I enjoy the company of various critters that live around me. A groundhog lives under a shed in my backyard. Very private, he rarely comes out, and when he does it is with the utmost caution, standing up straight and hyper-alert, glancing carefully around. A wind-blown leaf might scare him, and he’d bolt right back to the hole under the shed. A family of three deer visit my backyard occasionally. I can tell they’ve been around from the deep footprints they leave behind. One day I got into a staring match with the young deer, and I lost. He stood just a few feet from me right before my large studio window. We locked eyes on each other; I stood there contemplating him, and he looked back at me, and neither of us moved. Eventually I gave up and he resumed munching on the green lawn.
I especially enjoy the birds of the neighborhood. And, I should say, also the nervous squirrels. Outside my side door is a stone porch where I like to sprinkle loose crumbs or crackers. No matter what my offerings to the birds, by day’s end, every last trace of what I left would be gone. I watched how the song sparrows, blue jays, red-bellied robins and a few pushy squirrels would turn up as a group, and how, except for the rare scuffle, the birds (less so the squirrels) were so polite. First, they would land at the edge of the porch, scan the scene, then spring to the pile of goodies, quickly beak one and fly away.
Not long ago I notice they liked to gather outside just as I was having breakfast, so I’d stop and provide a little breakfast for them, whistled and spoke to them. So now we would all have breakfast together. I enjoyed my friendship with the local birds, and found myself feeding them every day, sometimes twice a day, and they always came back for more.
Now to what became a bit of a puzzle, if not a mystery. I had been out on a walk with a friend and returning to my house, my friend points to my black Toyota in front of the house: “Is that your car? Look at the rear view mirror!” I was startled to notice that the right rear view mirror, the entire top, the mirror itself, and part of the side door was caked with white bird poop. I was puzzled and immediately cleaned it, which wasn’t easy.
Why was all that bird excreta focused on one part of my car? I looked around at the rest of the car, at the street and sidewalk nearby, but there wasn’t a fleck of droppings anywhere—since when do birds get so single-minded about dumping on one single five inch corner of the world? It made no sense, the poop being so focused on a single object. Much to my amazement, the next morning my rear-view window and side door was again splattered with the same bird droppings. I cleaned it again, and by the end of the day there were a few more feeble squirts in the same area. Nowhere else. For several days after, even after moving the car and wrapping a blue plastic bag around the rear-view mirror, the poop peltings continued. Finally, we had a confrontation. One morning I got into my car, groping for the ignition key. I glanced to the right and noticed a medium-sized sparrow just landed on the rear-view mirror. He turned toward me, and then discharged one white pellet on the mirror, and flew away.
Incredibly, the following morning, the same thing happened. It was inconceivable that the bird poop bombardment was coincidental. Some reason or purpose seemed to be behind this. Could the birds have figured out that the owner of the car they were dumping on is mine, the one who feeds them daily and whistles for them to come to breakfast. If so, what were they trying to tell me? Maybe the message was, Please improve the cuisine! I doubt that because they always ate everything in sight. The other message might be one of approval, an expression of thanks. Frankly, I’m touched, if this is the correct interpretation.
What else did they have to offer to express their thanks? It’s not like they could email me a thank you card or drop a twig in my nest.
To prove my guess that they were thanking me—I have as I said noticed how polite they are—I decided to stop feeding them. That was about two weeks ago. I’m happy to report that the birds have stopped thanking me.