From Pittsburgh Trib Focus mag March 2006, a rewrite of a Birds&Blooms mag column.
|A relentless tapping awoke me one spring morning. I peered out the nearby window and found myself face to bill with a bright red northern cardinal. Enchanted, I tapped back.
"Hello, pretty birdie," I cooed, then settled back for another hour's sleep.
Right. Every few minutes the little darling would tap and scratch. Then he would retreat to the big pine tree and loudly sing about "what-cheer?" and how "purty" he was. I figured he saw his reflection in the glass, so I lowered the blind, hoping to block his view.
Right after dawn the following morning the intrepid defender of his domain returned with a vengeance. It went like this: "Tap, tap," one, two, three, four, "Thump, thud,' one, two, three, four, "Splat, cheep cheep," followed by boastful singing and calling.
My husband and I named him Don "Tweet-ote'," and every window in our bedroom was a windmill to Sir Don. I tried everything to thwart him--I set large pots of flowers on the windowsills. I hung a large owl-colored Teddy bear in the picture window. Don stared intently at it, then attacked the glass. Finally, I cranked up the tv to drown out the chirps, pecks, and thuds.
After being awakened particularly early one morning, I declared war on Don. I timed his window lunges and leapt up aginst the glass screeching, "Chirp, chirp!" The bird was unfazed, but a truck driver passing by on the nearby road looked terrified.
Over the next two weeks, the confrontational bird continued to try and peck and head-butt his mirror image. Annoying, yes, but we had to admire his beauty, as well as his tenacity, in defending his territory. The "cardinalis cardinalis" species was named after scarlet-robed Roman Catholic cardinals, who are, no doubt, equally resolute in their convictions.
By mid-summer I was ready to concede defeat. My fighting spirit returned after I discovered a dusty wild turkey tail and wing I had preserved and forgotten on a garage shelf.
'I'll fix your little feathery behind, Don." I chuckled with glee.
The next morning Don was in robust form. I crouched under the bedroom window, holding the turkey feathers above my head and under my chin. I figured the compulsive cardinal would think I was an enraged hawk. When Don tapped at the window, I jumped up flapping and squawking. My feathers shook. The startled bird veered away from the window and flew off.
Victory was sweet, and brief.
Later that same day as my husband and I worked in the garden, I bragged about my success. Believe it or not, at that very moment Don attacked our window, then swooshed up into the pines.
"Smart-alecky bird!" I hollered.
"Smart enough to have made you just as obsessive as he is," my spouse muttered.
A few days later, I watched a bright red cardinal dart from my pine tree and fly over to my neighbor's trees. I heard a muffled thud. Tweet'ote had discovered the world is full of windmills. Every morning for the rest of the summer, when I heard a distant "purty,purty,purty," I would drift back into blissful slumber, smiling as I thought of all the fun my neighbor was having jousting with Sir Don.