It May Not Be Capistrano, But…


…The Swallows Have Returned.

And this year I was happy to see them.  Well, maybe that is a bit too strong of a statement.  Let’s just say that I was not unhappy to see them.  Because, rest assured, there have been many years in the past when I was unhappy.  Very unhappy.  Let me explain.

Masterful engineers, barn swallows build mud nests that cling to ceilings or, as in our case, the fluorescent light fixture on the ceiling of our barn.  When we first built our barn twelve years ago, the swallows selected what they considered an ideal spot inside one of the stalls.  But swallows can be aggressive when protecting their nest.  They squawk and swoop towards your head as a warning to stay away.  Plus, they poop on the floor.  And the hay bales.  And the horse waterer.  And the…you get the idea.

So, on a daily basis, I would knock down the mud nest before they had a chance to lay any eggs.  I was persistent and determined that they not soil my new horse stalls.  Unfortunately, they were just as persistent and determined to raise their babies in their “ideal spot”.

It was finally Simba, perched on our newly-stacked hay bales mere inches from their nesting site, who would convince the swallows that the spot they had selected was, perhaps, not as ideal as they first imagined.  They would finally give up and go elsewhere.

After several years of this same routine – me knocking down each day’s progress on their mud nest until the hay bales were stacked and Simba claimed his own “ideal spot” – the swallows finally acquiesced.  Last year, for the first time, they began building their nest in the open loafing area instead of inside the stall.  When I saw that, I acquiesced also.

We have now reached a multi-species compromise.  The swallows have given up nest building in the stalls, and I have given up knocking them down.  They now get an undisturbed nest in the loafing area and I get a clean stall and a bug-free loafing area for my horses.  It wasn’t the first choice for either of us, but both species are relatively content.  That’s how a compromise works.

If only Congress would take note.

When the nest was completed this year, I was curious as to the size of their potential brood.  Although the nest was too high for me to peek inside, with the help of a ladder I was able to reach high enough with my phone to take a photo.

Later, I took another photo after the birds had hatched.  One of the hatchlings was obviously prepared just in case a bug happened to drop out of my phone.

Here’s one more photo of the hatchlings in their nest:

Oops.  Sorry.  False alarm.  That was BJ checking out my phone.

Let’s try that again:

The babies are out of their nest now and flying with their parents.  When fall arrives, and the birds migrate to South America for the winter, I will remove the nest and wash the mud off of the light fixture.  I want no obstructions to the light when I do my chores during the dark winter mornings and evenings. 

Now that the swallows have raised two consecutive broods successfully in our loafing shed, I am certain that they will return again next year to that same spot in our barn.

I look forward to it.

(Swallows were a regular summer fixture in the barn of my youth.)

Next Week:  Aw, Shucks

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