In the gutter

Recently I’ve been more vigilant about scheduling things into my calendar in order to Get Things Done, and have been including regular maintenance-type tasks like cleaning the gutters as a monthly event. Our house is surrounded by eucalyptus trees constantly shedding leaves and bark, and if the gutters clog up, we either don’t gather much water when it rains, or the water we do collect is stained yellow from the leaves. It is slightly embarrassing serving a glass of water to someone and have them peer at it silently wondering why it’s yellow. Surprise yellow beverages are never a good thing.

We clean the gutters with a leaf-blower, which is noisy but effective. I am not very fond of heights, but once I’m up the ladder it’s rather fun striding around (carefully, along the lines of bolts) on the roof, blasting leaves away. During a recent cleaning effort, I had made my way towards what I think of as the “back” of the roof (because it is furthest from the ladder). A spiky tree has grown over the gutter in that section, and in order to keep my feet on the bolts I had to push my way through it, a rather unpleasant experience while wearing shorts. I was revving the leaf blower as I went, and came across what I thought was a particularly stubborn clump of leaves. I vroomed the blower loudly at the clump, until a bird suddenly flew away, revealing a nest with some tiny baby birds staring up at me. I immediately took my finger off the trigger, feeling terrible – the birds were awfully small and scrawny, although they did have feathers. I backed away and waited for a bit, but the mother didn’t immediately return. It didn’t seem ideal that there was a bird nest in the gutter, but there didn’t seem to be anything I could do about it – if I moved the nest, the mother might abandon it, and any place that I put the nest would no doubt make the babies vulnerable to predators.

I moved to the other side of the roof and cleared out the rest of the gutters, leaving the nest in place. During the process, I finally found the willie wagtail nest which has been causing the resident willie wagtails to aggressively and noisily attack every large bird in the vicinity of the house – it is perched precariously up on the TV antennae. (It’s still there, and the willie wagtails continue to be very territorial, including towards any humans who wish to use the washing line.)

Once I was off the roof, the mother bird returned to the nest, and I was relieved that all seemed to be well. I took some photos from the ground, and consulted our bird book to discover it was a common bronzewing (a -you will be surprised to hear this – very common pigeon).

Unfortunately a couple of weeks after I blasted the poor bronzewing, we had rather a lot of rain. The first couple of days, the bronzewing was bedraggled but still in place on the nest. However after that, the gutter was empty. It seems likely that the volume of water rushing along the gutter disintegrated the nest, and I need to get back up on the roof soon to check whether there’s any sad little corpses that need removal. Given that I was trying to avoid our water supply flowing over dead leaves on the way to the tank, stopping the water from flowing over any dead birds would also be a fine goal to achieve.

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