May 27, 2005

Life with Swallows

Each year we’ve lived here in northern Arizona, we’ve had a group of swallows come to nest under the overhangs of our roof on any little ledge they can balance on. Actually they build in the exact place they nested the year before….even when we’ve prayed the nests down in the Fall. They are really cute little birds, about the size of a sparrow, but thinner, with flitting, swoopy flight patterns and adept balancing acts as they build their nests each year with mouthful by mouthful of mud, sticks of grass too. The have these very expressive faces and heads and I am always in awe of their cute little shoulders…they are the only bird I know of that has shoulders. I almost expect them to shrug at me when they cock their heads, wishing I’d leave the porch. Every year I think aloud to my husband, “We should knock those nests down before they lay their eggs.” Before you think I’m cruel, I will tell you the reason.

While swallows are quite charming and they do eat a bazillion mosquitoes each day, they become like any guest who has overstayed their welcome…annoying!! This morning I was awakened by swallows…their nest built directly above my bedroom window, which is wide open at night. The problem was that it was around 4am….my husband said they had been making noise since 3:30am. The noise they made was like a war cry or torture session! They were actually shrieking and screaming. So I’m a little perturbed at them. I came out here on the front porch with my laptop to enjoy a little outdoors while typing today but there is another nest directly over my husband’s porch rocker. My rocker is a few feet away, but they are still fussing at me, one in the nest (laying the eggs I think), and the other is on the porch light squawking and twittering in my general direction. A few minutes ago, as I started this, the male swallow swooped almost on top of my head while squawking. I refuse to give in to that little cute-shouldered twerp though!

"This is MY porch, for crying out loud" I want to shout!

….but I just turned to him and told him, "I'm not going to mess with your nest. Would you just chill out?"

I think he shrugged his shoulders at me….he definitely cocked his head in a mighty sassy way.

While they were building this front porch nest, they would routinely drip mouthfuls of mud on my husband as he sat in his rocker. He would just keep talking to me and flick off the mud as if it were lint. This cracked me up! I told him they were doing it on purpose…that we would soon be driven off our own front porch once the eggs were laid and that the babies would just fall out and die again this year. (Another story in and of itself...trying to rescue wayward baby swallows last summer!) We should have knocked it down! But my husband is a bird lover and wants them there….so now we are swooped upon and spat upon. Last Sunday night we had our small group meeting out on and by the front porch because it was too warm in the house and it was just right outside. So the swallows…there were 4 of them…..were lined up on the edge of the roof cussing us out. Of course the small group people just thought they were cute, but I know….I know them....those horrid pests, taking over our porches. Yes, our back porch has a nest too…..

I wonder how many baby swallows will fall prey to our new puppy, Winnie, on the back porch this year. She brought in a dead bird chew toy to the family room last Fall. Maggie, our 7 year old, was so mad at her for killing a bird that she called Winnie a wolf and wanted us to return her to the woods if she was going to act like that. She got over it in time, but for a while every time she went in to the backyard to play, she would scold and chastise the poor goofy dog, who didn't have a clue about what she was saying. I saw her take a leap and snap her jaws at one of the swooping swallows a few weeks ago as it dove through the porch, so I think we are in for an interesting June.

*10 minutes later*….I have to admit defeat. I have come back into the house, afraid that I was going to become a poop target. That male swallow was getting pretty aggressive. =( Gilmore Girls was starting though, so it was a good thing I came inside. My oldest daughter Hannah and I are enjoying watching reruns of the episodes where Rory goes to college, as Hannah is staring college in the Fall and moving 30 miles down the interstate to her first apartment. Did I mention this is traumatic?

More later…..

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