13 Oct / Nesting Instinct
Earlier this year, my darling organised the removal of two large trees from our backyard. On the day he came home to find them gone, he was ecstatic.
The birds were less impressed. Although they’ve now got more ground to poke their beaks in and around in search of a feed, there’s only the clothesline left for them to perch and have a gossip about their day.
Fast forward to spring, and there are far fewer prime real estate locations on our property for birds to pitch their nests in an attempt to attract a mate and raise another crop of little flying dinosaurs. So, it makes sense that one day we opened our letter box to find a half-constructed nest inside.
Feeling confident we could cope with this problem, we pulled the foundations out and threw them away, then swept the inside of the box with a short-handled broom until all traces of the building site were gone. Problem solved.
The next time we checked the letterbox, we discovered that far from solving the problem, we’d made the area into some sort of “highly desirable” neighbourhood with exclusivity appeal. Another nest thrown into the compost and another sweep out of the letterbox.
Now, my darling is a fastidious checker of the letterbox at the best of times. Whenever he’s at home, junk mail can count its lifespan in minutes if not seconds.
But there’s something soul-eroding about opening a door every half-hour and throwing something’s house away. Each time he lifted the flap thinking, “Surely, they got the message last time?” Nope, they didn’t.
Reading online for the best way to deal with the problem, we encountered a mix of quitters and sadists. The quitters urged us to purchase a second letterbox so the birds would be left undisturbed to raise their offspring alongside our post. The sadists suggested we find the lead bird and kill him in the most horrific way possible before mounting his severed head on the top of the letterbox as a warning to others.
Hmm. Tempting. But no.
Instead, we pulled the letterbox out of the ground and placed it face-down next to the garage. Since NZ post reduced its service to only three days a week, we felt comfortable that we could leave it there for the majority of the week, only replacing it when the post was actually due.
As a bonus, this cut down on the number of junk mail trips my darling made down the driveway every afternoon.
And then came the saddest sight we’ve ever seen.
A sparrow, mouth stuffed full of nest-building twigs and dry grass, flapped up to where the letterbox opening used to be and tried to build a nest in midair.
Not just once. This bird had spirit. This bird had vigour. This bird had used up its entire brain with other matters and couldn’t fit in the ability to learn one more new fact.
Sure, it looked like the box it was constructing its nest inside had disappeared, but no way would it give up that easy!
After a half-dozen attempts to insert new nesting materials into a nest that no longer existed, we saw its little shoulders slump in defeat before it flew away. Off to tell the wife they were now officially homeless.