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McPhersonSentinel - McPherson, KS
  • COLUMN: Layne battles the bird invasion

  • In May 2008, my wife and I moved to McPherson. We’d long been visiting this little village on the prairie, since our daughter married a son-of-McPherson, and they settled in his hometown some 35 years ago. It was not unfamiliar territory.
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  • In May 2008, my wife and I moved to McPherson. We’d long been visiting this little village on the prairie, since our daughter married a son-of-McPherson, and they settled in his hometown some 35 years ago. It was not unfamiliar territory.
    Whenever we visited our young folks, we were impressed with McPherson. The town was clean, the numerous parks lush and green, the people friendly and welcoming, and the pace of life seemed slower and more gentle. When the time to retire arrived, relocating to McPherson seemed our best option. With the help of our family, we purchased a charming little house on the corner of Hartup and Marlin streets; it looked like a “fairy tale” cottage. The two of us and our beautiful golden retriever fit right into our new surroundings. Even our furniture, most of which had been purchased at antique stores, fit right in to this 1927 vintage house. It all fit; it was the right move; we settled down in our new home town.
    It was a joy to write positive comments about McPherson for the local press. We also enjoyed being McPherson ambassadors at the state fair in Hutchinson. We never had any difficulty singing praises about our local environs. We even became “Father Litter Getter” as we picked up occasional litter on our daily morning walk. All was good, and we were grateful.
    That is until last summer. We all remember the awful heat wave of 2011 and the seeming preview of another that we are presently experiencing. But it wasn’t the heat that caused us to question our decision. It was an invasion of a swarm of hundreds of filthy, loud, and disease carrying grackle birds that made our trees their night-time roosting place. Their numbers are beyond counting, and what they leave each morning is an open sewer on our front walk and covering our front yard.  Both at the front of our home on Marlin, and at the side of the home across Hartup, this scourge of birds is nightly depositing a sewer of filthy feces on the sidewalk and yard. It is disgusting.
    It is not only an eye-sore, it is a health hazard. Years ago, I was blinded in my right eye by an infection of histoplasmosis, a virus carried by and in the fecal droppings of grackles that can be inhaled or internalized by touch. The doctor who diagnosed my blindness said I could have allowed the virus into my system just by picking up a newspaper that had a deposit so small it couldn’t be easily seen. Just rubbing my eye with the same hand probably allowed the virus entry and freedom to attack the retina and scar it. I’ve been blind in that eye ever since, and there is no repair. These birds are dangerous. Beware, any who traverse the corner of Hartup and Marlin.
    Page 2 of 2 - We fought them last summer. The head of the McPherson Parks Department advised us to put wind-socks in our front yard, for such rapid movement was a deterrent. We did, and they didn’t deter anything. He suggested slamming two 2x4s loudly each evening.  They hated loud noises. So I also did that and they scattered like a nasty cloud, only to return as soon as I went inside. This year we’ve done the same, only adding a “fake owl” and flashing streamers and a great horn that has a blast of noise that like the 2x4s scatters the birds for a moment. Again, as soon as quiet returns, they return and leave their filthy deposits. Every morning we are greeted with an open sewer.
    We’ve appealed to the city commission for help, only to be told there was nothing the city could do. Our attempts to scatter them through visual shock and audible thunder have been of no use. In arrogant and fearless disrespect, they even pooped on our owl.  We’re certain that the neighbors are fed up with hearing the 2x4s crashing and the horn blasting every evening.  Yet these are the only things that seem to get their attention, even if only temporarily. Hopefully I make them nervous, and I’m not just scaring the droppings out of them.
    I must admit deep disappointment with the McPherson City Commission. Again this year our distress call was delivered via the parks department. The director of the department again did what he could on our behalf. We are grateful. However, he was given the same excuses as last year. Yet the city has the facilities and the equipment to remove this pestilence; they regularly rid the parks of such swarms of unwanted fowl. The same equipment could be used to help us. It is my understanding that a government’s primary responsibility is to “protect and serve” the citizens.  This understanding seems not to be a part of this city’s self-understanding. That makes me so sad! I can only pray that no one really gets sick, because histoplasmosis can result in very serious illness. It blinded me, no telling what it might do to a child or an elderly person with less immune defenses. The people of McPherson deserve and need protection.
    Robert Layne is a retired Episcopal priest living in McPherson.

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