The very first day we worked, we had some unexpected visitors in the Visitors Center. English Camp, where Tom and I work, is a historic 1868 building. The only electricity is for the gift shop (cash register and two display lights). There is no heat or air-conditioning or running water. We have a fireplace and we are encouraged to build a fire on cool mornings. There are no screens on the doors or any of the windows.
The lack of screens leads to regular uninvited guests, such as bees, dragonflies, and houseflies. But that first Saturday it also led to our two unexpected visitors: swallows. At least, I think they were swallows. They were small and brown. But I guess that covers a lot of birds.
The next day (Sunday) another bird flew into the barracks portion of our building. It left quickly when we closed the shutters and opened the door – the bird flew toward the light from the door and was gone.
But closing the shutters would not work for our first bird visitors because they were in the mess hall part of our building. There aren’t any shutters over the mess hall windows so the birds wouldn’t leave through the windows or door. They flew in the door, checked it out, and decided to start building a nest in the rafters. We had just cleaned the building a couple of days before and we certainly didn’t want bird poop to clean up every morning.
All four of us were working that day, so Tom and Ron put their heads together. They found two long poles and a tarp. They attached the tarp to the two poles and coordinated holding it up between the rafters, trying to herd the birds toward the door. Although watching was fun, this technique was not successful.
So they took the tarp off the poles and attached pieces of cardboard to the poles. Then they swatted at the birds hoping to head the birds toward the door. By keeping the birds from landing on the rafters, we hoped this would make the birds tired, causing them to fly lower and ultimately out the door.
Turns out birds have a lot of stamina. The technique was successful with one of the birds, who flew out the door fairly soon after the swatting started. Fortunately Tom and Ron have stamina and stubbornness. After the success with the first bird, they were determined to get the second bird out. Eventually they succeeded and we all celebrated. Then Beth and I cleaned up the bird poop.
We shared this exhilarating tale with Ranger Doug, and he said that there are often birds in the Visitors Center the first few days it is open. He said eventually they learn not to fly in. Monday we had another bird visitor, but it flew in and flew out as soon as it got in. They may have bird brains, but birds can be pretty smart.
Our unexpected visitors gave us something to do on a slow day at the office and put a little extra life into the Visitors Center. Now, if only we could teach the insects to stay out . . .