While working from home on a Tuesday morning, I don’t expect any visitors to my office. I’ve created a workspace on my basement level, a cozy, curtained-off room with my desk, a reading chair, a record player, and shelf after shelf of reference books. The only sounds are the hum of my space heater, the soft beats of folk and classical music, and the click-clack of my keys. So I couldn’t quite place the noise behind me that day.

Rustle. Rustle. 

“Hello?” No answer. I returned to my emails.

Rustle. Rustle.

“Hello?” No answer. I opened a Word document and started typing.

Rustle. Rustle. 

I stood up, ripped my curtain open, and saw the source of the commotion: a blackbird. Fluttering his wings. Inside my house. Like any sensible person, I shrieked.

I ran upstairs, frantically grabbed a broom, and raced back to the stairwell. But a familiar black form was waiting for me on the landing. Seeing me, he darted away, just as startled as I was. I reprised my shriek.

Brandishing the broom, I tiptoed through the storage room and shrieked again. For a moment, I saw the bird perched among my cords and books, like some strange escapee from Old King Cole’s palace. Then he flew away into the ceiling rafters.

Shuddering, I retreated into Google and started searching for solutions. For the uninitiated, here’s what the all-knowing internet recommends for chasing a bird out of your home back into its natural habitat:

  1. Shut off all lights and heat sources in the room you wish the bird to vacate. Finish or throw away any food. Don’t give your winged houseguest any reasons to stay.
  2. Pick a single door and fling it open–in my case, the door at the top of the basement stairs. Hopefully, the bird will literally see the light and realize that he doesn’t belong indoors.
  3. Wait.
  4. Wait.
  5. Wait.

Before switching off my lights and space heater, I snatched up my laptop, charger, and mouse from my desk. I did still want to get work done that morning, even if my usual space was….occupied. I arranged myself in the backyard, grateful that the day was sunny enough for me to survive outside in a wool coat. For a little over an hour, I answered emails and drafted descriptive copy, wishing I could convince the songbirds around me to peer-pressure their cousin into leaving.

I looked up every few minutes, and I listened for the rustle of his wings, but I never saw or heard the bird leave. But I know he left. Over lunch, my housemate checked the basement and did not spot him. I ate my own meal upstairs, not quite ready to risk sharing my leftovers with the bird. Then I took a deep breath and ventured back downstairs, hoping against hope that he hadn’t decided to build a nest in my bookshelves.

But he had left. As the minutes passed, all I heard was my keys, my playlist, and my space heater. No rustling. Apparently the bird’s trip indoors had been a short one.

A few hours later, I discovered one last trace of the day’s visitor. Over my reading chair, I’ve hung a triptych of blue-and-orange nature photos: Monterey Bay jellyfish, a Michigan fall tree, and a bonfire on the shores of Lake Superior.  And on that afternoon, I saw something new on the art I look at every day: a streak of bird poop, right over top of the bonfire. Fantastic. My visitor had not only been an invader, but a vandal as well.

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