Column: A glass act

Published 12:00 am Saturday, May 25, 2002

“Bang! Bang!


I was trying to work in my home office.

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There is always something that strives to keep me from getting any work done. The sound was coming from our living room.

I decided to investigate, armed as I was with only a nearly exhausted Bic pen.

Nothing in the room except my faithful canine companion, Towhee.

Towhee was staring at the large picture window filling a good portion of one end of the room.

I heard a bit of what I could only describe as fluttering and then the banging began again.

I saw the culprit.

It was a robin.

I wasn’t surprised.

The robin, particularly the male robin, is known for its attacks upon windows.

The male bird, all but dripping in testosterone, sees its image in the reflection from the glass and decides to drive the intruder from the area.

It is a territory thing. The robin spots its mirrored image and thinks, “That is an unbelievingly handsome fellow, but he has to go.”

Then he attacks.

The image in the window proves to be a tough foe to vanquish.

The robin needs to attack regularly.

The problem can usually be corrected by removing the image by soaping the window or placing cardboard or waxed paper on the outside of the glass.

A feisty male bird, feeling his oats and suffering from what my wife calls “a guy thing,” will move to another window.

I have seen birds fight with an exterior mirror or a baby moon hubcap on a car.

I removed the reflection from our window with some waxed paper and thinking the problem solved; I went back to my endeavors.

Shortly, I heard the all-too-familiar banging.

Towhee barked.

I assumed that the robin had moved his aggressive behavior to another window. He had not. The robin was continuing his fight with the same window.

I soaped the window while leaving the wax paper on.

I barely made it to my office when the banging on the windowpane resumed.

Towhee now had assumed the posture of head tilted to one side as she looked at the window.

This is the way she expresses confusion.

I tilted my head to the side.

I was confused also.

I placed cardboard over the window without removing the soap or the wax paper.

This would fix the robin’s wagon, I was convinced.

I almost sat down on my desk chair when the banging began again. The cardboard only worked to amplify the sound.

I walked outside once again to confront my tormentor. The robin was attacking an image that existed only in his memory.

The robin fought so fiercely that he left blood on the window and on the cardboard.

He would fight to the point of exhaustion. I could actually pick the worn out bird up in my hands.

The robin needed to enroll in an anger management class.

As the frequency of the bird’s forays into battle failed to lessen, I decided that I needed to spend more time with my feathered friend.

I watched the robin arrive early in the morning.

He would fly into the yard from an undisclosed sleeping quarters and begin his day with a refreshing bath in our birdbath.

He seemed to really relish the invigorating dip.

Then it was time for breakfast.

It is the most mportant meal of the day.

He flew to a highbush cranberry shrub.

A beautiful plant, this cranberry is what I call a “spinach plant.”

There are “ice cream plants” that produce berries that birds devour the minute they become ripe. The raspberries, blueberries and serviceberries in my yard suffer this fate. The “spinach plants” are those that produce fruit that the birds may not be willing to eat until the tastier berries are gone.

Some of these berries need a frost on them to make them palatable.

Sometimes the fruit of the highbush cranberry hang on the tree all winter long and provide much needed sustenance to the birds arriving in the spring.

These were the berries my friend robin was eating.

I watched a normal robin chow down on the shriveled cranberries.

Suddenly, the bird’s demeanor changed &045; and not for the better. After downing a certain number of berries, the robin flew rather erratically to the window hidden behind the cardboard and began fighting with the spot where it believed its image to be.

Then it dawned on me.

The robin was eating fermented berries. Fermented berries with a bit more alcohol in them than your average berry.

I was dealing with a sloshed robin. This explained his Jekyll and Hyde behavior. There was only one thing to do.

I called the local chemical dependency treatment center.

I asked one of the counselors if they treated avian alcoholism.

I admitted that I did not know if the bird had insurance to cover the treatment. It sounded like the guy hung up on me. It must have been a bad connection.

Thanks to all who called or e-mailed me with bird reports.

Some of the great birds seen were Yellow Warblers, Turkey Vultures, Wild Turkeys, House Finches building a nest, Yellow-rumped Warblers, Black-throated Green Warblers, White-crowned Sparrow, Northern Pintail, Indigo Buntings, Gray Catbird, Baltimore Orioles, Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, Barred Owl, Cerulean Warbler, Mute Swan, Bald Eagle, Scarlet Tanager, Osprey, Hudsonian Godwit, Harris’s Sparrows, Sora, Snow Geese and Black-bellied Plovers.

Great bird reporters include Kenny VanRiper, Henry Johnson, Shirley Indrelie, Wendy Hagen, Kathy Spooner, Lu Denzene, Dick Smaby, Kathy Kroeger, Carolyn Fischer, Sandy Roisen, Sherry Fair, Janice Dempewolf, Daniel Otten, Kathy O’Neil, Harlan Lutteke, June Bendewald, Brenda Johnson, Eva Walton, Diane Boelter, Larry Dolphin, Ken Leland, Lola Youngblom, Chris Benson, Don Chryst, Donna Swenson, Jim Zimmerman and John Hockema.

My sincere thanks to all the students and staff of Cleveland Schools, everyone at the National Judicial College, the Freedom Club from the Frontier Bank of Rock Rapids, all the people from Wooddale Church of Eden Prairie, all those who attended the Great River Birding Festival in Frontenac, all attendees of the SEREAM Spring Conference and all those in attendance at the Bluff Country Bird Fest at Good Earth Village for being such wonderful audiences for my stories.

Thanks to all the good folks who followed me around on the bird hike I lead at Hok-Si-La Park.

Thanks to all the fifth-graders and teachers from Banfield School in Austin for following me around the Hormel Nature Center and to all the third-graders and teachers of Hawthorne School of Albert Lea for doing the same on the Blazing Star Trail.

Thanks to an organization called Ripplemakers for naming me their Writer of the Month.

I am most proud to receive such an honor.

“When someone does something good, applaud!

You will make two people happy.” &045; Samuel Goldwyn

“What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us.”

&045; Ralph Waldo Emerson


Allen Batt of Hartland is a member of the Albert Lea Audubon Society. His e-mail address is