Thursday, June 28, 2007

You're Home -- Surprise!

Every homeowner knows that no matter how much research you do, or how thorough your owner interviews or home inspections are before you buy, you're always going to have a few surprises that will make their presence known after you've moved in. This month marks our three year anniversary in our tropical home, and we have both fingers and toes crossed that the surprises have all popped out of hiding by now.

One of the most common causes of a homeowner saying, "Gee, I really wish I'd known that earlier" are the sounds of your new home. This home is quite different than our previous ones, though, in that almost all of the new noises we discovered originate outside of our house. Now by no means is the city traffic noises I've learned to loved over the years. In fact, there's not a lot of traffic that goes by our house. And the little bit of road life we do have consists mainly of cars and one dedicated water delivery truck that valiantly struggles its way the rest up the hill of the on which we live.

Our soundtrack to life is much more organic. Instead of motor vehicles, our main traffic is from crickets, little frogs, and other chirping critters. The night time brings blessedly cool breezes and a chorus clicks, trills, warbles and other amphibian and bug noises was downright deafening to us during the first few weeks after we moved in. And that's from a woman who wasn't disturbed one bit by the fleets of city buses that drove past her apartments at 5:30 am. Now it's a welcome, soothing background noise -- excellent white noise when it's on and early warning of dangerously bad weather when it's off.

So, I hear you pondering, if not bugs and no traffic, what could it possibly be?


But it's not the daytime feathered friends who pay a visit to our fruit tree and flower filled yard. The cowbirds, which look like scaled down snowy egrets, eat the grasshoppers and only let out their yelping squark when extremely agitated. (Trust me, it takes a lot to rile those long-necked creatures up.) I rather enjoy the gentle coos of the dusky brown mourning doves that populate the grove of tan-tan trees at the northeast corner of our house. And it's certainly not the rustle of the emerald crowned hummingbirds that flit from the trees with the fragrant, yellow bell-shaped blossoms to the stalks of vivid red and yellow crescent moon flowers that bloom outside of our bedroom window.

No, the wild birds are just fine. Our local noise pollution is produced by our neighbors loud, obnoxious birds.

Like the Hawaiian islands, the Virgin Islands are plagued by tough as nails, vocal, ratty-looking wild chickens that have free run of the island. Until last fall, our little corner of the estate in which we live was happily poultry free -- the nearest flock of these free-range fryers hung out at the entrance to our side street. Some days when we were making our way home, we'd make the right turn onto our street to be greeted by a momma hen and her fuzz ball little yellow peeplets strutting around someone's yard or with one lucky chick riding tall on his momma's back, triumphant in the chicken version of King of the Castle. These guys were far enough away that we never heard then unless we were passing them in the car with the windows down and the radio off, and the never demonstrated a bit of interest in venturing further than their corner.

But about eight months ago, for some unimaginable reason, our neighbors to the north released a dozen chickens into their back yard, which is separated from our yard by a shared chain-link fence. Included in this flock are not one, not two, but three loud roosters, all of which suffer from serious time dyslexia that cause them to belt out the most sad, but loud, excuses for a cock-a-doodle-do that you've ever heard at all hours of the day and night. Two of the offenders have a special knack for performing their pathetic little trumpeting duet every hour on the hour from 2 am on, which is of course answered by distant roosters as though this was hot neighborhood gossip worthy of an immediate and appropriately enthusiastic response.

It would be one thing to have all of the scraggy-ass chicken yodeling broadcast from within the boundaries of our neighbor's yard -- it would still be loud, but there would at least be a large buffer of tall grass and trees to help muffle a few decibels before the noise reached our bedroom window. But no….the little bastards have started flying over the fence or using a pile of dirt as a land bridge to hop the border, where they then fall in directly beneath our large open bedroom window before letting loose with both lungs. (Hmmm...perhaps I should invite the idiots in Congress down to get a firsthand view of how easily fences can be breached by the truly determined so they will revoke their asinine votes to spend $60 billion on a certain 700 mile fence...)

Ever been jolted from a sound sleep in the middle of the night by a rooster crowing less than 10 feet away from your bed as though he were Paul Revere and had just spotted the British coming over the horizon with muskets blazing? If you answered no, you'd be wise to do everything in your power to make sure that answer never changes.

As if the poultry weren't loud enough on their own, they have a vocal companion. The same neighbors who deliberately brought a brood of chickens into our peaceful little neighborhood -- who seem to be completely deaf to animal noises of any kind -- also own an indescribably loud all white cockatoo. This shrieking nightmare's internal clock runs in a totally different time zone than its free-range step-brothers' and sisters' so we've become an unwilling audience for this 24/7 squaaaack-cluck fest.

Their fondness for, and apparent obliviousness to, boisterous winged creatures aside, these are nice neighbors to have. So putting up with the audio track from a jungle chicken farm isn't really the worst possible surprise we could have had when we got settled in at home. God help us, though, if they ever branch out into peacocks or ostriches.

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