OUT OF THE BLUE  Bob Hahn went to heroic lengths to rescue this bluebird from his stovepipe chimney. Photo submitted

OUT OF THE BLUE Bob Hahn went to heroic lengths to rescue this bluebird from his stovepipe chimney. Photo submitted

Submitted by Bob Hahn

It was a Tuesday morning. The valley was full of birdwatchers, but Id risen early in search of finny rather than feathered creatures. Returning to an empty house at midday, I was surprised to see a large note attached to the black stovepipe above our wood stove in the living room.

The note said, There is a creature in the stove. You can hear it scratching. Plus there was a request from our optimistic granddaughter for a picture when it was removed.

Initially, I heard nothing, but before long the scratching commenced again.

This posed a real dilemma, because the pipe does not enter directly into the fire box and there is no clean-out at the bottom. The only alternative was to go down from the top. I climbed up on the roof and took the cap off the metal chimney.

Unfortunately, its impossible to look down the chimney because of its height. My first plan was to lower a mesh bag the type that holds oranges and hope that the creature (it had to be a bird or bat) would get its claws entangled.

Over a period of several hours, I raised the bag numerous times. Nothing else came up with it except the familiar white deposit indicating that our mysterious creature was a bird. Before dark, I decided it might be better to risk injury to the bird rather than let it die a slow death. Thus, a heavy fishing lure with treble hooks was dropped into the opening and jigged up and down. Nothing was snagged and rescue efforts were shut down for the night.

First thing in the morning, I was surprised to hear still more scratching. The bird had now gone at least 24 hours without any sustenance and had undoubtedly expended a lot of energy. What could I do? An idea finally entered my fishing-addled brain later in the morning. I took a piece of monofilament and tied on a half dozen small treble hooks at intervals of about 5 centimetres, then it was back up the ladder again to do more fishing. Hopefully, the bird would hook itself and I would be able to land it. Even if a small bit of metal had to be left in the creature, it would be more humane than a slow death.

After an hour or so, I pulled up the line nothing. Down it went for another try. After another lengthy waiting period, I began another retrieve. This time there seemed to be a little more weight, and I was thrilled and saddened at the same time to pull a sooty male bluebird over the lip of the chimney. The amazing thing was that I didnt have to extract any hooks from the bird. Its claws were just entangled in the line.

Of course, the poor creature was in sad shape. It didnt even try to struggle in my grasp. I put it in a box and tried to give it water, but it was too weak to hold up its head for any length of time. Eventually, I decided to call the professionals. A concerned female voice at Dr. Zehnders veterinary hospital told me to bring the bird down, which I did immediately.

It would be nice if there was a happy ending, but I learned later that the lovely, turquoise creature didnt even make it through the afternoon.

Strangely, later on the same day, we watched a female bluebird land on the chimney and then flutter next to the opening under the cap. This happened enough times that I eventually made one more trip to the roof and threw a bag over the chimney. At the time, I surmised the female was looking for a place to nest, but one bird in the chimney was too many. I replaced the bag with wire a few days later.

On a brighter note, the female bluebird and partner hung around the house for the rest of the day offering numerous opportunities for photos, and we were overjoyed to have a pair move into the birdhouse in our backyard the very next day. A replacement for the unfortunate victim should soon be on the way.

One final thought: with the recent cool, rainy weather, Ive tried to start a fire in the wood stove twice and both times had smoke billow out into the house. It has happened before due to an inversion and that was my initial thought, but after the second time, another possibility came to mind. Could there have been a nest under the chimney cap? That would explain the fallen bird as well as the fluttering female. In other words, our troubles may not be over. How do we get a nest out?