We receive a number of unlooked-for visitors to the M&T shop during the warmer months of the year, when we tend leave the front door open. There must be something particularly appealing that draws passersby in, diverting from their important errands. These guests tend not to stay very long, often flying through the building in a single hyperactive lap before heading on their way. I’m talking, of course, about birds.
The springtime chorus around the shop can be clamorous. There are the red-winged blackbirds down by the pond, nuthatches and chickadees in the woods, a family of phoebes nesting by the blacksmith shop, woodpeckers in the pines, not to mention the occasional osprey or bald eagle crying from some great height. Fortunately, none of the latter have ever stopped in to say “hi.” But some of the smaller species do find their way in through the front door.
Birds in the shop usually make their way upstairs, where they tend to beeline across the building towards the daylight shining through the big transom window at the far wall. The two windows below the transom offer an easy escape, but some birds don’t realize that fact until it’s too late. One nuthatch who stopped by last year thumped solidly into the glass and was temporarily stunned. I picked it up and brought it outside, where it recovered its bearings and happily flew away. This was an easy case.
A few weeks ago, a male ruby-throated hummingbird came by. We initially heard a noisy buzzing that sounded like a swarm of bees in the wall downstairs. Then the little guy came up the stairs and at us like a tiny green cruise missile. I am always amazed to watch these miniscule birds dart around, beating their wings at a rate of up to 200 times per second. (When ruby-throated hummingbirds prepare for their seasonal migration to Central America, they pack on some extra weight – the equivalent of a postage stamp – so they can make the nonstop 1,200-mile journey across the Gulf of Mexico at 50 mph. Like I said, amazing.)
Our agitated guest was in no mood to socialize. He wanted out, NOW. We had both windows open, and Joshua and I tried for a long time to steer him down from the peak of the roof using our jackets. The tiny bird outmaneuvered us every time and decided to avoid us by settling onto a hewed flake left attached to the ridge beam. Yet another practical reason to leave rough secondary surfaces – they give a good foothold for birds to perch upon and rest.
We decided to have lunch and wait the hummingbird out, but when I returned, he was getting worked up again, weaving back and forth between gable walls but never flying low enough to exit through the open windows. I knew the poor thing couldn’t continue forever, so I grabbed a cardboard box and was able to sequester him into a corner up in the peak of the roof, where the hummingbird finally sat quietly and awaited his fate. I could then simply pick him up from where he had settled, carry him outside, and bring him to the flowering elderberry next to the shop as a gesture of goodwill. After a minute of eyeing me warily from the palm of my hand, he took to the sky.
What sorts of unexpected visitors have you had in your shop?