September 25, 2006

Woodpeckers: Satan's little jackhammers

OK, OK. This is a little personal, and as such, I apologize. But woodpeckers are threatening to reduce Dope Manor to dust and put me in a rubber room in the process.

I've been contending with these evil-doers for several years now. It seems that something about Dope Manor attracts them like a politician to a camera. Their knocking and rhythmic pecking never fails to begin at the very worst moment, usually just before I'm waking up or when I'm enjoying some well deserved quiet.

They've banged holes ranging in diameter from pencil sized to large enough to fit a tennis ball, and they've defied everything I've tried to get the unholy feathered demons to leave me in peace.

I've done my research and found that they're not always drilling for insects. A lot of the time it's part of their mating ritual and males are trying to win a mate, since apparently the female of the species is attracted by the most impressive pecker.

(Ahem. Moving along...)

So they favor hammering on surfaces which resonate or produce the most buck for the bang, so to speak. Evidently, the walls of Dope Manor are prime for this purpose.

By the way, these woodpeckers (which I think are downy woodpeckers) are BOLD. I open windows and bang on stuff and yell at them like a lunatic, and they barely move. After thinking it over a few moments, they might hop to a tree a few feet away and just look at me as if to say, "Are you through yet?". Then within a minute after I've gone, they're back at it like a jackhammer from hell.

In my research, I'd found that one Quad City business, Nix-a-lite of East Moline, is a world leader in pest deterrent products, focusing mainly on their patented spike strips which, when installed along various ledges and potential perches, keep pigeons and other critters off of buildings.

There I found that they sell thin foil strips which are supposed to scare off pests such as woodpeckers. They're not cheap, for what they are, so I came up with my own approximation. As it happened, I'd spied a Halloween decoration last year which was a sort of foil spiral, orange on one side and black on the other with a loop for hanging, and tacked it to the side of the house.

I'd also read that these pests are visually attracted by holes already pecked. So I'd picked up a can of this spray foam junk that's used to fill in holes and gaps around the house with the idea of filling in all the holes they'd knocked in the house. You spray it on through a straw and it expands to several times its size and then hardens.

It went fairly well, but was difficult to get on neatly and the foam would expand and ooze and need smoothing which was messy. But I only did one side of the house and didn't get to the areas they frequent which were much higher on the house.

But with the foil thing hung near their prime pecking area and the holes filled, I anxiously waited to see if it would have any effect.

It seemed to, as the pecking disappeared for several months, replaced by the sound of the foil thing scraping against the house. (ugh) I breathed a cautious sigh of relief and crossed my fingers.

But now they're back, and with a vengeance. They start their drumming usually near dawn and at dusk. It must be mating season or something, or they've just gotten used to my handy-dandy foil thingamabob.

Since these tormenters have returned to mock my efforts, they're focusing their incessant knocking on the part of the house where I couldn't fill the holes without an extension ladder.

So today I ran to the store and picked up a different type of this spray foam hole-filler junk and got out the ladder. What I didn't realize is that unlike the kind I used last year, this type wasn't water based and is essentially like foaming super glue.

I'd tried to read the can, but the plastic packaging they had around it blocked this vital information.

If I'd been able to read it, I would have seen that the only thing that even has a fighting chance of getting this stuff off is acetone. This I found out after having already gotten it smeared all over my hands, the can itself, the ladder, and just about everywhere else, including my shirt, face, and hair. I tried searching for some nail polish remover, but wasn't successful.

The label also said in bold, DO NOT WASH OFF WITH WATER.

So I tried to wash it off with water.

But that made it worse. My fingers were sticking to each other and everything I touched. If I bent my fingers it was tough to even straighten them again. It was maddening. It was foamy, gooey, thick, super-glue.

Now I was faced with having to drive back to the store to get some acetone, which wasn't going to be easy when all I could use was a small area of one pinky and the side of one palm which wasn't covered with this toxic, sticky, and rapidly hardening gunk. It took a lot of gyrating and work just to get my keys out of my pocket.

I managed to get back to the store and find the stuff, then got home, and removed the plastic cap on the can of acetone only to find that it had a metal plug thing in the opening. I guessed that it was like the foil over a tube of medicine or something and you were supposed to just poke a hole in it.

So I took a piece of re-bar and started banging on it. It didn't puncture, but I did manage to completely mangle and crush the metal threads that the cap went on before the little metal thing just fell off.

So I continued filling the holes as best I could, with this tar-like gunk dripping and hanging off of everything, and then spent about 15 minutes scrubbing my hands with the toxic and highly flammable acetone. I had to do it about 4 times until my hands were the shade of a ripe tomato, and I still didn't get all of it off.

Why do I relate all of this? Well, hopefully, you might get a chuckle out of my incompetence and the fact that these cute little birds are getting the best of me and driving me crazy.

And the other reason is to make a desperate appeal to the loving public for any advise they may have. I don't want to resort to firearms, but it has crossed my mind, specifically a bazooka.

Any ideas? Suggestions?

Have you had to contend with these infernal beasts, and if so, what did you do? Did it work?


At 9/25/2006 6:22 AM, Blogger Benton Harbor said...

Dope... had the same problem where I live. Tried inflatable owls (didn't work), tried the tin foil stuff (didn't work either), and tried colored spirals (those definitely didn't work).

I've been told there is a liquid that can be applied over the paint that supposedly is icky tasting to the little peckers. Problem is, it's expensive and you'd have to "paint" your entire house, as the little jackhammers would just move to another untreated board... if in fact, it does taste crappy to them.

In the end, I just plug the holes once they get large enough for another bird to possible enter behind the clapboard and make a nest. When it becomes too unsightly, I put on a new board.

I was once told that the pattern of their pecking means something. If the holes are in a line, they're looking for food. If they are random, it's part of their mating call (or vice versa, can't remember which way it goes).

In short, you're probably screwed. Maybe a picture of Phil Hare will scare them off.

At 9/25/2006 9:03 AM, Anonymous Dylan said...

This sounds -- oddly -- very similar to the George W. Bush experience in Iraq. Especially the part about not being able to read the directions, before simply barging ahead. Good luck.

At 9/25/2006 10:47 AM, Blogger Kankakee Voice said...

No, no. Dick Chenney. A picture of him, preferably with a gun in his hand, scares off any living thing in sight. Even potential burglers.

The poison paint stuff works, but it is extremely expensive, not sure how toxic it is to other living things and after 5- 6 years you have to use it again sometimes.) This is what I've heard from friends who've had the problem. You could try ugly vinyl siding also.

At 9/25/2006 2:32 PM, Blogger The Inside Dope said...

Alas, I was afraid that no one could offer much hope.

Last year in my frantic search for a solution, I did come across some sites which offered that "pecker repellant" substance, and as noted, it was very expensive. For what it cost, it better damn well work, though of course that's not guaranteed.

Hell, someone could be mixing linseed oil and licorice smell and selling it for an arm and a leg for all I know. Some sharp capitalist might be banking on the desperation of people like myself to make a tidy profit.

And while disregarding the admonition to not try to wash the stuff off with water was similar to Bush in that I ignored plain warnings of failure and plunged ahead anyway out of some insane, arrogant belief that somehow all the evidence was wrong and I'd succeed when no one had before, I would hasten to point out that, unlike our fearless leader, though difficult, I did quickly find an exit strategy, a solution, and finally got out of my predicament once I realized I'd made a serious blunder.

Nor did I continue to angrily assert that ignoring the directions was not a mistake and insist that using water was the right and only thing to do.

I didn't loudly proclaim that anyone who suggested using acetone hated freedom and was aiding the gooey stuff, nor did I demand that I be allowed to continue to send thousands of people to slop more and more and more of the sticky goo all over until they got so mired in the goop that they died.

So yes, I was stupid. And yes I made a mistake. But I'm no Bush.

And if I put up a picture of Cheney's twisted visage, I'm afraid I'd have right-winger's banging on my house at all hours instead, chanting, "Stay the course", "Acetone is for appeasers", and, "The woodpeckers are in their last throes" and other non-sense lies, a fate sure to make me dearly miss the woodpeckers.

At 9/25/2006 2:53 PM, Blogger QuadCityImages said...

Maybe you should quit your day job after all and write woodpecker related humor columns, because this one's funny.

At 9/25/2006 3:39 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Congratulatuions, this is the stupidest post ever.

At 9/25/2006 8:08 PM, Blogger The Inside Dope said...

Ah fickle fate. It seems we have a difference of opinion.

And Anon, are you sure? There have been a lot of stupid posts.

And QCI, I glad to hear that it might have given you a chuckle.

I noticed the other day as I browsed the woodpecker humor section at Borders that many of the titles left something to be desired.

I think the country is probably overdue for some good pecker humor, but perhaps someone other than myself will have to provide it.

Anon's helpful observation reminds me to remind everyone that all are more than welcome to submit a piece of writing for possible posting.

I'm sure Anon could dash off something that would be far more amusing than this poor effort.

Anything that catches your eye is fine, just write something up around 700 words or less, and send it along via e-mail.

Though I give it a bit of effort, my writing often sucks, due to writing when I'm too tired to think, or dashing things off in a hurry as I'm running out the door, but mostly because I've never had any instruction and I'm not that good at it.

Perhaps if I was willing and able to spend the time necessary to polish things up and edit myself as I should, it might be a little better. But blogging on the fly doesn't lend itself to that. Maybe if I did a post a week I could do so.

So I'd be more than pleased if others could contribute. Obviously you don't have to be an accomplished writer, and we can always patch things up before it goes up.

There's all kinds of readers out there with expertise in many areas and excellent insight or interesting observations or analysis. Now if I could only motivate you to write it down and send it along.

So if something grabs your attention, or you'd like to share your opinion on a matter, write it down and send it along for consideration.

Especially you, Anon 15:39. I know you're capable of writing more than a 7 word paraphrase of the Comic Book Guy's catch phrase, "Worst episode ever!"

At 9/25/2006 10:04 PM, Blogger tiz said...

I might lose my liberal card for saying this, but a BB Gun is not a firearm. :)

Seriously though, if you can find a BB gun that's weak enough with only one pump you might be able to shoot the bird without actually killing it.

Nice story, and best of luck with the woodpeckers. Reminds me of the novel-worthy saga one of my best friends had with a family of squirrels a while back.. I felt bad for him but couldn't help laugh.

At 9/25/2006 10:21 PM, Blogger The Inside Dope said...

Ah there's the rub Tiz..

I do have a BB gun around here somewhere (whether I could find it is doubtful) and it's about the weakest thing imaginable. I recall that you could literally watch the bb as it arced to the ground about a couple hundred feet away. I doubt it would break someone's skin.

But even if I could hit one of these devils with the bb gun (I also remember you always had to aim above your target to compensate for the bb falling in flight.) it would only scare them away temporarily, which, of course, would be far to much trouble for scant benefit.

If I'm going to go hunting, so to speak, I want to decrease the population.

That of course, would require a more substantial weapon. In which case I envision holes in my house not caused by the birds, perhaps some broken windows and random damage to neighboring properties. (that is if the haunting warning from A Christmas Story didn't come true and I shoot my eye out.) and after the damage and mayhem, the woodpeckers would still be alive and well, and grateful that I'd shot some "starter" holes for them to drill on.

At 9/27/2006 10:04 AM, Blogger Kankakee Voice said...

>>And if I put up a picture of Cheney's twisted visage, I'm afraid I'd have right-winger's banging on my house at all hours instead, chanting, "Stay the course", "Acetone is for appeasers", and, "The woodpeckers are in their last throes" and other non-sense lies, a fate sure to make me dearly miss the woodpeckers.<<

ROFLMAO!! These posts are some of your best and very, VERY funny. And above all - we definitely need more pecker humor in this world! Boy, when I was younger I could have really used some pecker repellent, there's just so many around!


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