The Birds Page 2

At Sea — October 2003
By Capt. Bill Pike

The Birds
Part 2: I stood on the brink, precariously poised over the abyss.

Joseph Daniel Fiedler

 More of this Feature

• Part 1: The Birds
• Part 2: The Birds continued

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• At Sea Index

Take this morning for example. The Scrump was an absolute mess, and conditions were perfect for theatrics, thanks to the red glare of the rising sun and the acoustics of the boathouse at low tide, which impart a Shakespearean quality to voices, especially victimized ones. “Who is the dominant creature here?” I raged, targeting the rafters, from whence hundreds of little eyes gazed back, with the nozzle of my hose. I stood on the brink, precariously poised over the abyss.

But I couldn’t pull the darn trigger—I just couldn’t. So with dreary, desperate resignation, I finished up yet another washdown and headed into the house to think. I needed an expert, I decided, a counselor with a background in marinized pest control. Somebody who was well beyond the obvious, like imitation plastic owls and snakes, which the swallows had seen through almost immediately. Somebody who was into high-frequency sound-emitting devices perhaps, or disorienting mists, or psy-ops stuff!

At noon I dialed up an outfit in California—it claimed to have pest-control expertise in the marine field. What, short of mayhem, I queried, would strike terror into the hearts of a bunch of hardboiled barn swallows and send them packing back to Capistrano? In his breezy California way, the rep presented me with three options. First, I could slather the boathouse with goo, which he said the swallows would find so sticky and unappealing that they’d soon hit the trail. The downside to the goo, he added, was serious “dust and dirt buildup that turns into crud.” A hater of crud, I nixed the option. Second, I could shroud the boathouse eaves with wire mesh, depriving the birds of their nests. The downside to the mesh, he added, was that installing it was time-consuming and expensive. “It sounds a little inhumane, too,” I suggested, nixing that option as well. Third, I could add a profusion of little spikes to the rafters of the boathouse, so the swallows could not sit comfortably. The downside to the spikes, he added, was that installing them was also time-consuming and expensive. “That sounds a little inhumane, too,” I suggested, nixing my one remaining option.

“Well,” the rep responded philosophically, “Maybe you should just accept the situation and hope for the best.”

Ah, the twists fate takes! Only an hour or so ago, I was standing on the roof of the Scrump’s wheelhouse with a spray-bottle of doo-doo defragmenter in one hand and the hose in the other, when, off to the side, a flurry of feathers caught my attention.

I turned my head and found myself staring straight into the eyes of a couple of barn swallows, just inches from my nose. They tilted their heads in unison, fidgeted on the rafter momentarily, and then settled into one of the longest, most profound stares I’ve ever encountered in my life. Eventually, I blinked.

“Okay, guys,” I said. “Y’all win.”

Previous page > Part 1: Are you ready for a real-life version of Hitchcock’s famous thriller? > Page 1, 2

This article originally appeared in the September 2003 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.

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