Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Nesting

“Listen, honey, I’m not saying that I doubt you. It’s just that the evidence doesn’t seem to be in your favor.”

“No, really - I swear this is the spot. Okay, it doesn’t appear to be here, but I think I know where I am. I’m not an idiot. And I don’t appreciate your tone, might I add.”

So the swallows quibbled in unusual non-sing-songy low tones in the cove that shelters our front entry. The couple argued at length, sounding a bit like an exasperated and hopelessly lost couple after realizing that they are stranded on a service road in the middle of a forest when attempting to take a “short-cut” across the mountains.

Apparently some time after the winter migration, our landlord power-washed Mr. and Mrs. Swallow’s home into oblivion. Only a faint stain on the limestone brick remained. But Mr. Swallow wouldn’t be fooled; even if the original nest wasn’t there, he knew instinctively that this is where the nest was supposed to be. There was nothing left to do but rebuild, so the birds evidently concluded.

Over the course of the next week, beak-loads of custom made adobe were flown in (60/40 mix of mud and pine needles I’m guessing) and packed down on the old house site.

I didn’t like it. Not one little bit. First of all, birds are kind of scary. Oh, they are beautiful to spy from a distance, but with the claws and pecking beaks and all…let’s just say I feel a tremor of anxiety well in me every time I venture out the front door.

Second, there is the whole poop issue. Poop on the front door. Poop on the ground below the nest. Birds poop a lot, and the poop falls where it may. However, I’m not sure that the seemingly indiscriminate pooping is accidental. I don’t really want to be the next target.

Third, there is the whole bird/parasite synergy that I’d like to avoid. “West Nile Virus”, “Bird Flu” – need I say more? Seriously, it will keep me up at night if I dare entertain the possibility.

So I decided that I needed to encourage these birds to relocate. I thought that if I destroyed the fledgling nest that the birds would say to themselves, “Our house is ruined again! All of that hard work fallen in the poop pile! Forget about this spot. Let’s start over somewhere else.” A ridiculous assumption on my part, for sure, but short of killing the birds, I was felling a little desperate.

Being a short person, I grabbed the tallest step stool that I could (two feet tall?) and the longest broom so that I might be able to reach the packed mud fifteen feet or more above. On tiptoe, I maneuvered the broom to sweep away what I could reach of the nest. Within seconds, the façade of the nest was gone – and dropped mostly down my shirt (which is how I know the consistency of their nest building materials). Of course I screamed! And I screamed more when Mr. and Mrs. Swallow darted in and out of the alcove as they attempted to figure out what the heck I was doing to their nest.

Not deterred one bit, Mr. and Mrs. Swallow built on. Only they decided to get down to business rather than make the nest look pretty (sorry Mrs. Swallow). Abandoning the scalloped edges of the nest, Mr. Swallow concentrated on building the body of the nest.

I attempted several other times to deter the birds (one incident involved a fireplace poker tied to a long stick; the other involved my cat). But Mr. and Mrs. Swallow had an agenda that I obviously couldn’t understand. Plus, none of my feeble attempts at scaring the birds away put a dent in the thousand plus daily beak loads of adobe.

Needless to say, I put my personal quest to get rid of the birds on hold. Poetroad was glad of that. A few days later when I pleaded with him to do something about those pesky birds, he gently appealed, “Don’t get rid of them. I kind of like having the birds there.” Because he sounded sentimental, I abandoned my quest altogether.

It’s well into week two, and the nest is almost complete. Wouldn’t you know that the new nest covers the exact same spot that the old nest did? Did you know that many swallows mate for life? Did you know that mates – and/or their children – will return to the same nest every year?

Soon enough there will be baby birds twittering in that nest – a testimony to determination and a dedication to family. Yes, in their life time a nest or two is destroyed, and for sure a host of other obstacles are faced on the trek to and from Capistrano (or wherever swallows go for the winter). But they just keep on going. Sometimes that's all we can do - and that's enough.

1 comment:

CGA said...

Those darned Californians just have to mess up every place they go!