In the Mouse-Bird Ecozone
by Jerry Guarino
Tim and Sally had finally found their dream home: four bedrooms, four baths and a loft office with an upstairs balcony, situated on a northwest harbor town with a view of Mount Rainier. Even though they were empty-nesters, retirement meant they had lots of room for visitors and family, especially the seven grandchildren. And the house was new construction, nothing to maintain or worry about for years.
A tidy backyard meant just enough room for a small garden, a 325-foot wooden deck and a hot tub, tucked neatly under the second floor so you could use it year-round, even in the rain or snow. On the deck was a long teak wooden table, teak chairs with cushions and a square fire pit for winter warmth and roasting marshmallows with the kids. Umbrellas, of course; the rainy season lasts about six months here, but that just made the right touch for a garden to flourish.
The garden yielded fresh lettuce, tomatoes, eggplants, zucchinis and raspberries. A small patch for a basil plant meant fresh Italian Caprese salad. That left a manageable 200 square feet of lawn, easy to mow and for the toddlers to play a small soccer game.
Tim loved wildlife, especially birds and bunnies. He dropped small carrots near the back fence and watched bunnies come each night to eat. Soon, there was a family of rabbits visiting from the forest behind their house. Sally thought the bunnies were leaving poop on the lawn, but Tim didn’t care, because the grandchildren loved seeing the bunnies. Tim just mulched the poop into the lawn; a feature, not a bug.
He put up transparent plastic bird feeders on the living room window. Before long there were dozens of small birds feeding there; Tim and Sally could watch them from the living room. Sparrows, robins, finches, wrens, warblers, chickadees and many spotted towhees. There was even a large, blue Stellar’s Jay which landed on the window feeders with a boom.
So, the birds and the bunnies made up their peaceable kingdom, in their scenic backyard. Until one day, Sally heard something scattering in the walls while they were watching television.
“Tim, there’s something in the wall. Mice, maybe a squirrel, maybe even a rat.”
“Sally, are you sure? I didn’t hear it.”
“Mute the TV, then listen.”
Sure enough, they both heard something pitter-pattering in the wall. They called in an exterminator. He showed them mouse droppings in the side of the house, next to the hot tub. “Ma’am, you could definitely have mice in your walls. I’ll set up a trap in your crawl space and check back in a week.”
“What do you think is attracting them?”
“Well, I think the seeds scattered from your bird feeders. I would take those off the house. And fill up this crack on the side of the house with spray in foam and some metal mesh. That’s where they are coming in.”
Tim was crestfallen, but reluctantly took down the bird feeders. Sally filled the crack with metal mesh and sprayed in the foam, which expanded and hardened, sealing the hole.
The next day two mice were caught in the trap. Tim tossed them into double bags and into the garbage. The sound of mice stopped, but Sally was concerned about the mice having made babies before they were caught. She scoured the house looking for mouse droppings, unfortunately finding some in the pantry. She went on a cleaning frenzy.
Tim lost his favorite bird sanctuary, but he still had the nightly bunny visits.
There was just one problem. The dozens of birds that had been visiting for over a year were suddenly out of food and were not happy, you might even say they were angry.
They sat on the back fence staring at the window where the bird feeders had been. Tim could no longer leave his blinds open, for fear of antagonizing them. He couldn’t enjoy a drink at sunset on his deck, because the birds were waiting for him. His castle was becoming a prison. Then things got worse.
Birds flew at great speed from the back fence to the window, pinging it with their beaks. After a while, tiny chips were visible in the glass. Tim feared that the Stellar Jay might come back and that would mean a broken window, for sure.
“Tim, the birds are going to break our window.”
“I know, Sally, but what can I do?”
“We could get a cat.”
“No, two of our grandchildren are deathly allergic; they couldn’t stay over.”
* * *
Tim placed a large poster of cats in fierce poses on the window. The birds stopped ramming the glass window, but that created another problem. They started attacking the bunnies when they came over to eat. And they stole the carrots that Tim would leave for the bunnies. So, Tim had to stop feeding the bunnies, too.
When the grandchildren came over, they looked for the bunnies and the birds. “Papa, where are the birds and the bunnies?”
“They’ve retired, kids. Just like us.”
Copyright © 2020 by Jerry Guarino