Monday, December 23, 2013

Deck the halls with rubber serpents

“The only way you’re getting out of here is with me.  Let’s make this easy on both of us,” I said.  The door clicked shut behind me.  I inched into the room, hoping I’d pushed my fear down far enough that it wasn’t showing. 

My quarry pondered my words for a moment.  We locked eyes.  A tense silence filled the room.   A tumbleweed blew across the carpet between us.  Or was it a dust bunny?

Then, to let me know how easy he intended to make this on both of us, my quarry relieved himself on my wife’s dresser.  Then he launched headfirst into the ceiling, flapping and bonking his head over and over.

“Hey, could you just hold still for a minute?” I said, ducking as he swooped past.  The rational part of your brain knows that a little wren can’t possibly hurt you, but still, when one is flying around your bedroom, you really have to fight the urge to shriek and crawl someplace where the likelihood of a winged creature landing on your face drops to zero.

Each time the bird stopped to rest, I’d step slowly closer, only to flinch and take a blind swipe with my son’s miniature butterfly net as it flew past.

I may not be great at wren wrangling yet, but this wasn’t my first bird rodeo.  The bird entered the house the same way they always do: by riding on the wreath that hangs on our front door.  When the door swings open, the bird takes flight and boom!  Instant involuntary aviary.

Every year, we forget that this happens.  We merrily hang the wreath on our door, dooming ourselves to another run-in with a cute little winged menace.

“There’s a bird in the house.  He came in when I opened the door to let the dog out,” my wife Kara reported last week.

The last time this happened, I fashioned a crude net out of a trash bag, a garden rake, a coat hanger and some duct tape.  This time, I had a secret weapon: a four-year-old son.

“Evan, I need your butterfly net.  Do you know where it is?” I asked.

“I do!” Evan replied, taking a diving leap into a giant pile of colorful plastic paraphernalia in our toy room (formerly known as the living room), disappearing entirely, except for his feet.

When he emerged with the net, it wasn’t quite the size I’d remembered.  It looked more like a net you’d use to scoop a goldfish out of an aquarium.  

I thanked Evan for the net and followed the wren upstairs, down the hall and into our bedroom, where our final showdown would take place.

From my nightstand, the bird looked at me with his beak open slightly, as if he wanted to speak.  I looked back at him, and in this pause from our surface-to-air combat, we shared a moment.  The bird communicated with me.

“Dude, stop chasing me,” he communicated.

The one thing I’ve learned: If you chase a wren long enough, it will get tired.  It will get sloppy.  It will make mistakes.  Eventually, it will just sit there and say, “I’m pretty sure you’re going to eat me, but whatever.”

After a few more passes around the room, the bird sat still long enough for me to drop the goldfish net over his head and slide a piece of cardboard underneath.

“We really need to figure out how to keep this from happening again,” I said as the wren chirped at us from a tree in the front yard.        

Kara read online that putting rubber snakes in your wreath will keep the birds out.  We deployed our secret weapon to find some toy snakes in the rubble.

This is all a long way of explaining to our neighbors: Yes, that is a rubber snake you see in our wreath.  No, we don’t celebrate Halloween and Christmas simultaneously, unless you count the leftover Jolly Ranchers we’re still working through. 

You can wrangle wreath wrens with Mike Todd at


  1. This could only happen to you. Wishing you a happy and wren-free Christmas. :}
    Oh yeah. Six stars, okay? Five is only average.

    1. Hope you had a happy and wren-free one too, Marcia! Your comments are always six-star material.