God give me strength! I have the most determined pigeon pairs—if you’d care to count the entire pigeon population of Lismore 2480—creating families in the tiniest spaces of my roof. Particularly in those god-forbidden, unreachable places, where no hand—besides God’s—can possibly reach.
Why don’t they choose trees?
Like the bushtit that nests in sagebrush around the Himalayas? Suspending their feather-lined, bag-like nests of woven cobwebs and lichen from the tips of slender branches as they utter quiet songs?
Or the chestnut-headed oropendolas of Nicaragua? Those observed weaving lengthy labour-intensive basket nests of fibres and vines from the end of a branch? Making beautiful, melodic calls like R2D2’s utterances?
Why not incubate their eggs on a loosely arranged platform of sticks? One positioned on a horizontal forked branch of a mature tree by a Tawny Frogmouth? Making repetitive low-pitched, breathy calls at night?
With God’s help I may have branched out in many financial ways in my otherwise singular life beneath the dappled shade of a White Cedar: towards the purchase of soft furnishings, foreign artworks and garden statuettes. Allowing God to throw open the floodgates of Heaven and pour out such blessings onto a singular divorcee, I have hardly room enough to contain what’s been bestowed.
Yet I’ve lost count of the dollars I’ve spent on metal spikes to dissuade the brooding pigeon pairs from their rooftop endeavours. But I know it’s surely beyond two grand! Such an outlay of Aussie bucks makes my roof-line partway resemble the noucentista design of the Sagrada Familia basilica in Barcelona: one combining Gothic and curvilinear art nouveau forms in its architectural design; being the only construction on Earth to rival the artistry of Wat Rong Kun in northern Thailand, the so-called White Temple designed by Chalermchai Kositpipat near Chiang Rai.
While Nature may have been the inspiration of Antoni Gaudi in Catalonia, nonetheless because I can hear the romancing and nest building of plump common pigeons in newer and different places ten metres above pug Australian soil, I ring Erez.
Swarthy and of Hebrew descent—and with a name deriving from the arboreal, ‘cedar’—when charged with thwarting future twig carrying or egg-laying attempts, he ascends his ladder with Mediterranean pizzaz. Even agrees to disassemble existing homes; tossing out the egg-babies; trusting we’re narrowing down every pigeon-nesting-option. And though buildings and window ledges may mimic the rocky cliffs originally inhabited by ancient European ancestors, go-find-another-roof-you-skitterish-muttering-feather-fluttering-foes!
All done, Erez’s handed a fistful of crumpled dollars.
But they’re determined critters.
Undaunted, the dynamic, ambitious and spunky Erez returns. A man of conquest—a seducer, quite stimulated by a novel challenge—he ascends his ladder and secures more spikes.
No doubt when viewed by the eyes of an understanding God, my roof now resembles a giant silvery pincushion; perhaps a collection of stationary echidnas on ridiculous territorial guard.
Still the avian mewing continues over the ensuing week-end, stretching the stability of my mental health to that of a twig perched on a needle point.
I decide to watch an entire day of baseball because the only extension ladder I possess doesn’t reach high enough for me to ‘do the job’. Besides I can no longer bear the merry-making—the incessant coo r-r-r-roo, coo-r-r-r-rooo chorus—while attempting to read a book. Or while trying to write one.
Of course Erez again rises to the occasion: partly as a redeemer from perceived despair; elsewise as the determiner of my financial ruin.
And for a time the army of spikes does the trick. All is quiet; on both the western and eastern fronts.
The chirruping begins anew. As a summery day otherwise dawns I hear brittle baby-bird sounds; those echoing as pleas of starvation from the vicinity of air vents set high on my bedroom wall.
I move in slippers, nightie and curlers to the corner of the garden, attach the hose, set the timer, turn on the tap and spray the penetrated roof space, full bore. But what’s to be gained from such a futile exercise other than soggy slippers, bubbling paint work and disintegrating timbers?
When the sound continues beyond lunchtime, a paintbrush-toting, Lilian Medland facsimile—indeed the only woman in the team of painters who’ve been hired to redecorate the interior of No. 26 in flamingo colourings—takes the initiative and climbs a tottering ladder positioned like a cannon on the front landing.
Above naked legs and short shorts, peering eyes notice a smudge of grey feathers tucked around a sharp, dark corner.
‘There’re birds sitting on tiny branches in there!’
‘Thanks for the confirmation,’ I say.
Still it takes a geriatric Rodney to scramble in sandshoes and brimmed hat beneath a fierce mid-day sun to measure and build a mesh cage designed to block off the main nesting place set deep in the cavity above the main doorway; where the roof-line branches out like the needled limbs of a contorted weeping larch, carving arches of COLORBOND® steel across the skyline. The same nest from which the hand of a neighbourly Darren wrenches two overgrown babies; the necks of which he wrings before headless bodies land with a thud on the gravel driveway at my feet.
‘Pass me an old rag so I can wipe up the blood,’ he calls, his toes gripping the corrugations like talons.
Job No. 4 dusted off, he disposes of the remnant bodies in his compost bin before his dog has the slightest inkling it can finish them off.
You could think it was now all over.
Throughout the weekend I hear at least one of the long-endured-feathered-enemy negotiating the narrow space above the veranda roof as it fits below the overhang of the main roof; though moving about, on possibly-ubiquitously-deformed toes well beyond the suspect northern opening barred by metal spikes.
Armed and yet hardly dangerous, I position an extension ladder against the side wall of the house. Even when fully extended it’s a little short for me to fully check out the ‘vulnerable-to-roosting’ space at close-enough range; but long enough that I can put a cobweb broom in place, its bristles mounted on the drawbridge-of-sorts like a full splay of porcupine daggers; its handle stretching across the void to rest on the topmost rung.
The scratching and cooing continues throughout the day until I hear the broom fall.
I run downstairs to find a pigeon (having negotiated the spikes and the bristles) dangling from the guttering; one foot caught between guttering and metal fascia; possibly pre-empting the burden of a further pedal deformity of a preferred foot.
Nothing I do shifts the pigeon, so I pop next door to alert Wife of Darren; to book him up for an evening kill (sounds brutal, but I’m over liking these birds).
Wife comes over to see just what’s required. In the meantime Enemy has regained some poise, turned itself upright and scrambled back onto the edge of the roof space, still with foot jammed, though now resting quite forlorn with wings spread.
As we watch the unfolding shenanigans, it pries its foot free, leaving behind a trail of blood before waddling off into the cavity.
All does not end there.
A version of Indiana-Jones—yet with no hidden cities or crystal skulls to be uncovered—when home from work the ruggedly-tough I. J. of Lismore journeys to No. 28 with his dog and whip. A fedora gracing his shoulder-length mane, he bears leather jacket, ladder and bag of appropriate tools. With the late afternoon already settling in he climbs a longer extension ladder, spies the enemy at reasonably close range and states, ‘It’s just lying there. It could already be dead.’
Not to be stopped from his derring-do, Darren taps the fascia and the pigeon responds. It raises its head then scrambles further into the cavity, well beyond the reach of Man or Prying Beast.
With darkness approaching fast enough to forestall an urban adventure, there’s nought to do but to bar the exit with a tight-fitting metal strip cut with tin snips then deftly screwed to the rafters through pre-drilled holes (Did I mention our I.J. is a backyard welder? That he has a power drill with attached light?).
‘A day or two without food (and perhaps foot) might bring it to the exit … then I’ll branch out into traps, fishing lines and spikes …’
Around mid-day agitated scratching reverberates incessantly between rooflines; with Enemy seemingly trapped between metal door and spikes at the southern end of the cavity. But don’t start feeling sorry for this pesky feathered critter, y’ hear!
Anyway, somehow during the early afternoon—perhaps since God is indeed a kind God of All Creatures Great and Small—the spikes are breeched. I know because I see two leaves float down, dislodged from the ruthless spikes by dithering feathers.
Perhaps the saga is finally over.
But wait. Is that the same pigeon I observe branching out elsewhere—for now—as it flies with a tiny White Cedar twig in its beak?
Bio: Meg Heggen is a child of the ’50s born in Sydney, Australia. Now a grandmother and carer in her sixties, she lives an idyllic life sharing a tropical garden with a schizophrenic son in far northern NSW. She spends her time writing books; and more-than-occasionally travelling abroad to Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos & Thailand to create additional footsteps on the earth. Next exploratory steps will be throughout Myanmar. Find her on Facebook and Twitter.