Contributed to The Globe and Mail
Published Wednesday, Jul. 30 2014, 2:53 PM EDT
Last updated Thursday, Jul. 31 2014, 2:30 PM EDT
Spring arrived late this year. After months of snowstorms, shovelling my way out of knee-deep snow and arriving everywhere with a pink nose and half-frozen toes, I couldn’t wait for summer.
I was looking forward to waking up to the sunlight peeking through my curtains, a cool breeze wafting in the open window and birds chirping merrily outside as they celebrate the dawn of a new day.
And my daily torture.
At precisely 5 a.m. every single day, I am woken up by the loud, shrill whistling of a bird. For the next two hours, this bird continues its whistling at a calculated and calibrated pace: Three long tweets followed by five short chirps.
Tweeeeet. Tweeeeet. Tweeeeet. Chirp chirp chirp chirp chirp.
Over and over and over again.
The first day, I was a little annoyed my sleep was disrupted. No worries, I thought, I’ll catch up tomorrow. But the wretched creature has made my backyard its permanent home.
After a week of giving up two hours of precious sleep, I’d had enough. On a Saturday morning I mustered up the strength, despite my exhaustion and sleep-deprived state, and went outside around 6 a.m. There, perched up high on a pear-tree branch, was the culprit.
Obnoxiously bright red in colour, it stuck out vividly amidst the green leaves. I was surprised to the see that the source of such loud noise was barely bigger than my hand. Sticking its long feathery tail out flamboyantly, it suddenly jerked its black face in my direction. It opened its tiny crimson beak and chirped shrilly, as if I was the one disturbing its peace on this otherwise calm morning.
It looked kind of like the red cartoon in the Angry Birds iPhone game. Except that I’m the angry one. And I could really use a slingshot.
My friends think it’s funny.
“Oh, ha ha, a bird wakes you up every day? How cute,” they say.
My family is convinced I’m exaggerating.
“You can sleep through a storm, on a train, in a bus,” my sister says, “but you can’t sleep through a little chirping?”
A co-worker of mine recognized the bird in a recording as a male northern cardinal. A quick Google search has informed me that haunting people’s backyards is perfectly normal for this creature and that many people actually find its singing soothing.
Perhaps it’s his close proximity to my ear that makes me feel like I’m waking up next to a car alarm every morning, but I find the northern cardinal’s singing to sound nothing like a “sweet whistle” as one website – allaboutbirds.org – described it.
I had never been fond of birds. In fact, I’ve always been slightly fearful of them – a result of having a parrot yank out my earring with its beak during my childhood. Being shown the Alfred Hitchcock suspense/horror film The Birds at age nine by my dad only cemented my fear. That’s when the nightmares began – the ones about the impending bird apocalypse.
With my daily coffee intake steadily increasing and my under-eye dark circles growing larger, I found myself becoming obsessed. My Internet browser history is full of searches on how to get rid of cardinals. I’ve been plotting my revenge for a while now. Sometimes even murder crosses my mind. But I don’t want to kill him. I just wanted him to stop existing.
I’ve tried ear plugs but the tweeting penetrates those easily. My fan creates some background white noise, but it is no match for the piercing chirps. I scoured the entire backyard to make sure there were no hidden bird feeders or errant sunflower seeds or anything that might be the reason this demon had chosen to possess my yard. Sometimes when I’m able to scare it off, I feel triumphant only for a few seconds – then I realize I’m too wide awake to even go back to sleep.
I came across a forum online created by a man who was also a victim of bird-singing asking for advice. He had tried everything. A slingshot, sleeping pills, water pistols etc. Nothing worked. I read his posts with growing alarm as they became progressively more desperate. It seemed as if this had taken over his life and he was slowly losing his mind.
I was horrified. Was this my future? Was this tiny red bird going to ruin my summer?
When I found myself browsing a website called predatorpee.com in order to buy the urine of a fox to scare him away, I finally realized it was time to stop and accept my circumstances. As I reminisce about the days when my tweeting problems revolved only around figuring out which hashtag to use on Twitter, I have decided to simply admit defeat.
I go to bed earlier on weeknights and on some miraculous days, as my subconscious slowly begins to accept its fate, I am able to sleep through the whistling. On most other days, I simply lie awake and wish for a snowstorm.
Ramna Shahzad lives in Mississauga.