Forgotten Hill Bed & Breakfast

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Naramata, B.C

Fight or Flight

We have a woodpecker that has been spending the “night hours”, all 14 of them at this time of year, holding on to the stucco surface that is part of the end of the veranda by our kitchen. Problem is, like all birds, it’s incontinent. So we have bird poo all over the wall and on the potting table below the kitchen window, as well as on the stamped concrete floor. Bird guano is extremely corrosive and damages acrylic stucco, and the sealant used on the stamped concrete. This results in an edict: the bird has to go!

But… there is always a “but”. Woodpeckers are a protected species. Why? I am not sure. There certainly doesn’t seem to be a shortage of them around here. Moreover, they have quite annoying behaviours: jack-hammering on electrical poles; furiously pecking at a metal chimney cap, over even at a metal roof and thereby causing an enormous racket. The only trait about these birds that I have been able to detect as a tad amusing are their calls, which range from insane-sounding cartoonish yodels to remarkably human-sounding yells — and by that I mean a human that has just accidentally dropped a hammer on their toe. Anyway, their protected status means that it’s not possible to do a mafia number on them, and make them disappear.

The first alternative solution (not alternative “fact” as some have recently proposed), is to use light to discourage the behaviour. The outside light by the kitchen door is turned on.

That fails miserably.

Sticks, brooms, and other long tools are then tried, hoping to dislodge the intruder and force it to release its grip on the wall. Regrettably, most don’t reach that far up, others risk damaging the stucco (stucco has a fragile nature…)

This is to no avail. The bird stares at us with one beady eye. It’s message is clear, and I suspect, quite rude. An extremely bright LED flashlight is next tried in the hope of scaring off the bird. The stream of photons produced by the flashlight is spectacular. Details of the wall, of the woodpecker and of its copious excrement stand out in sharp detail. The beady eye remains fixed on us. Clearly the bird could not care less and doesn’t even move in the slightest.

Looking around for something that might dislodge the squatter, the little grey cells come up with another potential weapon: a snowball. There is quite a bit accumulated right now.

The snow is quite crusty on top. It has been melting in the daytime and freezing at night. The crust is a few centimetres thick. And even once broken through, the snow beneath is very crystalline; quite different from the light powder it was a few weeks ago, when it was easy to make a snowball. Anyway, it takes a few tries, but eventually a somewhat lumpy snowball is achieved.

The snowball finds its mark slightly to the right: Pow! Right in the kisser—or in this case the pointy beak.  It’s obvious the woodpecker has never gotten involved in a snowball fight. The reaction is instant surrender, and the “attitude” along with the steely beady eye vanish with a huge flapping of wings. So ends the skirmish: Grandpa 1, Woodpecker 0.

But, while a battle was won, the war wasn’t. The bird is back a couple of evenings later. A repeat performance is planned, this time recorded for posterity. A couple of flash photos reveal the same beady eye observed previously, but the flashes do not encourage the bird to seek another squat for the night.

The weapon is readied…








This time, the aim is a tad less accurate. However the result is as effective. The bird is unlikely to return tonight, or the next night.

Thing is, this woodpecker has been doing this squatting year-round. We have the damage to show for it in various places under the veranda. And soon there won’t be any snow around… Freezer space may have to be devoted to weapons: snowballs.