A bird in the house is not worth the trou­ble

Hawke's Bay Today - - News - By Rachel Wise

Imay have been a bit too smug when I bragged that my cat, Frank, is no threat to birds and wildlife, pre­fer­ring to stalk and kill a far more wily prey — the elu­sive elas­ti­cated hair tie.

I was sit­ting at my com­puter yes­ter­day when I heard an in­ter­mit­tent tap­ping noise in the wall. My first thought was it was a dis­grun­tled pol­ter­geist. Our usual one bangs the toi­let door, but when I was re­cently con­fined to a wheel­chair we had to take the door off, re­plac­ing it with a cur­tain, so I could fit through.

We haven’t re­placed it yet and I imag­ine even the most pa­tient pol­ter­geist would get tired of try­ing to bang a cur­tain.

I grabbed my crutch — in a “need­ing it to walk” way, not a Michael Jack­son way — and went to in­ves­ti­gate, notic­ing as I did that Frank was crouched in the lounge, fix­ated on the china cab­i­net.

I as­sumed the lat­est hair tie had shot un­der there to hide, then re­alised that the tap­ping sound was com­ing from be­hind the cab­i­net.

That wasn’t good. Be­hind the cab­i­net, where most sen­si­ble peo­ple would have a wall, we have an old fire­place.

When Frank was a kit­ten she crawled un­der the china cab­i­net and dis­cov­ered the old fire­place, find­ing it the per­fect place to climb, get cov­ered in soot, and then come out and share said soot with the floor and the fur­ni­ture.

Hence the board. Quite a sub­stan­tial board, hefted in from the shed and jammed be­hind the china cab­i­net, in front of the fire­place. Prob­lem — and a cer­tain amount of drafti­ness — solved. New prob­lem caused.

When you add spring­time and chim­neys to­gether you of­ten get star­lings. Some star­lings clev­erly nest in dis­used chim­neys. Other star­lings stupidly fall down them.

This tap­ping I was hear­ing sounded like the stupid va­ri­ety of star­ling, fallen and trapped in our bar­ri­caded fire­place.

Ham­pered by a hand­ful of crutch and unco-op­er­a­tive legs I de­cided I would ig­nore the bird’s plight un­til some­one more able came along. But it kept tap­ping.

I won­dered how long it had been there. Was it thirsty? Hun­gry? Was it sit­ting there, all sad and sooty, los­ing the will to live? What if it was in­jured?

Be­sides all that, the tap­ping was an­noy­ing. And if the bird died in there it would pong. I de­cided I would have a go at re­leas­ing the cap­tive.

First I had to re­move all the things from the top of the cab­i­net, many of which had been con­fis­cated from the youngest grand­child and put up out of her reach. Sev­eral un­shelled pe­can nuts, cut­lery — mostly forks, pens, read­ing glasses, sev­eral books and a cou­ple of refugee house plants were slowly shuf­fled to the cof­fee ta­ble be­fore I at­tempted to slide the cab­i­net a few inches clear of the fire­place.

As it hap­pens, crutches make quite good levers. The board was a lit­tle more stub­born but I pried it open with my usual tool of choice — a knife from the kitchen drawer — and at last the sooty, stunned star­ling stag­gered free. And Frank jumped on it.

Be­cause I hadn’t thought that bit through. Nor had I thought to open the doors and win­dows so the bird could get out­side.

I shooed Frank with my crutch and she dropped the bird, which promptly flew to­wards the near­est — closed — win­dow and knocked it­self silly and fell to the floor.

And Frank jumped on it again. I flapped a magazine at Frank and shouted at her and she dropped it once again, only to have the bird head for the kitchen win­dow — also closed — and knock it­self into the sink.

Frank headed for the sink and I shuf­fled fu­ri­ously af­ter her, fend­ing her off with a tea towel as she launched her­self at the bird, which was now floun­der­ing fran­ti­cally from the kitchen win­dow to the French doors and back again, head­but­ting the glass and get­ting tan­gled in the cur­tains. Frank was fol­low­ing the bird and, at the same time, dodg­ing my crutch and tea towel as I stum­bled af­ter her.

Fi­nally the bird re­bounded into the laun­dry and I went in af­ter it, slam­ming the door in Frank’s face with a tri­umphant “Gotcha!”

But I hadn’t. Be­cause the bird was slumped, pant­ing on the floor and I, re­liant as I was on a crutch and du­bi­ous bal­ance, couldn’t bend down to get it.

The bird and I looked at each other. Then I looked at the long­han­dled brush and shovel that sat in the cor­ner. Prop­ping my­self against the wall, I swept the be­mused bird into the shovel, held it there firmly with the brush and opened the door. “Noth­ing to see here,” I told Frank as I shuf­fled to the back door and flung my sweep­ings swiftly out­side.

The bird flew off, wob­bling a bit. Frank looked dis­ap­pointed. I have promised her a nice new hair tie in­stead.

is Hawke’s Bay To­day’s as­so­ciate ed­i­tor. Rachel Wise

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