Saturday, July 7, 2012

So Sorry...

Spotted Towhee
Photo taken in my back garden, Winter 2012

Because my house is mostly windows, and I live on top of this mountain, the birds get confused by the reflections and fly right into the glass.  It's a dreadful sound: startling with the abruptness of it, and distressing because I know exactly what it means.

One of the guest bedroom windows used to get the most...hits...mainly due to the reflection of the giant oak tree.  I've stood on the slope, looking into the window, and truly, all you can see is the watery image of the tree.  No wonder the poor birds smack into it.  I've tried various tricks to alert them to the dangers ahead, and it seems to be working as there haven't been so many impacts lately.

The real danger now is coming from the master bath window.  It's huge, and at certain times of day, it looks just like an extension of the Valley below.  The birds can get up some real speed as they fly up the ridge, and if they're not paying attention, they hit the window at Mach 4.

There's a strange phenomena that occurs when the birds hit the windows: they leave behind a ghostly image of themselves. It's weird, and poignant, and oddly beautiful--in a most macabre way. The images are usually of wide-spread wings, full chest, and tail feathers. Like snow angels in a way, or an x-ray made of white dust on clear glass.

Amazingly, defying all sense and cosmic culpability, nearly all of the kamikaze survive.  They might have lost a link or two in the chain, but as far as I'm concerned, if they can shake it off and fly away, it was a good day.

So.  Earlier this morning, having my coffee and breakfast, I heard the dreaded noise: a sharp, loud thrump.  The dogs growled, Ozzy went to his guard-the-house window (it overlooks the road), but of course didn't see anything because the sound came from the back of the house.  I finished my breakfast, hoping when I opened the curtains after my shower, that I would only see the ghostly aftermath of the collision.

But no.

The poor wee thing was laying on the back deck, head at an awkward angle, his ghost impression most strong on the window.  Oh, it made me so sad.

Then I realized I would have to remove it.  And I felt sick.  I paused, wondering at my reaction.  Why should that be so upsetting?  I have staunched bleeding wounds, hauled the injured to the hospital, done CPR, wrapped sick animals in towels and headed to the vet, pulled teeth...well, the list is endless, isn't it?

And yet.

I stand on the deck, and can barely figure out what to do.  This little, broken creature has to be taken away.  What is wrong with me?  I wish--for a long painful moment--that I could just shout to Alan to come do this.  He would have done it swiftly, kindly, and I could have turned away, not been part of the finality of this tiny life, snuffed out on a warm Summer's morning as it flew wild and free.

Deep sigh.  Time to deal.  I get a small plastic bag and the dustpan, but I just can't make myself bend over and scooch it into the bag.  I stand there for another few moments, murmur a heartfelt apology, then try to maneuver the bird into my bag.  Halfway in, the breeze blows the bag and the bird flops and rolls on the deck.  Oh man.  I think for a sec that it has actually moved.  I lean in to look closer because, holy crap, I can't bury the poor thing alive!!

But no.  Dead as a doornail, or a bird that flew full-throttle into a double-paned window.

It takes me three tries to get the wee thing into the frigging damn bag.  By the time I'm finished, I'm in tears.  What an ignoble way to be treated: rolled around and poked with a dustpan and screeched at when your little foot touches the finger of the idiot woman who's trying to dispose of your corpse.

In the end, I got my spine reconnected to my brain, dried my tears, and took care of the bird.

It was a crap start to my day.

For now, I've left the ghostly image on the window.  Maybe it will warn the others...

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