I had all but forgotten about it, even though my friend Jim Martin of the Berkley Conservation Institute believes that it’s an important tool for fisheries management.
Caught up in the political polarization of this country, I wasn’t buying it for fisheries --- or anything else, for that matter.
Then came the mysterious case of what appeared to be a giant dropping his drawers and spraying explosive diarrhea across the back of my house. I found it a week ago today, brown drippings all over the siding under the deck that covers my back porch. Brown blobs mixed with moss and twigs littered the concrete directly below the siding.
Simultaneously disgusted and mystified, I hosed off the mess and went for my morning walk. The next morning, I found more of the same and caught just a glimpse of a kingbird flying out from under the deck.
Looking more carefully, I noticed globs of mud on a small copper pipe that runs for about 20 feet along the back side of the deck. The kingbird was trying to build a nest on the pipe. But because it was too narrow and too far from the house for stability, a dirty mess dripped onto the siding and fell to the porch.
This time, I decided to leave the mess and see if the bird could build the nest.
I left it until Saturday night. By then, the kingbird had tried every inch of that pipe and the back side of my house now appeared to be made of sod instead of vinyl. I could have planted a vegetable garden in the dirt on the porch. But still no nest.
Surely the bird has given up, I decided, as I spent an hour or so cleaning up the mess.
But Sunday morning came and, incredibly, the bird was still at it.
My first thought was that I will have to shoot the bird to get it to stop. I didn’t want to do that. I like kingbirds. They’re feisty little black, gray, and white birds that nab insects in flight. I see them often along the shoreline and among the wildflowers.
Instead of grabbing the .22, though, I strung sparkly ribbon along most of the pipe, leaving a portion near the corner of the house untouched. There I wedged an old wash cloth into the space between the pipe and the house, and I went for my walk.
A little more than an hour later, I returned to find the kingbird well on its way to building a nest on that wash-cloth platform.
This morning, the nest is all but finished and I look forward to watching the bird raise its young there.
So, where does the compromise come in? Well, only after the fact did I realize that is what I had done. To say the least, I was stunned.
Instead of killing the kingbird or exhausting myself trying to keep it away from the house, I acknowledged its determination, eliminated most of the pipe with dangling ribbon, and assisted with the startup.
In return, the kingbird cooperated, and it no longer is dripping muck all over the siding and the porch. Even the area under the nest itself is clean.
And later on this summer, a new generation of kingbirds will help keep the insect population under control.
I still don’t know how I came to compromise with the kingbird, but I’m glad that I did. It restores my faith. If a man and a bird can do it, why not the well-paid public officials who now so poorly govern us?