Hitchcock would have loved this. For the past two weeks, the Macfilos neighbourhood has been suffering a plague of vandalised car mirrors and lime-encrusted paintwork. It is a bird thing, you see.
Vehicles throughout the area have been under attack as amorous or belligerent tits (only the experts would know) have waged war on mirrors and doors.
I first noticed a great streak of birdlime (to use a convenient euphemism) down the offside door of my car. The obnoxious white streak stretched down, immediately under the side mirror. It happened again the next day, after I had cleaned up the offending mess.
The sinister significance of this phenomenon was not evident at the time.
Then I saw similar deposits appearing on almost all the cars in the street. There was a deep plot here and no mistake. My hitherto charitable view of our “feathered friends” was rapidly losing focus:
Bird: A warm-blooded egg-laying vertebrate animal distinguished by the possession of featherS, wings, a beak and typically by being able to fly.
Quite. But the dictionary compilers missed out something else that birds are noted for
One neighbour found a “large bird” of indeterminate ethnicity pecking at her car mirror in something of a frenzy. When his excitement reached a peak, the beast dropped an untidy streak of “lime” down the side of the car: Involuntary defecation. This was happening everywhere.
Our neighbour blamed a “large black bird” for the offence, but whether blackbird or magpie no one was really sure. David Attenborough would have known without a doubt.
Those of us with folding mirrors promptly folded them, but this offered no respite. The birds were clearly capable of pecking at an extreme angle and still managed to foul the paintwork.
Needs must when the devil drives, so the next experiment was to encase both mirrors in plastic shopping bags. That worked, we discovered. But the untidiness offended my nature.
Then I discovered that the 3-litre Brabantia bin liner is a perfect fit for most car mirrors. The bag even incorporates a handy drawstring to ensure complete bird proofing. Peace at last in the Macfilos neighbourhood.
What causes this phenomenon? Well, extemporary defecation is apparently all to do with sex (or “mating” as birds call it), territorial rights and the accumulated stress thereof.
I found that we are not alone in suffering such near-field lime bombardment. According to a report in The Telegraph, many areas of the country have been under attack and villagers nationwide have been forced to take urgent measures.
“Birdlime”, it appears, is only part of the problem. Drivers have even found their mirrors cracked as a result of over-enthusiastic
As reported in The Telegraph, a Peter Exley of the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds explained that it’s all down to hormones: “They get very territorial — if they see a reflection in a mirror they see it as an adversary.
“The bird says, ‘I’m going to see off that intruder in my area’ and then they (sic) get very agitated — so much so that they make an unfortunate mess.”
All very unfortunate, Mr Exley, but what about our cars? It costs a fortune to get them cleaned these days, not to mention all that inconvenience. We clearly need a Royal Society for the Protection of Cars, the RSPC. I
Marion Badcock, a West Sussex villager told the reporter that it all started about two years ago: “We’ve all had to make special covers in this part of the village near the ford.”
Mr Exley pointed out that mirror attacks are not good for the birds’ stress levels: “Most of these birds don’t pair for life and there’s a whole load of strategies for finding a mate.”
“If you’ve got cars parked near a river where grey wagtails are nesting, there’s only going to be one result.” Doom!
The Decisive Peck
Well, Mr Exley, I do live near a river and, no doubt, the pesky birds are indeed nesting — and attempting to mate — nearby. My stress levels, never mind the wagtails’, went through the roof last week. That is until Brabantia came to the rescue.
To illustrate the point, I grabbed a couple of snaps of bombed vehicles and, in contrast, my pristine, bag-protected car. It’s a case of covering up all your mirrors while these little chaps are on the mating flight.
To my regret, I was unable to get a shot of the vandalism in progress. I spent an hour lurking at a distance with a long lens, awaiting The Decisive Peck, but all to no avail. Towards the end of this session, I was in the pecking mood myself. My repressed thoughts would certainly have had me drummed out of the RSPB in deep doo-doo.