Wednesday, May 29, 2024

An Avian Invasion

 Sujata Massey

When I'm on deadline for a book, I describe it as living with my head down. The work is plodding and challenging and seems never-ending. If I leave it for a day or two, it's that much harder to get back to it. I remind myself constantly that making something that exists better is preferable to doing a first draft, but it's still not easy.  

Life goes on around me, which means meals must be cooked, gardens weeded and gas tanks filled. And I still do laundry. But suddenly, that became an adventure. 

It all started with animal noises and a shaking movement of the dryer's exhaust tube. At first I was fearful that the squirrels who like living under the porch floorboards had somehow fallen into the laundry room. How would I ever get them out? For days, I avoided the laundry and kept the door closed. But I had to go in sometimes; I needed clean clothing. And then one day, as I was rising up with a wet load to put into the washer, I saw.

A flash of feathers streaked from the end of the vent out to a neighboring tree. I had been wrong to think squirrels had taken up in the clothes dryer. My guest or guests were avians. And in springtime in Maryland, birds who are sticking straw into a high-up hole in a house are only up to one thing: building a place to protect eggs and raise babies.

I really don't want a nest in my laundry exhaust. I believe that blocking it could be hazardous in terms of causing a fire; and for me to be running a hot dryer could cause eggs to cook a little too fast. But in the first weeks, I made noise in the laundry room and ran the dryer quite a bit to scare the bird parents off.

Guess what? It didn't work. The bird nest has got bigger and bigger, and it was increasingly hard for the clothes to dry.  I went away to Minnesota for a week, and when I came back, I unloaded my clothes and heard the sweetest baby chirp. My heart melted. And since then, I have not used the dryer. Instead, I listen for the racket of early morning parenting, late afternoon parenting, and I see many parental forays from the dryer vent to the neighboring crepe myrtle.

What kind of birds are they? I wish I could tell you.  I only see the small grayish-black bird daddy with a sheen on the wings when he is flying fast. The bird call is not especially pretty--it's basically a caaaw. My guess is "blackbird," but that is hardly exact.

I also wish I had photograph of the nest to share, but they have buried it very cleverly so it can't even be seen anymore.

All good things come to an end. I believe that by August, they will all fly away and I can have a technician come to clean out the flexible tube. I could ask for a new tube with mesh on the outward side that would discourage future entry. In the meantime, I've ordered a clothesline so I can start drying our sheets and clothes in the proper, old-fashioned manner. 

In their own way, the birds  are keeping their heads down as they go about their duties. And I wouldn't be surprised if the babies beat me by flying out of their nest like professionals before my book is done. 

1 comment:

  1. Love that you are choosing birds over a quick dry! And congratulations on the Macavity nominations, Sujata!