If you read my column regularly, you know that I walk or run through Cornelius almost every day. I usually travel in the early morning, I often take different routes, and occasionally I break up my journey by stopping for coffee or tea.
Lately, I have been taking one of my dogs with me. I need protection – not from people, but from wildlife.
This past week, I was on the sidewalk, walking early in the morning, and saw a mockingbird sitting on an exposed root of a tree. As soon as I passed the bird, he came after me, dive bombing at the top of my head. I had a plastic water bottle with me, so I swung that over my head, trying to get the bird to leave me alone and ran away. The bird followed me for about a block, continuing his attack at the top of my head. Finally, the bird flew away and left me alone. I looked around to see if someone had set me up and this was a youtube prank. I have been afraid of bird attacks since seeing Alfred Hitchcock’s “The Birds” on TV when I was a teen, so I thought this could be someone else’s idea of a joke. I saw no one else around. After I calmed down, I finished my walk and went home.
I wanted to know if I’d done anything to encourage this bird to come after me. I contacted a local vet and an agriculture agent from Florida. They both told me mockingbirds attack mostly in the spring and summer when they establish territories. This bird may have felt threatened; I might have been near a nest or a food source. He could also have been attracted by the reflection of my clear plastic water bottle.
The experts said there really wasn’t much I could do but suggested that I avoid that area. I could do that, but since that area’s on my favorite route, I’m going to try alternatives first. When I walk now, I avoid getting too close to trees, especially that one. I also carry either a water bottle, to use as defense, or bring one of my dogs along, to use, hopefully, as a deterrent. So far, no attacks.
On a walk this week, a mockingbird was dive-bombing a cat that continued his stroll unconcerned. The next day, I saw two mockingbirds yelling at and then chasing a crow that flew away. I’m just glad it hasn’t been me again.
Follow up: Today I passed by the same area, at about the same time of day as the previous bird attack, walking on the sidewalk and carrying a clear plastic cup containing an iced mocha. A mockingbird again flew straight toward my head and followed me. I screamed and ran into the middle of the street to avoid the bird. I will be changing my route from now on.
Lisa Daidone is a freelance writer: firstname.lastname@example.org.