Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Around here we call it "exercise"

It happens at least twice a year: Some chunk of creosote gives way in one of the chimneys, and with a thunk and a twittering, suddenly we have chimney swifts in the house.

We got two of them this afternoon. I heard them tumble into the dining room fireplace, and then it was only seconds before Silver started barking. The birds took wing and landed on the curtains. Taxi, up in the very top of her kitty tree, swatted at one of them and very nearly nailed it.

There is an established routine for dealing with a SWIFTS IN THE HOUSE crisis. I gather up all the pets and shut them into the bedroom (provided the birds haven't found their way into the bedroom before I get a chance to do so). Then I open the front and back doors and start bothering the birds with a ceiling-fan duster until they find an egress.

This time, the first one was easy. It perched in the hem of my old winter coat and hid its head in the fabric, possibly figuring that if it couldn't see me, I couldn't see it. I gently picked up the coat and carried it out back, then gave it a shake.

The second one was a real challenge. It landed on our framed Thunderball soundtrack LP, way up high on the wall, and I had to try to dislodge it without knocking the record off its hanger. Then it cowered in the kitchen blinds for a while, and then it whacked itself on the head pretty hard by running into a wall because, let's face it, chimney swifts are crazy-good insect hunters but are really not all that bright in most other respects.

Finally I managed to shoo it out onto the back porch and close the kitchen door. Ten minutes later, I had still failed to teach it the difference between "screen" and "no screen," but with some dumb luck I sent it on its way.

I always roll my eyes and carp a lot when this happens, but secretly I don't mind it because I get to see the birds up-close and personal in a way I never otherwise would. They return my gaze with their coal-black eyes, and I can see their tiny chests heaving in fear and exhaustion. I feel concern and pity for them. Talk about a nasty surprise: One moment you're snug in your bed, and the next--whoops! Alice in Wonderland!

Anyway, they're both outside again, and they'll have some infrastructure work to do this evening.