This is our backyard circa September 2012. Yes, we were having a party that day. About 20 people were coming to our place the day this picture was taken to partake in a Wine Country version of a shrimp boil (like a regular, southern shrimp boil but we pretend to be stuffy, pretentious wine snobs). So we cleaned up and the husband built two 8′ picnic tables and impressed the hell out of me, getting them done in time and they’re not wobbly at all.
We had two parties in this backyard while it looked pretty. LOOKED. Key word. LOOKED – as in past tense. No, we’re not Hurricane Sandy victims, we’re safe and dry-ish on the west coast.
Nope, something more insidious is happening to our quiet little hamlet. Take a closer look at the top and a little to the right side corner of this picture. Notice the trunk of a very large redwood tree? We have had new neighbors move in.
photo by usgs
Now these herons are lovely birds. Sometimes I’d see a lone bird on the side of the road while driving home and think to myself “Self, those birds are quite majestic and stunning! Look how their brilliant white plumage seems to glow against the drab backdrop of the drainage ditch. Lovely.”
But living next door to them is quite another story. First, let me say our redwood tree was already being occupied, peacefully, by about 15 turkey vultures. Apart from the occasional hairball in our yard, they are the perfect neighbors. Quiet. Low maintenance. Nothing bothers them and they don’t constantly ask to borrow things. Plus they’re huge and quite a sight to see up in our tree, especially in the morning when they stretch their wings and drink their coffee. People walking by our house stop and watch them. So when the first white heron showed up, I figured they’d sort it out and the white bird would be on its way.
Nope. One by one the sneaky effer moved his entire family into the tree. A squawking, rowdy bunch of squatters, constantly fighting between each other with the kids crying the whole time. I’d estimate there are about 30 of them. They do not have a single thought except for their own comfort.
Still, the tree is big and if the vultures didn’t establish their territory, maybe I should not worry too much and let nature be nature.
Every damned thing in our backyard looks like someone came and sprinkled powdered sugar on it. And it ain’t sweet and tasty. It’s DISGUSTING. Vultures seem to have figured out indoor plumbing for their waste needs. Herons seem to think the world is their toilet, and it might almost be a competition between them to see who can cover the most things in one pass. The high maintenance pretties that they are do their thing in a delicate spray, vs a single clump. So yah. It’s everywhere.
Needless to say, something had to be done. First I used yoga blocks to clap together to make a loud noise at dusk, when they came in to roost for the night. That worked for a few days and we thought we solved it. They came back a week or so later.
Next I used two 2x4s left over from the tables – smacked them together sporadically at dusk – so loud my ears rang and I lost hearing in one for a few minutes. That worked too well actually because the vultures left but sacrifices must be made. I think the vultures understood why I was doing it though.
Then one night, as I was smacking those wood pieces together, three of the herons came back and did a low pass over me. I thought I was done for. One of them locked eyes with me and I took cover. Then he flew up into a branch in the tree where I could see him clearly. I smacked the wood again. Nothing. He just smirked. I smacked them again in rapid succession. NOTHING. The effer was directly challenging me. I SMACKED THE WOOD PIECES WITH AS MUCH VIGOR AND HATRED AS I COULD MUSTER. Still nothing. I threw a 2×4 into the air at him and he didn’t even flinch (admittedly it never got close).
Bring it, pretty white bird. Go on. Make my day.
The Famous Daisy Red Ryder BB gun