FIRST PERSON: It’s a mud, mud, mud, mud world,


ANCRAMDALE–I am the target of a mudslinger.

This mudslinger doesn’t sling mud with words, it slings mud with actual mud.

I came home at night about two weeks in a storm with drenching rain, deafening thunder and lightning that looked like neon spider veins across the sky.

I parked the car and scrambled up to my front door terrified that one of those freaky veins might connect to the key I hastily jammed into the lock.

As I thrust open the door, I noticed it was splattered with mud. Peculiar, I thought, but given the weather, my only concern was getting into the house and staying there, which I did until sometime the following day.

When I stepped out to take a look at the door, recently painted my favorite shade of red, I saw not only bits of mud plastered all over it, but a big hunk of mud, chunks of moss and strands of grass plopped on the shallow ledge just above the door and drizzling down the faux-wood siding on the house.

I immediately picked up a pointy stick, I keep several such sticks just outside the front door, you never know when you might need a strong pointy stick, and a broom and began dislodging, scraping and sweeping away the mess.

As I was doing this I was also wondering how this clumpy collection got there above my door. The only explanation I could come up with was that mud had somehow gotten up into the eaves under the roof overhang and the wild rain of the night before shot up there, washed it down the side of the house and some of it got stuck on the one-inch metal strip that sticks out above the door.

The theory wasn’t heavy on logic, but I was short on time.

When I returned home later in the day, I could have sworn there was more mud above the door than when I left. But I just chalked it up to my not having done as good a job of mud removal as I thought.

I got out the stick and the broom and set about the task again.

I noticed that the gobs of mud smelled faintly of manure and were solidifying right there on that little ledge above my door.

After spending the next couple of days jabbing, hacking and clearing away fresh deposits of mud every time I walked out the door, I came to the realization that this mucky recurrence was intentional.

I set up surveillance outside my front door, which means I went outside, stood in yard and watched the door.

After not too long the culprit showed up on the roof.

It was a little brown and white bird with a mouthful of gunk. It was looking at me, contemplating whether it had time to dump its load on top of the door before I could climb up the steps with my stick.

It was time to do some research.

I went to the bank that day and when the teller politely asked how I was, I mentioned I was in the midst of an epic showdown with a bird of some sort, that wouldn’t stop depositing bunches of gooey mud and grass above my front door. To my surprise, she had a similar experience. She said the bird in question was a barn swallow. She described it as having a blue sheen on its back.

But my bird was definitely brown, with a dirty white breast, probably from hauling around all that mud.

The teller’s solution was to remove the mud and wash down the area with bleach. I appreciated the advice, but I decided bleach might have some adverse affect on my siding.

I looked barn swallow up in a couple of field guides, one of which said the bird can make up to 1,000 mud-carrying trips to build its nest. Another described the bird’s nesting habits: “a solid cup of mud reinforced with grass… placed on a rafter in a building or on a sheltered ledge.” That was definitely my persistent bird.

But the bird I saw looked more like the northern rough-winged swallow or perhaps the bank swallow, which both have different nesting habits. I suppose the barn swallow could have contracted out the job to his buddy the bank swallow, for a few extra bugs under the table.

By now, I was sure I was getting as tired of scraping away the mud as this bird was bringing it there. I decided to spray some fabric refresher, a distinctly manmade scent. The assemblage of mud ceased. Two-days later it started again.

I found myself reasoning with the bird, “Look, you need a good, safe place to lay your eggs. Don’t you get it? This ain’t it!”

I resorted to the Internet, typing into Google, “How do I stop this bird from building its mud nest above my door?”

Amazingly, there on the computer screen appeared a long list of solutions posted by people with the same problem.

They told me to remove the ledge, which I could not do without tearing off significant pieces of my house, or to install some wire screening to prevent the bird from getting to the ledge, which seemed kind of hard to do, not to mention ugly.

In the end, above the door I taped up a four-foot-long sheet of some good old aluminum foil–handy not only for cooking and preserving leftovers, but also for deterring one mudslinging bird…so far.

To contact Diane Valden email

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