Eventually, one bird hopped into her hand and she enveloped it. When I'd tried that, the birds had paid with their lives. Not so with Annie. She stood and stepped away from the stove and continued chatting. "OK, let's go outside, where we can find trees and a better place to live."
If I was the monster, Annie was Snow White, singing to the birds as they hopped in and out of her hand.
We went out onto the front porch. "Go on now, little guy," Annie said, releasing the captive. "Fly off and be well." Then she repeated the routine with the other bird, who lingered a bit in her hand and permitted Annie to stroke the top of her head.
I felt lousy about the birds I'd inadvertently snuffed. Also annoyed that they insisted on roosting in a stovepipe when hundreds of huge trees were a quick flight away. On a farm, animals die regularly—cats get hit by cars, chickens are assaulted by foxes and ferrets, lambs don't always survive birth. If you mourned all those losses, it wouldn't be possible to live here.
But I don't want any unnecessary casualties. So, I've ordered special metal netting for the top of the stovepipe, with wider spaces that will allow smoke to flow out and prevent birds from flying in. It's supposed to arrive in a couple of weeks, long before the first fire of the fall.