about a noisy bird outside his window that morning. One of his employees asks what kind of bird it was. "Inconsiderate," Lou grumps. Well, apparently the flocks of inconsiderates are passing through Minnesota this time of year.

Of the avian throngs crowding our neighborhood that morning, two stood out. One sounded like it was a) directly outside our southern window, and b) a seven-year-old Star Wars fan. How else to explain the way it kept going, "pt-CHOO! pt-CHOO! pt-CHOO!" until I was wishing for a Wampa to stalk up and swipe it out of the air.

And the other one was something camped out in our back yard outside our eastern window, with a much more elaborate call. Imagine an air mattress being inflated and then deflated, all in about a second and a half, and the piercing whistling noise that would result: "whsHHT! PSsseew." Followed by, "WhooOP? Whoop? Whoop?whoop?whoop?whoop?whoop?whoop?whoop?whoop?whoop?whoop?" And yes, I know exactly how many whoops were in each call, because I counted them. In between each repetition, there'd be a long pause, as though it was done, and then it would start all over again. One time there were only seven "whoop?"s, and I dared to hope that he was satisfied at having gotten his message across. Or, better yet, that one of the neighbors' cats had gotten it. This would have been one time when I wouldn't have minded looking at a half-eaten corpse.

I also remembered hearing a story on NPR one morning, all about how you could identify birds by their calls. Lying there I bed, wishing I could go back to sleep, I found myself wishing I had that expertise. Then I would have known what kind of bird was making that noise, what it looked like, what its mating habits were, and the best way to kill it.

Because so far, the neighbors' fountain doesn't seem to be doing the trick.

posted by M. Giant 8:13 PM 3 comments


Australian reader here. In the birds' competition to be the most annoying, I bet none of your birds come close to our cockatoos. I can't describe the noise they make because it's so ghastly you can't imagine it unless you've heard it. The best I can do is liken it to a flock of power tools flying overhead at 5am. The sort of power tools that require you to wear hearing protection.

By Anonymous Kate, at June 6, 2009 at 4:25 PM  

Get a few of those large wooden owls and attach them to the roof of the house where the birds can see them. Sort of like a scarecrow.

By Anonymous Anonymous, at June 7, 2009 at 9:54 AM  

I suspect they were both cardinals. The first one was for sure. My rule of thumb is if it sounds like a car alarm, it's a cardinal.

By Blogger Aneka, at June 10, 2009 at 7:34 PM  

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