Evasive maneuvers now captain

By Steve Estes

I can’t say I know a lot about the birds who call the Florida Keys home. I couldn’t tell you when they arrive, when they leave, or what they do while they’re here.

I’m not talking about the herons and egrets that are around all the time, I’m talking about the smaller birds like doves and such.

What I have seen in the last couple of weeks, however, is a more aggressive attitude on the part of local birds.

We have a pair of birds that nest each year in the awning that surrounds our office building. We look forward to their arrival and await the birth of the babies like expectant parents.

The pair is usually very calm and used to humans.

Not so this year.

I don’t know who or what spiced up their bird seed this year, but the birds outside the door don’t seem to take too kindly to our comings and goings this year.

I pulled into the parking lot a few days ago and one of the pair was walking around on the ground next to our large bush out front. On any other day, they would just get up and fly off when I approached.

Not so that day.

The bird stood its ground. I had to stop several feet short of my usual parking spot to make sure I didn’t run the bird over. It stood right in the middle of the spot just looking at me, almost daring me to come closer.

I got out of the vehicle and started up the walkway. It shuffled to the side to block my path. I continued forward and it bucked up like it was a hawk, spreading its wings and nodding its head at me like a scene from a Rocky Balboa movie when Rocky has decided he’s not going down anymore.

I was happy to go around the other way. I don’t want to argue with wildlife, particularly wildlife that can fly over my head and decorate my scalp with droppings.

My capitulation must not have been complete enough for this intrepid winged bombardier. When I went back out to get in the car and run an errand, the bird, I’m sure it was the same one, had performed target practice on my vehicle. And he was good.

He’d dropped an avian dive bomb right in the middle of the windshield, and another right on the door handle. I got a napkin and wiped off the handle, turned on the windshield washers and cleared the window.

When I returned, the bird was back in his overhead nest.

As I walked leisurely up the path to the office door, I got a very uncomfortable feeling, a feeling like I was being watched. Though I didn’t want to, my eyes were drawn to the nest above my head.

There he sat. He was balanced on the edge of the nest with his neck craned out over the edge, staring right at me.

I got this eerie feeling that must have felt just like that of the stars in Alfred Hitchcock’s classic The Birds.

The winged predator didn’t blink, he didn’t look away, he made not a sound. He just stared at me as I walked up and opened the door.

I went back outside about an hour later. If I hadn’t been protected by the awning, my bird nemesis would have given me a new hair color. He dropped another avian dive bomb (yep, you know them as bird turds) right on the awning above where I was standing and a second one on the deck just past the awning cover. His aim, I have to say, was nearly perfect.

When the say was over and I got ready to leave for home, I had to use another napkin to clear yet another avian dive bomb from the door handle. I closed the door and started the car. As I looked up into the rear-view mirror, the bird dropped another load right in the middle of the windshield.

I don’t know why this winged creature had singled me out. I enjoy his nesting time, I’ve never vandalized his nest, I’ve never accosted his mate, and I’ve never accosted his offspring.

Yet he had the urge to dump on my head.

As I pulled away, I stopped in front of the mailbox and rolled down the window to place some letters in the box. With my arm outstretched, my winged enemy dropped a bomb on the mailbox and down the car door, narrowly missing my hand each time.

That was too much. Because it hadn’t been the best of days, I rolled down the other window and yelled out it at the bird.

I know that you never directly assault those who hold the high ground. He could fly. I couldn’t. I wasn’t willing to throw anything at his circling frame, all I could do was shake my fist at him and ask him why he wanted to use me for target practice.

The next shot splattered on the window ledge. I came to my senses and hit the button to raise the window. I barely got it up before the next bomb left a streak of droppings down the glass.

I was beat. I knew I was beat. He controlled the high ground, and he knew, as the birds in the Hitchcock classic knew, that I wasn’t willing to start a pitched battle with him.

I drove off. I saw him circling overhead. He dropped another avian dive bomb on the windshield. As I turned right at the light, he hit me with another, this time in the back window.

I swear he called out reinforcements. By the time I got past the shopping plaza, I had heard at least three more dive bombs splatter on the convertible top. I increased my speed, figuring it would make it harder to draw a bead.

Wrong.

A fourth, fifth and sixth bomb fell on the roof. I was in danger of being buried in bid poop.

I hit a hard right turn down Church St. I thought it might throw him off the path. As I careened around the corner, a small bag of Frito’s, left over from a recent trip, slipped off the trunk deck where I guess I had forgotten it while munching on the treats beside the car.

I had found what he was after. He immediately, along with his friends, dove down to the street and began attacking the bag.

I looked in the mirror, unwilling to stop lest they take it for weakness, or worse yet, a willingness to continue the battle. In the middle of the road stood my winged nemesis. He was again staring at me.

I don’t read avian body language, but I know, because I know, that he was telling me to get on home with myself, and tomorrow I had better bring more snacks, tastier snacks.

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