In addition to all the animals that live in and around our property (see life-around-you) we have a variety that invade our man-made spaces. We have varying success in evading the invaders.
Every fall and winter we have the battle of the mice. They come looking for warmth and if we happen to be careless with food, they’re happy campers. Surrounded by fields and living in a house that is over 100 years old, there’s just no way to keep them out completely, so having mouse traps set in various places around the house is a way of life. A cat would come in handy, but our dog does a fair job. She has caught two mice in her little life, swallowing one whole before I could get it away from her.
We’ve had a couple of encounters with larger furry creatures with long skinny tails. Once when we were packing my daughter’s things up to move her to college, my husband dropped a folded tarp on the floor and woke an angry looking opposum that had been sleeping inside. We stepped way back to let him wander away. My husband woke up another one recently that was sleeping inside the gauge cover on the propane tank.
Some of the most memorable invaders have been chimney swifts. These birds like to nest in chimneys and our 100-and-some-year-old chimney has an air hole at the bottom. Apparently instead of resting on a Lofty perch, the birds fall all the way to the bottom of the chimney and have nowhere to go but out. The first time one flew through the house desperately searching for an exit, my husband wasn’t home and I caught it with his fishing net and released it outside.
When one got in a year later, I went looking for the fishing net and then remembered that my husband was off fishing. That time I think we used a blanket to shoo it out the door.
Our daughters had a number of pets over the years, including a little blue parakeet that would sit on their finger or shoulder. I had come up the stairs from the basement and opened the back door just as a chimney swift flew past me and out the door. But then it hovered near the house and didn’t fly away and we wondered why. Not long later we realized that it’s mate was still in the house. Before we caught and released that one, we had the chimney swift and the parakeet flying laps around the dining room table.
The last time we had a chimney swift in the house, my husband was again on a fishing trip. This time the bird managed to fall behind a tall built-in cabinet in the dining room. I guess it didn’t have room to fly up and out. It had fallen too far down for me to reach it. I made various comical attempts to fish it out, including snaking a vacuum cleaner hose down to retrieve it. Finally I gave up. But the bird did not. We could hear it endlessly flopping around behind the cabinet.
I called my husband and explained the situation. At the time we had a man working on the house. My husband suggested getting him to cut a hole in the back of the cabinet through a cupboard at the bottom. So he did. I put on garden gloves and fished out the weak bird.
I took the bird outside and opened my hands. Suddenly it had a burst of strength and took off into the sky.
We haven’t had any chimney swifts in recently, though a pair still nest in the garage every spring. There’s still a hole at the back of my cabinet, but you can’t see it with the cupboard doors closed. The hole in the chimney has since been blocked. But that’s another story….