By Elaine Rohse • Columnist • 

Ruffled feathers

Winning is more fun than losing. I like to win — whether it’s a bridge hand or mumblety-peg.

Even if I have an unfair advantage and am much bigger than my opponent, I enjoy winning — and that was the case recently when I had an unusual combatant.

The conflict began early this spring and my adversary was an American robin. Although I’d once done battle with crows, robins, I thought, were nice, friendly birds. I liked them. They were the first harbingers of spring.

Nor did I do anything to provoke that bird. My mistake was leaving my car parked in our driveway. My excuse for doing this is that the garage is so full of stuff, there is insufficient room for the car.

Further, my driving skills give me doubt as to whether this is something I want to do even when garage space is available. I have never parked my car in a garage; precision driving my forte. When I park in a grocery store parking lot, sometimes upon getting out I discover I have taken up two spaces, whereupon I must get back in the car, start it, back up and maneuver another try.

My back-up skills are also poor, and if one drives headfirst into a garage, one must then back out.

And so it is that my car is parked in the driveway at all times and was fair game for the robin’s attack. I was alerted to the first skirmish in this “war” when, early one morning as my coffee still perked, I went out to get my paper and chanced to glance at my car.

I couldn’t believe what I saw. Down most of the door on the driver’s side was a river of bird droppings. Around the rearview mirror there was an even heavier concentration. The glass in the mirror could not even be seen. In the driveway below the soiled area was a puddle of bird droppings. Some bird had declared “war” on my car, had left it an unsightly mess requiring immediate cleanup. I filled a bucket with warm water and detergent, grabbed an old towel and went at it. I used glass cleaner on the mirror and took a broom and another bucket of water to the driveway.

All during that cleanup, I wondered why a bird would do something like this.

My neighbor came out to see what I was doing and, when I asked her, she thought she knew: Robins — and perhaps other birds — are attracted to a mirror when they see in it their reflection: a beautiful creature that would be a perfect mate. They then pursue the matter to try to persuade that attractive creature to accept their proposal.

I did not know whether the bird that attacked my car was a male or a female. I hadn’t seen it, but I presumed it was a male. And, it seemed to me that when that bird discovered the object in the mirror was an inanimate object, it would feel quite foolish about a courtship with such as that and would never again commit such a gaffe.

But I was wrong. Next morning when I went out to get the paper, there on the side of my car was a repeat of the preceding morning’s attack.

My neighbor came out with a grin on her face and announced that I should also look on the other side of the car. It, too, was an unsightly mess.

So — this was not a single skirmish — this was war. And I like to win. And although my adversary was miniscule compared to big me, so far, it had been the winner. I again filled a bucket with water, found another old towel, brought out the glass cleaner and the broom and cleaned up both sides of the car and two sections of driveway.

This went on — and on. Every morning when I went out to get the paper that unsightly mess on my car greeted me.

I was thoroughly annoyed at this daily cleaning and at losing every battle. When my son and his wife stopped by one day, I told them about that annoying robin and its crazy courtship and wondered if they had any suggestions to put an end to it.

My son had an idea: put plastic bags over those rearview mirrors so the bird could not see that beautiful, hoped-for mate. I fastened plastic bags totally around the mirrors, using rubber bands to keep them tightly in place so they wouldn’t blow off. It was a bit unhandy because whenever I drove the car, they had to be removed before I could drive, but it was worth the effort. Next morning when I went out, there was my pristine car — no sign of bird droppings.

I kept putting on the bags for several weeks, and my car stayed clean — but the robin apparently hated to lose a battle as much as did I. Now it tried a different tack. It started building a nest on my front porch on a narrow railing that any bird should have realized would not accommodate a nest.

Each morning, it was my porch that was littered with droppings — and tufts of grass, weeds, twigs that hadn’t stayed in that designated bird’s nest. I swept up the litter and then — although I deemed it almost a sacrilege — I, who had always deemed a bird’s nest a precious thing, broomed down that starter nest.

The robin moved to my back patio with another plan in mind. Each morning, the patio was covered with droppings — and litter. Again each morning, I swept up the litter, broomed off the droppings — and then, after several days, I reluctantly broomed down that nest, too.

That was a few weeks ago. I cautiously removed the bags from the mirrors, and all has been well. So I’m feeling elated about this win.

And I feel even more puffed up because I was the “general” for my neighbor’s conflict. She, too, experienced a robin war. The bird was seeing its reflection in her windows, thinking it was a mate worth pursuing, and leaving great quantities of droppings and dung daily on the windows and sills, evidence of that courtship.

I told her about my plastic bag solution and she gave the bags a try. They won her war, too. And I felt good about that.

But, still, I worry about that robin coming back next spring. What a calamity it would be, and how on earth would I win that war, if the powers that be declare total ban against all plastic bags.

Elaine Rohse can be reached at .

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