Thursday, May 23, 2013

The Return of the Swallows

Swallows on the wire out front
Seems that I forgot to mention: the swallows have returned.

Two pair of swallows have been nesting in the eaves of our front porch for years and years now, though they're probably not the same pairs every year but more likely the descendants of those who hatched them in previous years.

Last summer, however, a nasty boy who was staying with the family across the street came over to our place while we were still in California. He got himself a stick (there are plenty of them lying around) with which he commenced to bash and batter at the swallow nests. He destroyed one altogether, severely damaged the other.

When I got here and saw the destruction, the boy came over to proudly confess his misdeed. I had words with him, pointing out that swallows are a protected species and interfering with their nests is a crime. This gave him the willies, of course. As far as I knew, the birds had finished nesting for the year when he did his damage, so technically, he had not actually broken the law (though I'm not exactly clear what can and can't be done vis a vis swallow nests). But I put the fear into him, and I hope he never interferes with a swallow's nest again.

Meanwhile, May 1 came and went this year, and there were no swallows to be seen. I thought perhaps they weren't coming back, or maybe they came to scout but found so much destruction they decided to roost somewhere else. The places next door on either side of us have been vacant for a while, and though they don't provide quite as sheltered a nesting site as our place does, they'd still make relatively quiet places to raise a bird family.

Well, one evening I went out the front to look at the stars, and what do I see overhead as I'm passing by the swallow nests but a swallow snoozing in the damaged nest and evidence on the ground of repairs started on the destroyed nest. This would have been about May 10th, somewhat late for the birds' return, but still within a reasonable time frame to raise at least one brood before the end of summer.

For some time, I only saw the one swallow day or night. Then, a few days ago, I saw both pair, flitting and chittering about, one pair working diligently to repair the ruined nest, the other pair apparently working on hatching some eggs.

It's taking quite a while to rebuild the destroyed nest but both birds of the pair work diligently in the morning and the evening to assemble a new one.

Swallow working diligently
Must be difficult to find appropriate mud because of the drought. We have a birdbath in front, but we also have a feral cat colony, and the birds are very wary. I've seen lots of different birds use the birdbath, but never the swallows. Instead, they sit on the wire above it, chittering away to one another about the cats down below, and then they fly off to wherever they are getting their mud, soon to return to add to the nest(s). There have been several repairs to the damaged nest as well.

(Oh, regarding feral cats and birds. We have an absolute abundance of many species of birds around here -- drought or no drought. They nest in the trees and the eaves in their multitudes, and the cats are seen to stalk them from time to time. In the more than six months we have been permanent residents, the cats have caught two birds that we know of, both doves. The claims that feral cats will catch dozens of birds each during a season seem to be somewhat... exaggerated to say the least.  The cats love to stalk the birds to be sure, but the birds are not exactly stupid about predators, and they mostly seem to be perfectly capable of eluding their stalkers.)

Some people don't like swallows because they're messy. Yes, the area below the nesting sites can become pretty foul pretty fast when there is a brood in the nest. We just clean it up, but some people get so aggravated by the mess, they want to chase the swallows away. I can understand the feeling, but I have more sympathy for the birds who are just doing what comes naturally to them. It's not really that hard to clean up after them in any case. And the baby birds are cute!

We're glad, very glad the swallows have returned.

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