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Paul Andersen: Fair Game

Paul Andersen
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO, Colorado

They are everywhere this spring. Birds seem to be riotously celebrating climate change in nearly Hitchcockian swarms.

Stepping outside at daybreak, a bird chorus swells. Waking to this sweet song is one of nature’s great gifts. The unfortunate accompaniment to avian arias, aside from airborne droppings, is the occasional bass thump that resonates through my house.

The sound just heard is a bird smacking a window, too often resulting in a quivering flicker, wren or robin in death throes beneath a smear of feathers on the glass. My heart breaks. What can be done?



Last year my wife took desperate measures by cutting strips from black trash bags and taping them to our windows. This gave the house a macabre look of mourning, and birds still hit the windows. The black crepe began to dictate a somber mood, so we replaced it with strings of pine cones dangling from fishing line.

The cones were a nice, organic, ornamental touch, but they rattled against the windows and scored the glass. Birds still collided with our panes. This year we tried tendrils of tinsel attached to long strings. They shimmered nicely in the sun, like glittering Spanish moss, but ended up twisted into hopeless tangles. Bluebirds were attracted to them for nesting material, which defeated the purpose.



I searched the Web looking for other solutions, none of which seemed either effective or aesthetic. One site suggested moving feeders away from windows, which would make sense if we had feeders. Another option was dangling dead branches in front of windows, a druidic talisman more grating than pine cones.

Another website offered the truly feather-brained solution of pasting plastic food wrap to windows to cut reflection. “If you have trouble getting the wrap to stick, spray a light coating of vegetable oil or water on the window before laying down the wrap.” This would not be an aesthetic enhancement for the triple-pane windows we recently installed – at considerable expense – and there is no way Martha Stewart is going to endorse it.

Another suggestion: spray-on fake snow to “deaden” a window’s reflection. “Just don’t overdo the fake snow or you’ll be dreaming of a white Christmas and not be able to see anything out your window.” I miss the winters of yore as much as anyone, but I’m not going to go snow blind peering through a crust of fake flakes.

Window stickers were another solution, but you need to cover almost the entire window with raptor silhouettes to get any results. Another website suggests adhering balloons to reflective surfaces so the wind can bounce them around, giving a home the look of a used-car dealership. Another bright idea: “Wrap strips of bright Mylar around cardboard tubes (from paper towel rolls) and suspend these wrapped tubes from strings in front of your problem windows.” Our homeowners association would file a protest!

Don’t like stickers, balloons or Mylar tubes? Tie on strings of pie pans, discarded CDs, old Christmas ornaments, maybe even chrome hubcaps from ’57 Chevys. A supposed wonder product, FeatherGuard, is a string festooned with feathers stretched across windows. The feathers could come from ill-fated birds on suicidal fly-bys in a desperate effort to consort with the remains of deceased kin that flutter ghostlike against windows. Creepy!

The website I like best says to leave your windows so dirty that birds see streaks and splotches instead of alluring reflections. When I happily suggested this to my wife, she gave me one of those looks of suffering that come whenever I procrastinate on chores of domestic drudgery.

The final solution to window pain, says another website, is to apply all of the above techniques, thereby creating the sense of living through a perpetual blizzard in the middle of a thicket of dead trees among a massive mobile of dangling junk. We might as well encircle our house with plastic wrap and spray the whole mess with glitter.

Help me, readers! I’m open to ideas here because, in all seriousness, I’ll do almost anything to spare the birds, and myself, the grief of window pain. The beauty of birdsong should not become a funeral dirge.


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