There I was, lying in bed with the world’s worst hangover. It was New Year’s day after all and I had overindulged the night before.
And then it started. A regular tap on the bedroom window at first, and then a loud banging. I knew immediately what was making the noise, though, exacerbating the pain in my head – an angry grey shrike-thrush.
A few months ago I wrote of a very loud shrike-thrush waking me in the morning with its strident “Joe Whitty” territorial song.
Now early on the first day of 2017, the shrike-thrush had returned with a vengeance, to attack a “rival” it saw reflected in the panes of glass.
As I jumped out of bed to chase it off, the male bird went from window to window in the lower part of the house where our bedrooms are situated.
I chased behind it, opening windows to reduce the reflection as I went, and the shrike-thrush finally gave up, or appeared to, when I leaned out of the window he was attacking at that moment to shout at him.
But then he moved upstairs, to the windows of our main living area. The shrike-thrush sat on the window sill of the open lounge window, letting out a shriek. Close up it was deafening, echoing around the beams of our cathedral ceilings.
Windows pose two very different problems for birds. Firstly, there are straight window strikes resulting from birds trying to fly through what they believe is open space, and, secondly, birds attacking their own reflections.
My home has large windows all around it and so I ensure that curtains and blinds are drawn on one side of the property at any given time to ensure birds do not see an open route through it.
The other issue, of male birds actually attacking windows, is harder to solve.
There is much literature on how to mitigate the problem, and from experience little of it works. But the measures suggested are worth a try, short of allowing windows to became dirty so reflections can’t be produced. These include distracting birds by placing dangling items like old silver DVDs in windows.
Some home-owners use cardboard cut-outs of a birds of prey but garden birds soon get used to these. It is the same with large plastic owls which can be bought to be placed in gardens.
Window strikes often result in injuries for birds, usually concussion. If victims are found confused and dazed, unable to fly, they should be placed in a dark, cool place to recover. If they are still sluggish after a short period, or suffer obvious injury to head, neck or wings, they should be taken to a vet.
I have found, though, that often the victims cannot be saved.
Meanwhile, I feared for my shrike-thrush, with all his misplaced aggression. As a last resort I placed a red towel in the window that was the target of his latest attack, the one in my study. It didn’t work – it was like a red rag to a bull.