A Life or Death Fight in the Backyard Bird House
By Curtis K. Shelburne
I like to think of our back yard as a mostly safe, peaceful, and appealing place. Until recently, it was.
Oh, there were years when a good-natured Great Dane lived there. It was safe. He was peaceful. But “nice yard” and “Great Dane” do not coexist in the same universe. He was a good dog, but his relocation was an incredible blessing for that piece of real estate. When he moved on, we undertook a serious improvement project, and that part of the estate became vastly better, truly enjoyable.
About fifteen years ago, I built out there what I call my “bird house.” “Aviary” is actually closer to the mark but communicates with fewer folks. Neither a little bird house nor a large aviary, this is a 4 X 8-footprint, 9-foot tall, rustic, old barn-style edifice with railroad tie corner posts—and birds. White doves, one gray ring-neck dove (I named him Michael, as in Phelps, because he loves water, but a grandchild recently saw Michael lay an egg), one ring-neck male pheasant, pharaoh quail (about the same size as ordinary quail), and button quail (my favorite—little guys who, full-grown, are smaller than chicken eggs with legs).
Alas, my button quail are no more. Old age and one hungry snake, I think, took them out. (I took him out, but too late.)
And now, I sadly report, the pharaoh quail are gone, too. They started disappearing, or turning up dead, a couple of months ago. It didn’t take a CSI technician and detailed postmortem for me to determine that they weren’t dying peacefully in their sleep. Down to one quail and feeling helpless in the face of mass murder, I somberly apologized to that bird for my failure to solve the case but also wished him luck and told him truthfully that I’d hate to be in his, uh, shoes. He lasted maybe a week. An intolerable situation.
I’ve tried deduction. All the doves are fine; they only touch ground to eat, and they perch up high to sleep. The pheasant sleeps on the ground, but he’s large, and the killers are cowards.
Signs of serious digging and some interesting holes began to show up before the spate of murders. Snakes are hole-dwelling opportunists and don’t dig their own. I didn’t think that skunks or raccoons would fit the bill.
Tired of deduction, I bought a cheap wildlife camera and hung it on the chicken-wire screen door. First night. Bingo! Some nice pheasant pics. Even a fox staring in hungrily at the pheasant.
But once that bird bedded down, three sets of beady eyes began to glow in the dark from a hole. Then (quit reading if you are squeamish) unmistakable, gross, vile, evil vermin with long tales began to roam the birdhouse floor: rats! Out of quail to terrorize, these murderous and disgusting freeloaders are, each night, chowing down on my bird food.
The fight is on! It involves a combination of traps, voltage, poison, and calibre. This is not catch and release. I do not care if these enemies expire peacefully. This is war. I intend to finish it quickly.
Most analogies break down if pressed too far, but it is not difficult to find numerous Bible verses that warn about trusting or associating with creatures who live in darkness, despise beauty, and seek to destroy what is good. We’ll see what works in my bird house, but having God in your heart is the best defense against spiritual rodents who would like to lodge there.
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Copyright 2018 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.%%detect_both%%