Sunday, February 22, 2009

A flicker in the basement and other wildlife stories

Friday I was very upset. Some creature had found its way into my chimney to the downstairs fireplace. Since my work-at-home office is in the downstairs family room, I listened to the guy rustling and banging around in there all day long. I feared it was raccoons, having heard nightmarish stories of how hard they are to get rid of. Friends offered advice: open the flue and let it out, build a fire and smoke it out, play loud talk radio (I had already had the idea of loud music, but so far that was having no effect), shine a bright light on it (how?) etc., etc.

By the end of the day I had worn myself out with fretting. I began to believe whatever was in there was actually stuck and so I bravely opened the damper, and closing all doors to the room, went to bed early. It was only later I remembered I have that false ceiling which would certainly be a good hiding place for a creature. Well no matter. I retired to bed early and slept fitfully.

In the morning, cautiously entering the family room, I found no critter and heard no noise. I closed the flue and thought whatever it was had left. But later, when I went back downstairs to work on my taxes, what a racket! Tap tap tap. Tap tap tap. Sounded like a woodpecker. That's not possible. It sounded like something large. It was tapping directly on the metal damper door. Fearing some scary animal might rush out at me, I nevertheless determined there was only one way out for this creature, and that was through my house. I had to open the damper again. I did though I felt the presence of the noisy animal inches away. I ran out and shut the door.

Within 10 minutes I heard something moving about the family room. I peeked in to see something slipping in and out of an opening in my false ceiling. A large bird! I made my plan. I tacked up a sheet at the stairway to prevent the bird from flying upstairs. Then opened the garage door, and the two doors leading to the garage. I put some bird seed on a bright white box I found, then ducked behind the sheet to wait. I didn't have to wait long. The bird came to investigate the seed, and I'm sure, feeling the fresh air from the garage, flew out.

It paused for a minute in my yard and then flew up into the neighbor's pine tree where I got my first good look at it. A magnificent flicker. Not covered with soot as I would have imagined, but bright and colorful and seemingly in good condition. He hopped along the branches for a couple of minutes and then flew off.

I felt so relieved that 1) it wasn't raccoons after all, 2) that I was able to rescue the creature before it died, and 3) well, I was a little thrilled and awed at the thought that for a little while I had a wild flicker flying about in my family room. How many people experience that in their whole lifetime?

Chatting with one of my co-workers on Friday before I knew what I was dealing with, I said I needed to sell my house and move to the city where there is no wildlife. But I love it here, and wildlife is one of the reasons.

This morning, as I walked to my back door to fill the bird feeders. a flock of quail greeted me, scurrying about the patio to clean up seeds neglected by the finches and other little birds. Then as I took my coffee and went to examine the little room I had just painted, looking out the window, I watched six deer come up over the crest of the hill and stop in my neighbor's yard to graze. Four does and two doe yearlings. The young buck that was with them last year is gone now - too old to hang out with the mothers and girls any longer. Later in the spring we'll have one or two new tiny baby fawns as we do every year.

I have many wildlife stories from the 30 years I've lived here. Skunks - oh my, don't get me started! A porcupine, foxes, coyotes, two different rabbits (domestic i believe), and many wondrous birds.

I think I'll stay a little longer. I am not quite ready to leave this place.

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