Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Birdhousing perils

I put up this little birdhouse a year ago...

And when I opened it up to clean it a couple weeks ago, I discovered paper wasps had built a nest in it.

Luckily, paper wasps are not supposed to be aggressive and the queen should be hibernating somewhere else anyway...and the rest of the wasps should have expired by now...but I'm just going to wait for a really, really cold day to remove the nest because I don't want to risk getting stung. Paper wasps are not supposed to return to a used nest the following year so hopefully this spring, once that nest is removed, baby birds will be raised in that house, not baby wasps.

When I was building this particular birdhouse, I had a feeling that that vine running across the roof might be poison ivy so I just carefully worked around it, being very careful not to touch it.

I was hoping it was Virginia creeper but just in case it wasn't, there was no way I was going to touch it. Birds are completely fine rubbing themselves all over every part of the poison ivy plant without any of its effects. They are the ones that eat and disperse the berries (and they find them delicious). The urushiol oil in poison ivy only affects humans. Leaving the vine on the birdhouse would not be a problem for the birds....but it would for me if I touched it.

See this? Those are poison ivy berries. I'm getting pretty good at identifying the stuff since I blistered up so many times last year.

And see this? The red spot on my cheek that Starlinka is checking out (there's also a rash starting on the side of my face....and on my scalp!!!)? Oh, that's poison ivy that has made contact with me somehow. But how when I was so darn careful when I was building that birdhouse?

Well, that was an easy one to figure out...

Who else but Stella Rubella Fullahella, the bird who was into something she shouldn't and she wasn't going to tella.

I had stored the birdhouse in the back room thinking it was out of the way of anybody getting near it but just a couple of unsupervised minutes and Stella had managed to get into the back room to do her house inspection. How else can you explain the weird patches on my cheek, the side of my face, the top of my scalp? Those are all the places that that bird tends to be near when she sits on my shoulder. Oh.....Stella. So many levels of bad with that bird, such talent when it comes to evil.

Well, I got that birdhouse out of my house as soon as I could so I wouldn't continuously get reexposed to the poison ivy oil. Who knows where else Stella had been in those unsupervised few minutes...and what else she had rubbed that urushiol oil off onto...hopefully not absolutely everything. She does get around.

I hung the birdhouse near the road that lines my land in Kansas. If anyone sees the birdhouse and tries to take it down....well, they are in for a surprise because that urushiol oil stays active for at least 3 years. Good for some moral payback if the birdhouse disappears (although I really don't expect that kind of thing to happen) but bad for me because that oil should be all over my house if I know Stella. And it kind of was. I kept breaking out for weeks but eventually whatever Stella smeared around the house dissipated.

You would think that would be it for me and poison ivy for the year but the same thing almost happened again when I put up another birdhouse a week ago.

There were two vines climbing up that tree and without the leaves.....I didn't know if they were grape vines or poison ivy vines or what so I avoided getting near them. I didn't think that much about them until Mary got hold of them and started swinging away like Tarzan. If I didn't get a big case of poison ivy, there still was the possibility of me leaping off the ladder to avoid her and then falling into the creek below.

Surprisingly, we all survived getting that birdhouse up with no mishaps. Whew. I kept Mary and her possibly poisoned mouth away from me on the walk back, got in the car, locked the doors and took off....and so far, I have not broken out in any blisters or rashes.

That sky was beautiful but as I left, what with all my exposure to poison ivy and chiggers and ticks this past summer, I thought it also looked like a big collection of medical cotton balls and swabs.

But still, spectacularly beautiful.


Pix skeered of poison ivy said...

StellaFullaHella just can't keep from being baaaad even if she tried to be good! Maria had no idea you were fighting with PI! I am skeered spitless of poison ivy. Skeered spitless. You would not believe what I go through if I even think I was close to the stuff. Mr. Pix is not allowed in the house when he has been close to PI and when Country Cat was alive, OhMyGod I lived in fear that she had gotten PI on her fur. Never did she give me poison ivy! Can you tell I had a bad experience when I thought wrongly that I couldn't get the stuff!!!! Your birdhouses are sweet for the tweets! And Good Morning Maria!!!!

Mental P Mama said...

And I think I see a dollop of calamine lotion up there, too! Oh that naughty Stella!!

Leenie said...

Your bird neighbors (and the wasps) should be so thankful they have you for an architect. Very imaginative and unusual houses! Weird how people are the only ones who are hurt by poison ivy oil.

Not much experience with poison ivy here. Guess that's another vagrant that doesn't like temps below zero. But paper wasps love our attic. I finally had to bomb them with Raid and abandon the house with the cat for a day to get them to find new lodgings.

Maria said...

Pix-I think we talked about this before and I'm maintaining my same opinion AND yours. That stuff is nasty and skeery. I'm so sensitive to it now that if I'm in an area where poison ivy is growing, I can feel my old "healed" patches start to itch. It's weird. Supposedly the more you're exposed, the more you react. Errrrrgh.

Mental-HA ha. Good one. I now see the calamine too .....and it must be caladryl keeping all those cotton puffs in place.

Leenie-I haven't had much luck with any birds moving into those houses...I guess I have a talent for attracting insects. I did accidentally remove their old house earlier in the year. There was a decrepit birdhouse hanging from a dead tree limb that I cut down and when I looked inside the birdhouse (just curious), there was a wasp nest. Nobody in it at the time, thank Gawd. But later in the day while I was working under that tree, a wasp showed up and hovered about 12 inches from Bo's face and gave him a good staredown and then he flew over to me and again gave me a good staredown 12 inches from my face and then he flew off. I'm sure he (or she) moved into the new birdhouse which was put up close by. I'm a little nervous about removing his/her housing again. I think that wasp had made some sort of an agreement with me and I don't want to risk violating the terms!

Regarding poison ivy....it's not so much the oil that is doing anything, it's the human body's crazy allergic reaction to it when it gets into the dermal layer of our skin. I think the reason the oil only affects humans is because of our skin. And lucky you, I just looked it up, poison ivy does not grow at an elevation of 4000 feet.

Kimberly said...

Still love reading the posts, but especially love hearing about the family. It's been a long time!

fighting mermaid said...

What beautiful birdhouses! I itch just thinking about your poison ivy. I know what it looks like too, but still seem to do battle with it frequently. Over the summer I tried to save a sassafrass tree from the wild brush and ended up with two rounds of prednisone. My husband(I had talked him into helping) went three rounds and lost a week of work as he was just oozing all over. Sister who works for the forest service and has had more cases of poison ivy than you could count swears that drinking certo makes one less prone to the allergic reaction. Can't say I've tried it--no stomach for drinking something like that.

Maria said...

HI Kimberly! You're right. I haven't written about my pets in a long time and wasn't aware of that until you said something. Guess it's just too darn cold for any of us to do anything worth writing about. It seems like it's always dark and cold and so what usually happens is I cover myself in blankets, Violet plops on top, Stella gets on my shoulder and then we tend to watch television for a long time....very boring stuff. I'll see if I can come up with a story....Starlinka was extra cute a couple days ago when she was getting a bath...I wasn't paying much attention to her so she stopped her splashing and then hopped out of her bath bowl and looked at me and said, "Whatcha doin', baby?" to recapture my attention. She is so darn cute every minute of the day. I'll try to write something about the pets as soon as a story presents itself. Thanks for your comment about that. :-)

Fighting Mermaid (neat name!)-Thanks for the compliment on the birdhouses. I finally have all of them up and am looking forward to making more in the next year or so.

My sympathies with the poison ivy. I had it several times last year and now that I'm ultrasensitive to the stuff....I'm afraid prednisone might be in my future too. Never heard of Certo. I'll have to investigate that since I think all of my future summers will be spent coping with poison ivy chemical burns AND chigger bites.....wish I didn't love stomping in the woods so much. :-/

abb said...

That Stella! At least she makes life more interesting.

Maria said...

TSAnnie-I guess that's one way of phrasing it. Haha. She sure was in a bossy mood tonight. She picked on Starlinka, moved Eddie away from her seed dish and then moved Violet away from her catfood so she could eat it all by herself. We're all appalled by what a bad bird she is...but then, she is awfully cute when she watches tv with me....although she does tend to block my view.