The Great Escape

Living in the country means interacting with wild animals on a regular basis. We pull into our driveway at night to find it’s full of deer. Elk pass through our field to get to our neighbor’s hay bales. Quail keep trying to roost in our fantastic straw-lined dog fort. The animals usually vacate once you’ve made your presence known. Sometimes, they need your help.

Our carport is coveted by many in the valley—it’s three-sided, roomy and stable. We own ice scrapers for our windows but haven’t had to use them, and our car and truck started even when the temperature dropped below zero for days on end. The owners of this house very thoroughly covered the interior ceiling and the top third of the walls with bird netting to keep the resident starlings, mourning doves, and magpies from moving in (a flock of pigeons has taken over the nearby old barn, so their concerns are not unfounded). But like any barrier, what keeps out can also keep in.

The other day I passed through the carport to take the garbage out and heard a Steller’s jay carrying on. Such noisy birds! It took a few seconds to realize the bird was only a few feet away, in the rafters. Inside the bird netting.

Center: Little Lost Ms. Steller's Jay

Center: Little Lost Ms. Steller’s Jay

The plastic netting had been painstakingly stapled to the rafters and exposed studs at close intervals, but the bottom wasn’t closed off between the studs. This bird had landed below the netting and then, who knows why, flown straight up and then been unable to retrace her “steps” back out. Her squawks were panicked and frequent, reminding me of the time a scrub jay got into our house in White Salmon, and I had to chase him down wearing leather gloves on so I could carry him outside.

As demonstrated with our eviction of a squirrel in Portland a year ago, one must create an escape route and then usher the frantic creature toward it. Mike was still at work, so I would have to be methodical. I studied the rafters. I wanted to remove as little netting as possible to avoid having to replace it later. I noticed that there were some wasps’ combs near the entrance to the carport—perfect! I could kill two birds with one stone (so to speak; no offense, Ms. Steller’s jay). I carefully peeled back the corner, ripping the netting as little as possible.

Then I had to convince the bird to go over there. There was enough loose material to physically allow it; it was just a matter of ushering her. I had act like two people, and I had to be tall. I grabbed a broom and a stepstool and set up at the back of the carport. I whooshed the broom this way and that, trying to corral her toward the open corner. After a couple of false starts, she darted in the right direction, and was off! She lit into a nearby tree and told her story to anyone who would listen.

I don't mind wasps, but not in the carport

I don’t mind wasps, but not in the carport

Meanwhile, I dragged the stool over to the open corner and pulled the wasp combs out. Just another day in the country.

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