When Alyssa, my neighbor and 4-H mentee, and I set out Wednesday afternoon to pick up garbage in Lake Bella Park and open the bluebird houses for the winter, I thought we were fairly well armed with what we needed.
We had garbage bags, a cordless drill, the proper drill bit and — thanks to my folks — two pairs of chore gloves to do the 4-H Community Pride work. Long jeans and tennis shoes pretty much ensured we wouldn’t be creeped out by flying grasshoppers or slithering snakes.
Little did we know it wouldn’t be the ground critters, but rather the winged creatures, we had to worry about.
I learned Wednesday that wasps like to build nests on the underside of bluebird houses.
At first I wasn’t real concerned about the wasp nests. After cleaning the bird nest out of the third house, I scraped underneath with my red plastic gutter cleaner-outer (it has multiple uses!) to knock out the wasp nest. No wasp was present – no worries.
At the fourth birdhouse, another wasp nest was revealed as I pulled the birdhouse door down. This time, a wasp was visible, but he didn’t seem to mind when I scraped out the bird’s nest. He did, however, get a little agitated after the nest rolled out, so I slowly walked away, half wincing at the prospect of getting stung from behind.
At birdhouse No. 5, I pulled the door open only to discover a trio of wasps hanging around their nest at the base of the house. Alyssa and I were both a little nervous, so we left the bird nest in place. Perhaps Thursday’s wind was enough to knock it out of the box — I’m not going to worry about it!
Birdhouses six, seven and eight posed no threats of buzzing wasps and, in fact, gave Alyssa and me a false sense of security.
I say that because, by the time we arrived at birdhouse No. 9, I wasn’t thinking at all about wasps.
I lifted the DeWalt drill up alongside the birdhouse in Pickeral Park, lined up the drill bit with the screw and, within seconds, the screw was far enough out of the way that I could open the door.
What happened next has, I’m sure, been told and retold by Alyssa — no doubt with peals of laughter each time she retells the saga.
Here’s what happened, sans laughter … I opened the door of the birdhouse and a bird came out from the nest, headed straight for my face. Or at least that’s what it seemed like! I was, after all, trying to move out of the way and scream simultaneously.
The scream came out loud and clear — so loud and clear that it frightened the dairy cows across the road from Pickeral Park. Well, I suppose those constant moos I heard could have been the cows’ version of laughing at me, too.
Needless to say, I approached the 10th and final birdhouse with some trepidation, the pounding in my heart slowly returning to a normal pace. I lifted up the DeWalt drill once again in preparation to open the door, and to my shock the drill bit was gone.
No, I did not lose it on purpose!
Nevertheless, I was sort of relieved.
We packed up our stuff, called my faithful dog, Molly, back to the car and headed to the farm to return the drill.
“Aren’t you going to tell your Mom and Dad what happened?” Alyssa asked as we prepared to leave.
“No, it’s not funny!” I replied.
“Yes it is,” she declared with a laugh.
A couple of times during the 7-mile drive back to Worthington, I had to remind her that it wasn’t that funny! Trying to giggle in silence just doesn’t work!
Next year, I’ll let Alyssa stand in front of the birdhouse when it’s time to open them up.
On second thought, I think we both learned our lesson. We’ll be knocking on the houses first to make sure no one is home — and standing off to the side, of course, so we aren’t in the direct flight path of an angry bird.