Women Canada Goose Expedition Parka Graphite Dublin
At the Hampton Roads Bridge Tunnel, nesting is the big draw. When the span was built in the 1950s, no one realized that its south island would meet the specs for a perfect rookery just the right size, isolated from predators, and covered with a sandy, pebbly surface like natural habitat.
Big money can be spent trying to ward off the birds, but Gatling, a retired Women Canada Goose Expedition Parka Graphite Dublin schoolteacher who's now a golfer's assistant, is trying a relatively simple tactic that seems to be working.
Battle against birds is about more than cleanliness
Let's just say it: Birds poop a lot, and around here, seagulls and geese are the biggest perpetrators. A single Canada goose can discharge a pound a day. Gulls can go every half hour.
Experiments with different lights haven't worked out well there, anyway. Hoping to reduce the power bill, Johnson has tried energy saving lights, but so far, no luck. Even when ordered without the top mounted sensors, the fixtures came with built in receptacles.
More successful strategies today include coating eggs with corn oil so they don't hatch; mounting stainless steel "bird spikes" on electrical cabinets and the like; and making umbrellas a must have accessory.
Now, the course seems to have lost its allure. "They've moved on," Gatling said, "unless they're just messing with me. Like I said, geese aren't dumb."
Picturesque as they appear from a distance, geese can weigh up to 15 pounds apiece and deposit piles of finger size droppings that accumulate on greens and spoil putts.
We had to after building a first class fishing perch (the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel), an ideal island for nesting (the Hampton Roads Bridge Tunnel), and dozens of splendid dining spots (insert name of any golf course).
"There's usually at least one bird on top of about every light we've got," said Bob Johnson, the bridge tunnel's director of maintenance. "Wish we could charge them the toll."
"They had plastic caps over the openings, but the gulls pecked right through them and got into the wires," he said. "They short circuited the lights and electrocuted themselves."
For decades, thousands of gulls, terns and skimmers have turned the highway department's parking lot slick with guano every summer.
With the span stretching across the mouth of the bay legendary fishing grounds a gull would be hard pressed to find a better vantage point. Making things sweeter: the fixture is even comfy flat on top and shaped like the head of a cobra, a fine fit for a feathered chassis.
Sensors on the bridge tunnel's system are on boxes attached to the sides of the bridge, out of the line of fire.
Pigeon poop was cited as a possible contributor albeit a small one to the 2007 collapse of the Interstate 35W bridge in Minnesota. Decades of buildup appeared to accelerate the rusting of its steel beams.
The newer lights haven't proved tough enough for the other end of the birds either, corroding under their steady rain of acid droppings. "Our old ones are anodized aluminum very thick to deal with the harsh elements out here, including the birds," Johnson said.
That hasn't happened at the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel, despite its flock of regulars.
Fifty years after Alfred Hitchcock's "The Birds" scared the you know what out of moviegoers, we're getting better at dealing with the you know what from birds.
The decoys are nothing fancy, and Gatling is still tinkering trying different paint jobs, bouncing between wolf and dog versions, perfecting mounts so they'll spin like weather vanes in the wind. He's found that a plastic grocery bag stapled to a decoy's mouth rustles menacingly.
Mostly, it's just a nuisance, especially next to real worries such as the risks too many birds can pose near airports.
In the past month, he's deployed a pack of canine silhouettes produced in his shed at home.
Less serious: seagull droppings that fool streetlights. Since bigger birds make bigger splats, gulls loitering atop poles can coat the photo cell sensors that turn lights on at dusk and off at dawn.
Workers have been targets of well timed aerial bombs.
On the list of failed deterrents: dogs, fireworks, shotguns, propane fueled cannons, owl decoys and recorded hawk calls.
"It's not hard to tell where the geese are hanging out. Just look under your feet."
At Bide A Wee golf course in Portsmouth, Joe Gatling is staying one step ahead of the Canada geese, who love the tender tips of manicured grass and the small ponds that serve as water hazards.
On newer streetlight systems, sensors plug into receptacles on top of the fixtures. Poking up like spools, they might discourage birds from settling down, but they do little to deter them from standing and pooping.
"Geese aren't dumb," Gatling said, "but noise and movement spook them pretty good. You've still got to change things up, though rotate the decoys around the course or the birds get used to them.
Last year, in the British seaside city of Brighton, gull poop kept streetlights illuminated 24 hours a day for seven months.
But droppings are more than just icky. Birds excrete uric acid, which, given enough time and quantity, can deface buildings, corrode metal, even weaken concrete.