Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Starlings down?

I got a mysterious email from my husband this morning.

“FYI- The starlings are no longer in the water tower,” the message states. “I repeat, the starlings have left the water tower. That is all.”

As you’ve probably guessed, there’s a bit of a backstory here. First, I have to explain the water tower. You see, there’s one in my yard.

It’s not a real water tower – it’s more like a lawn decoration. A rather large one. Back when my youngest son Matthew was little, he was fascinated by water towers and rather annoyed that the city of Avoca didn’t have one. He would point them out everywhere we went.

As he started to outgrow that habit, we kept it up, always with a bit of teasing.

“Wow, look at that, Matthew! This town has TWO water towers! Too bad we can’t have one at home.”

And no one on else can do the ‘you guys are jerks’ look like a perturbed 10-year-old. Having fun at his expense a couple years later, my husband Eric decided to build Matt a water tower using a 55-gallon drum. He welded legs onto the thing and painted it, having me letter “Welcome to Avoca” on the front. The fact that all of this was happening just days before our daughter’s graduation party was irrelevant. To Eric, anyway. Recognizing the exhaustion that comes with swimming upstream against him, I found it easier to pick up a paintbrush.

We unveiled the project one morning as Matt wandered outside. Eric had set it up on the lawn, and when a 12-year-old Matt walked out the backdoor, he couldn’t help but notice it. He gave us a glare and mumbled something about us being jerks.

So, the water tower still exists. It’s moved around the yard a few times, and once had an Avoca native’s ashes sprinkled under it (that’s a whole ‘nother story). Currently, it is in the side yard by the driveway. Underneath, Eric and I put in landscaping bricks and planted strawberries.

Despite the evil weather this spring, the plants were growing well. Then I wandered over to look at them last week and noticed there seemed to be an inordinate amount of bird, uh, waste in the center of the strawberry patch. While pondering the oddness of that discovery, I was rudely squawked at by a starling who seemed quite perturbed to see me so close to the tower.

Since I was killing time waiting for Eric to shingle around vents before he’d let me back up on the roof (yet another story for another day), I obligingly moved away and watched the loud little chirpy. As I stood by, the bird landed on the railing of the tower and squawked a bit more.

And a bunch of tiny chirps answered her, and a crop of little heads peeked out. You have to get underneath and look up to see it, but the original opening of the barrel is still there. Mommy starling built a nest in my water tower, and the whole gang is dropping bird bombs on my strawberries.

So, ethically, do you plug up the hole? No! The babies would die. Sure, they’re annoying poopy starlings, but they’re babies. So my master plan was to wait a bit longer until they start flying, then go bang on the sides of the tower until they get a headache and leave.

Eric was more impatient. He said he doesn‘t like starlings because they don’t make pretty noise and they’re mean to other birds. He said he was going to evict them or plug the hole. He’s mean.

So, after I got to work today, I got the mysterious email. Even more so if you are aware he actually left for work about 15 minutes before I did today.

Right now I’m going to assume something bad happened during the storm last night, because I’m trying to give my husband the benefit of the doubt.

I’ll let you know how this turns out. Maybe by then I'll find a darned photo of the water tower, which I just spent a silly amount of time looking for.

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