Sunday, April 20, 2014  
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Dyre
 
A Commentary By Arnold Dyre

   I have some bluebird houses atop some of the posts of the fence surrounding our backyard pool.
   The houses were there for several years before the bluebirds started paying any attention to them. Bluebirds prefer houses situated on posts out in the open where the fleet-flying little birds can make quick escapes from would be predators.
   Beverly and I have a lot of trees in our backyard and overhanging limbs, afford opportunities for hawks to lurk well-hidden close by the bluebird houses. The trees even provide a means for an especially agile raccoon to drop down from a limb atop a bluebird house. Initially, I think the careful bluebirds were somewhat dubious of what I was offering.

Here They Come
   I cut tree limbs and moved the bluebird houses to three of the taller gate posts and, slowly, the bluebirds started investigating them.
   At first, the bluebirds started using the houses in the wintertime! I have watched as many as six bluebirds enter the same house in order to spend a night out of the cold.
   In the spring of last year, a pair of bluebirds finally nested in one of the houses;  however, an old raccoon was able to climb right up the post and got the baby birds shortly after they hatched. Beverly and I were devastated!
   This year, the bluebirds came back to the same house and nested again. Determined to try to help the little birds fend off another raccoon attack, I acquired some sheet metal flashing material and fashioned a hard-to-climb feature around the post beneath the birdhouse. However, the raccoon could still get on top of the fence and jump over the flashing material or simply stand up and reach over it and pull himself up onto the birdhouse.
   The post did not extend tall enough! I could not erect an extension with the birds already nesting. I feared the worse.

Guard Duty
   When the baby birds hatched, Beverly demanded that I do something or else stand guard over the baby birds until they could fly.
   Well, after a bit of guard duty, I came up with a plan. If a sailor could keep a rat off a ship that was tied up to a pier in a rat infested harbor, an ex-sailor could keep a raccoon out of a birdhouse!
   Back in my days as a sailor, the lowest man on the deck force of a ship was assigned the tricky job of shimming out onto the mooring lines and installing rat guards.
   Until rat guards were installed on every line, a sentry was posted next to each mooring line. Often, a mischief-seeking sentry passed his time by stepping on the mooring line, causing it to sway and buck off the seaman trying to get the rat guard in place. Sometimes, a sailor fell off into the harbor waters without any help at all!

Navy Technique
   Nobody was shaking the step-ladder, and I managed not to fall off, but I did cut a finger, my hand and even a place just above my knee, trying to first cut, and then install my own version of a raccoon baffle mounted just beneath the birdhouse.
   My biggest fear was that I would inflict permanent concussion damage to the little birds inside the birdhouse from the hammering it would take to nail fast what I had fashioned. So, instead, I drilled holes and affixed it with screws. Still, I feared that the birds would be disturbed to the point of abandoning the house. The mother bluebird flew around and fussed at me the whole time I was involved in the effort!
   After the job was done, I was still fearful that the parent birds might forsake the house. Due to the height-of-the-post limitation, the baffle was far too close to the birdhouse itself and I was worried that the bluebirds would not want to fly to the house with a strange obstruction surrounding it. But things settled down and the bluebirds are still using the house and the little baby birds appear to be thriving.
   I was especially thrilled the other evening when I watched old raccoon look it over, shake his head and walk away!


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