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He Who Laughs Last . . .

March 2, 2011
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We last left the friendly sparrows snickering at my ill-conceived efforts to discourage them from nesting (and leaving other evidence of their presence) in the new nursery.  I had tried gentle persuasion.  I didn’t want to be the one to use force.  But no.  “Cooperation” is not in their vocabulary.

I waited until I was sure that all the little sparrows had grown up and flown the coop.  And then I activated Plan B.

In fairness to the sparrows, they were doing what comes naturally.  The root cause of the problem was that the builder had installed a fascia board that was too thin—there was a gap between the bottom of the board and the top of the corrugated plastic windows that line the main room of the building.  In sparrow language, the arrangement said “Come Live Here:  Comfort and Convenience.” 

Please ignore the picture to the left and note the nest tucked up under the board:

Plan B therefore involved removing the old fascia and installing a new larger board.  The only flaw with the plan was that it involved going up on the roof, taking out the old boards and installing newer—and heavier–timber.

I thought long on the problem from the safety of the ground and asked myself a series of pertinent questions.  Was it best to lean over the side of the roof or was it better to try to do the work face on while perched on a ladder?  How short would I have to make the sections of timber in order to be able to handle them?  Did I really want to get rid of the sparrows that badly?

I was saved when Rodney, our consultant ecologist informed me that he would help out.  He even went to the lumber yard and got the wood.   The boards were terrifyingly long and heavy but he assured me that handling them would be a “piece of cake” and that the whole exercise would take half an hour.

Rodney quickly answered two of my questions.  First, we would do the work from above and, in the interests of efficiency, would not cut the boards to manageable size.  The first task was to go up on the roof and remove the old boards.  The top boards, which lay on the roof are nailed to the vertical boards which were too short.  Using crow bars and armed with the energy you get from doing any fundamentally destructive job, we made short work of the old boards. 

Removal of the old boards afforded me my first glimpse at how extensively the birds had colonized the eaves.  The angles formed by the structure of the roof had created nice cozy rectangular boxes that were packed with nest material.  I don’t know how the birds could have gotten into the nests much less laid eggs and raised young.  I had to pry the stuff out of the crevices, all the while cantilevered over the edge of the roof. 

It would have been bad enough under normal circumstances but the stench was absolutely phenomenal.  Of course a lot of the stuff had extruded itself into the inside as well:

Once I had wedged most of the nest material out of the cracks I then water blasted the entire area with a high pressure hose.  It was the only way to get rid of all the encrusted guano etc.

The next day, after everything had dried out, we again went aloft to install the new boards.  The plan called for nailing in the side boards and then reinstalling the old top boards.  To do the job we had to determine where nails were needed by measuring, get them started by hammering them in halfway and then slinging the board over the side of the roof and holding it in place in defiance of gravity until we could pound in the nails the rest of the way. 

It would have been a totally impossible job with one person but the two of us managed it.  We did let the board slip once and more than a couple of nails flew off into oblivion but the job wasn’t that bad.  Not only that, because just last month I’d painted the roof white, we didn’t fry like eggs on the metal roof in the hot sun.  It was actually rather comfortable except you needed sunglasses!

In this picture I’m on the left and despite what you might think, I’m not in the fetal position because of acrophobia or ornithophobia.  I’m sighting along the roof line to check where the new boards need to be installed:

Here I am supervising Rodney.  Note the Styrofoam sheets put into the openings to further discourage avian incursions:

Installing the second board:

Although we now had a nice overlap over the siding I wasn’t going to take any chances.  We found some foam packing material that is flat on one size and shaped like corrugated material on the other side.  I packed it into the opening to prevent anything larger than an ant penetrating the defensive shield.

With that flourish, I have now declared victory over the sparrows.  They seem to have moved to a poplar tree at the other end of the driveway. 

I hope they are happy there!

Do I Have Your Attention Now?

13 Comments leave one →
  1. March 2, 2011 2:45 pm

    I’m really disappointed your scary pictures didn’t work…LOL!


  2. March 2, 2011 3:36 pm

    I’m shocked — SHOCKED! — that the cartoon of the … whatever that thing is didn’t scare the birds! I’m glad you waited until you knew the nest was empty before going to work. I had no idea a bird so small could build a nest so big!

    • March 3, 2011 7:44 am

      The picture is a possum which is supposed to be a mortal enemy of birds–it seemed like a good idea at the time (and a nice alternative to going up on the roof)!

  3. March 3, 2011 2:39 am

    Yes, you have their attention. They are now in committee meetings, busily designing the next way they will thwart your efforts. (I must say all that business of juggling heavy boards while suspended over the edge of a roof looks pretty impressive!)

  4. Len Skuta permalink
    March 3, 2011 5:19 am

    Good job. But I think the sparrows have another plan.

  5. March 3, 2011 12:10 pm

    The milk shed needs a paint job.

    • March 3, 2011 8:48 pm

      You are absolutely correct! In two weeks time you won’t recognize it if all goes according to plan.

  6. March 3, 2011 3:05 pm

    Nice legs! x

  7. Gail Robertson permalink
    March 3, 2011 5:30 pm

    Tom, I will swap you some ozzie sparrows for yours – your N.Z. sparrows are beautiful on the eye – ours look like a motley crew. Gail.

  8. March 5, 2011 2:39 pm

    Half an hour, huh?

  9. March 8, 2011 3:07 am

    Hi Thomas,
    I enjoyed the photos and accompanying narration of this task. The last shot of the sparrows caps the story very well, they in their organized row, plotting the next invasion.
    We too have tangled with birds here on the rancho. The starlings with their mud nests win every year, especially since the judge does not have a “Rodney”.
    And I agree with SGx….great legs!

  10. April 5, 2011 10:20 am

    hahahaha. Thomas, as always I end reading your posts with a big smile on my face. and are’nt those wee sparrows just the cutest. bet they find a way in next spring!

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