She's Baaaa-ck ... The Window-Whacking, OCD-Afflicted Cardinal Is Up To Her Old, Annoying Tricks

A cat sculpture at a skylight fails to deter the crazy cardinal from repeatedly slamming into her reflection. Lisa Brownell

As challenging as this past season has been, what with constantly stoking the wood stove, shoveling snow and ashes, and having to bundle up like Nanook of the North, I enjoyed one aspect: Silence from the nutty cardinal that spent countless hours almost every day last spring, summer and fall slamming into windows around our house.

Evidently the bird, which nests in nearby evergreens, was either too busy all winter scrounging for nuts and seeds, or, like the rest of us, too blasted cold to waste energy on such bird-brained activities.

As loyal readers will recall, no matter how many times my wife or I taped paper over our windows to eliminate reflections, the cardinal kept interpreting its mirror image as a rival bird horning in on her territory, and slammed into the glass from dawn to dusk.

At first it was kind of amusing, once I realized the cardinal hadn't injured itself, but after a week or so its behavior evolved from mildly annoying to extremely irritating, especially when the banging and high-pitched whistling started in before 5 a.m. By fall the inside of our house looked like a dungeon because of all the papered-over windows, and all it took was one sliver of exposed glass to provoke a

barrage of attacks that reverberated throughout every room.

Don't get me wrong. I like birds, especially barred owls that hoot, "Who cooks for you? Who cooks for you-all" in the middle of the night; osprey and red-tail hawks that circle and swoop; turkey vultures that glide with the thermals; wild turkeys that trot along forest paths, great blue herons that stand like statues along the water's edge; jays that serve as woodland sentinels and cry out warnings of human intruders; curious phoebes that flit from branch to branch, wagging their tails, crows and ravens that squawk raucously, nuthatches, finches, sparrows, orioles and so many other feathered neighbors. I'm even fond of the wily catbird that repeatedly raided my blueberries last summer until I finally thwarted it with netting.

I feel much less affection, though, for the crazed cardinal.

First of all, on a superficial level, the female has dingy plumage compared to the crimson male, who uses his flashy color to attract a mate.

Which leads me to ponder: Is this the best you could come up with? All that preening and you wind up with an obsessive-compulsive spouse who spends all its spare time slamming into windows.

I can imagine her starting a conversation:

"Dear, we're running low on seeds … Do you mind flying over to the garden and bringing back a few for dinner?"

"OK, in a little while … I'm right in the middle of arranging these twigs for our nest."

Ten minutes later: "You know, I asked you to get some seeds, yet you're still fiddling with the nest…"

"I know, but if I drop this now the whole thing will fall apart. Give me a few more minutes."

Another 10 minutes: "What! You're still working on the nest?! What happened to my seeds?"

"I told you I'm busy right now! Why can't YOU go get the seeds? What are you doing all day?"

"What are you talking about?" I've been knocking my self out, literally, keeping that other cardinal from taking our spot?"

"What other cardinal? That's your reflection in a window!"

"Don't tell me what I saw! I know what you're up to …"

Now that I think about it, I haven't seen much of the male cardinal lately. Maybe he finally flew the coop.

Anyway, this spring we've been experimenting with different cardinal deterrents, and even placed a large, wooden sculpture of a cat peering menacingly out one skylight. You can see from the accompanying photograph how well that worked.

So I guess we'll just have to learn to live with the banging and whistling for a few months.

Or go back to living in a papered-in dungeon.

It could be worse, I guess. We could be besieged by a cape buffalo, rhino or wildebeest, so we should count our blessings.

Reader Comments

MORE BLOGS

Training For Mystic Sharkfest: The Loneliness Of The Long-Distance Swimmer

Among the many benefits of active recreation is hanging out with friends – which of course you can do at a bar, pizza parlor or coffee shop, but since most of my pals prefer to spend their leisure time on the trail or water, we...

Stung By Wasps AND Suffering From Lyme Disease: I Can't Catch A Break

You know that funny, itchy feeling when something is crawling around or worse, lodged where it doesn’t belong?

Which Is Worse: Getting Devoured By A Grizzly Bear Or A Great White Shark?

During years of roaming hither and yon on land and sea, I’ve been chased by a grizzly bear, nearly trampled by stampeding yaks, charged by a bull, attacked by swarms of hornets and almost struck by a copperhead – but what...

A Whitewater Dream Taking Shape in Willimantic

Asked to name the best whitewater kayaking and canoeing stretches in Connecticut, most paddlers would single out a gnarly, 2.6-mile section of Class IV rapids on the Housatonic River from Bulls Bridge Dam to Gaylordville, or Diana's Pool...

My War With Canada Geese

Years ago I looked forward to autumn, not so much for the kaleidoscopic foliage but because the evening serenade of migrating Canada geese that lulled me to sleep.

Take A Hike Or A Paddle June 6-7 During Connecticut Trails Weekend

In a culture that celebrates virtually every pastime and passion – from National Kazoo Day Jan. 28 to Public Sleeping Day Feb. 28 to Moldy Cheese Day Oct. 9 – we outdoor enthusiasts finally get our day in the sun on June 6,...

A Fourth Straight Victory At The Essex Boat Race in Massachusetts: Paddling In A Small Division Pays Off

As Ian Frenkel and I paddled exuberantly toward the finish line last Saturday at the Essex River Race in Essex, Mass., I thought about what it had taken to pull off our fourth consecutive tandem sea kayaking victory.

Hiking The Continental Divide Trail From Mexico To Canada: 'It Is Fun Even When It's Miserable'

Applying the ancient Chinese proverb, "A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step," Mystic native Hilary Sueoka and her boyfriend, Dan Stedman, should have taken three steps April 22 when they set out on their...

Turtles And Osprey And Otters, Oh My – So Much To See By Kayak

The turtle has an ill-deserved reputation for lethargy.

The Hills Are Alive With The Sound Of Dirt Bikes

Fingernails across a chalk board, a baby crying, a dog barking incessantly – all are music to my ears compared to the whine of a dirt bike tearing through the forest.

Hillary Clinton, Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio, Chris Christie, Even Elizabeth Warren All Have Something In Common: The Black SUV

Here’s how ABC News reported an appearance last week by former Florida Gov. Bush, who is considering a bid for the Republican presidential nomination:

A Snowy Hike To Carter Notch In New Hampshire's White Mountains

Midway up the staggeringly steep Wildcat Ridge Trail in New Hampshire’s White Mountains earlier this week, after my son, Tom, and I had postholed up to our knees 487 times through rotten snow despite wearing snowshoes, we began...

Ah, Spring: Moving Rocks, Lugging Logs, Digging Holes And Other Fun Activities

A 3-foot-high mound of snow still stubbornly piled beneath the deck serves as a grim reminder of this past winter’s relentless brutality, and of the months spent shoveling, shoveling, shoveling.