A bird has turned my writing life into a sit-com.
I write for a living out of a condo with wooden siding on the southwestern fringe of Portland, Oregon, a bucolic, normally quiet spot next to what might be described as a thickly wooded park.
A thickly wooded park overrun with woodpeckers, as it happens.
For the first several years, I occasionally heard the rat-a-tat-tat-tat-tat-tat-tat-tat (ad nauseam) on the metal flashing of my gutter. It sounded like a Tommy Gun going off. I’d run out of my writing room with Tabasco in my eyes. I had no clue what was in my flue.
It was a scene out of Woody Woodpecker.
Turns out that male woodpeckers, specifically Colaptes auratus, the Northern Fucker, pardon me, the Northern Flicker, beat their beaks on any hard, flat surface, including the walls of defenseless condos, to declare their primacy and find mates.
Apparently one of these motherflickers liked what she heard and got herself knocked up.
These males are a sexually liberated bunch. After copulating, they hang out with the females and help them build nests.
For weeks now, while attempting to write in my office, I’ve heard these little flickers drumming on the wall over my right shoulder. It sounded like a squadron of them. The noise got so loud that I loaded my shotgun.
Turns out they were building a nest. In my siding. On the other side of my TV.
I banged on the window now and again and watched the flickers flit away.
But when I wasn’t home, they returned. Again and again, apparently.
I hung a stuffed animal (a ridiculous looking yellow monkey with brown spots) about six feet from this flicker sanctuary, and I returned to my work.
So did the woodpeckers, finishing their hole in my wall.
Now I hear baby woodpeckers inside my wall. Based on the noise, I figure she’s given birth to about 400 of these little flickers.
When Motherflicker pops in with a beetle or a worm or a case of Schlitz, the babies go berserk. You’d think Kanye had come to roost.
I’m resigned to waiting them out, and I’ve been reading from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology: “Once nestlings are about 17 days old, they begin clinging to the cavity wall rather than lying on the floor.”
I figure I'm on about Day 9.
No word on how long until they fly the coop and I can board up their home for the winter.
For now, I survive on patience . . . and noise-canceling headphones.