Saving birds from death from window strikes

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By Sylvia Brockner

About five years ago I was reading about the thousands of migrating birds killed every year by flying into windows. I had been concerned about the many birds that hit my big picture windows every year and decided I should do something about it. The article I read also told about a college student who was doing research on the problem and mentioned that a black-plastic anti-deer fabric had the best results in his tests.

So, I designed an idea for my big windows, and a friend who did such projects for us did the actual building. First, he built a frame made from two-by-two lumber for all my large windows, and the deer netting was stretched across it and stapled in place. Then we put a screen molding over the staples and edge of plastic. I now had huge screens made of plastic webbing for each window. These were mounted to the house by using metal L-shaped brackets. This gave the netting an 8-inch space so that the birds never actually hit the glass; they just hit the netting and bounce off. I jokingly call them my bird trampolines.

My screens have worked well, for I have not found a dead bird beneath the windows in five years, or even an injured one. Most importantly, the plastic mesh is fine and does not affect your view; you look right through it and do not see it at all. Most of our casualties had come from birds that were frightened by cars, birds of prey or some other predator and took to rapid flight to escape. This sent them dashing into the trees and sky that were reflected in the windows at certain times of the day. This no longer happens, and both the birds and I are happy. I also keep the birds far enough away from the window so they do not fight their mirror image in the glass, which they do when they assume the mirror image is an interloper in their territory. I have found the screens to be totally satisfactory. The only problem I have found with them is that I have to take the screens down to wash the windows. However, that involves the removal of only four screws on each window, and the screens are light, so it is not difficult. If they were a bit farther out, I could reach behind them with a squeegee, but 8 inches is not quite enough room, and the plastic tears easily if it is snagged. So, I just take them off two or three times a year.

Just last week, I received a phone call and a letter with photos from a couple in the Hiwan area that had the same basic idea. They had simply tacked the same plastic netting along the top of the window and tied it down at the bottom and sides. They assure me that this works well and have invited me to come over and see their screens, and I would be happy to have anyone who wished to come see ours. Just call me if you wish to see how they are constructed.

We all need to do what we can to help migrating birds from flying into things. I know I didn’t think that many birds were killed this way until I totaled up my annual kill and multiplied it by the number of mountain homes, and the figures were staggering. It is much worse in some houses that are right on a flyway and in buildings that are lighted at night.

I tried to get out a bit to see some wildflowers. So far, this wet year has produced an abundance of flowers. Blue mist penstemon is at its peak now, turning our foothills into great masses of blue. I hope the moisture hasn’t come too late for the mariposa lilies. There have been almost no lily blooms in the past three drought years, but hopefully the bulbs are still alive and will make a good growth this year.

Of course, the moisture has also been good for the weeds, and it is more important than ever to work to control them this year. The Weed Awareness Committee is concerned that a bumper crop of seed this year might take over and undo all the hard work that has been done at the lake in past years.

The 12th annual Weed Awareness Day is being held this Saturday at Evergreen Lake. A few mentors will be on hand to help identify your weeds. There will be food and water available. They also need a few more weed pullers, but it is not necessary to work if you just want to bring your weeds to be identified. Just come between 8 and 11 a.m. I plan to be there. It will be great to see you all.