Tuesday, 28 June 2011

Birdhouse bother

Last spring, we discovered that a pair of starlings considered the sheltered space under the roof tiles at Hilltop House a suitable place to raise a family. You can see more pictures of them here.

YUMMY. Mrs. Starling brings food for her hungry chicks.

Although we appreciated observing the chirpy little chicks and the hectic feeding, we were not entirely overjoyed with all the mess in the attic. This year therefore, we decided to provide more suitable accommodation for the family.
Building materials were purchased, books were consulted and the construction plans approved, before we started the process of sawing and hammering. Everything had to have the correct dimensions, so that Mr. and Mrs. Starling would be tempted by our Bed & Breakfast. There was no lack of fine features such as strategically placed vents and an interior climbing wall for small baby birds with unsteady feet. Husfruen even sacrificed her favourite turned oak pen, just so that the house would have a nice perch for the parents to sit on while feeding the little ones.

BUILT TO STANDARD so that both the nesting box and the hole (5 centimeters) will fit starlings.

To make our little establishment more attractive still, it was weatherproofed, painted shiny white and equipped with a sign announcing that there was room at the inn. The penthouse suite was audaciously named the "Love nest", as an unabashed call for amorous excesses. We even wrote it in English, in case we were dealing with migratory birds that were not quite fluent in Norwegian.

NOT FOR THE BASHFUL. We brazenly encourage bedauchery, but obviously expect that the happy couple that will move in is properly wed - at least for the summer.
The finished birdhouse was hung high on the wall above the garage roof, safely out of the reach of our neighbour’s cat, on a warm but shady place, close to last year's residence.

SAFELY FIXED to the wall in a suitably sheltered and shady place.
When the “Vacancy” sign was up, there was no shortage of young winged lovers that came to inspect the premises. Several tits stopped by to have a closer look, but Mr. and Mrs. Starling remained unimpressed. We knew we had lost, when we repeatedly saw them land on the roof tiles with beaksfull of building materials, and it wasn’t long before there was chirping and twittering from their little babies.

UNGRATEFUL BIRDS prefer illegal squatting under the roof tiles to lodging in their own house.
Such ungrateful birds! We felt totally rejected, and although huffy that our efforts were so little appreciated, we let the birdhouse hang anyway. It was just possible that other winged visitors would be a little more appreciative of our offer of free lodging.
It turns out that they were, but perhaps not quite as we had imagined.
We had admittedly seen the occasional bumblebee buzzing around the house, but you know how bumblebees fly haphazardly around where they want to go, before they crash-land as close as they can and walk the rest of the way. We thought it was merely a coincidence that some of them crawled into the birdhouse. It wasn’t until the other day, when Husfruen was out working on the garage roof, which we are currently repairing, that we found out what really went on in there. I knew something was wrong when Hubby coughed a little uneasily behind me and gently asked me to look up. From the bird box sounded an angry rumble, and suddenly a whole swarm of bees hummed out of the hole. Just then, we were happy that bumblebees are not exactly precision fliers, though they got too close for comfort anyway. It was quite obvious that they aimed for our faces, so we just had to drop our tools and run for safety indoors.

IMMINENT DANGER. Best to get away when a gang of angry bumblebees are on the warpath. 
Here we were in a bit of a predicament. We did not really want to approach the bumblebees’ hive again, but the garage roof is currently unprotected, and we cannot possibly wait until autumn to get that job done. Unfortunately, we had a tough decision to make. Now, it is probably possible to move such a hive, but the birdhouse is screwed to the wall from inside, so it couldn’t have been done without damaging the hive anyway.
When the decision was taken, Hubby had the daunting task of getting it done. Wearing a padded thermal suit, leather gloves and a crash helmet, he climbed up the ladder, equipped with bug spray and gaffer tape. The birdhouse was sprayed thoroughly through the hole before it was taped shut. Not nice! You feel like Dr. Mengele for being involved in such a mass killing, but we had no choice.

OFF SEASON. This B&B will not be reopened until next spring.
Now the birdhouse will be aired out for the better part of a year before it will hopefully be ready for new lodgers next year. The garage roof should be ship shape by then, and we promise not to evict anyone, no matter who moves in - as long as they have feathers.


  1. A beautiful post.
    Fantastic images and a lovely read.

  2. Great post and what a lovely birdhouse. I have heard that rubbing a bar of soap inside the house will keep the bees from nesting in the birdhouses.

  3. OH thats so funny. I have the same problem I put up 2 purple martin "condos" and yet they are not interested in using 'em.

  4. An epic story! Loved it! Perhaps a water bed and a big screen TV with Wifi service might entice the starlings to roost.
    Your writing is understated and brilliant.
    That the laws of unintended consequences are not suspended even for such a cute domicile is such a stinging rebuke!
    Great post! ;-)WBW

  5. Great story!! Boom & gary of the Vermilon River, Canada.

  6. starlings obviously have a mind of their own! What a lovely bird house too. Bees are wonderful but they need to nest in more appropriate places I guess!

  7. Wonderful post and images! Sorry about the bees.

  8. Wonderful post - I so enjoyed reading it! I hope next year, the lovely little house has some appreciative inhabitants.

  9. Wonderful post. Sorry you got bees instead of birds and hope you have better luck next year.

  10. What a great story. Proof that animals will do just what they want lol
    You certainly put a lot of effort into the nest box.