Monday, August 24, 2015

A Ritual of Late Summer--Taking Down the Swallow Houses

Yesterday an acquaintance stopped by and said, "I drove right by your place. I can't find you without the birdhouses up."

Every year for the past 20 years, soon after we spot the first tree swallow in March, we put up somewhere between 20 and 30 birdhouses. They line our driveway and swing across our pastures. I often imagine neighbors driving by saying, "Old man Godfrey has is bird houses up again." Or maybe we have nick names like "Goofy Godfreys" or "Bird-brained Godfreys." Regardless, we so enjoy the birds coming in and building their spring and summer homes in our swallow boxes.

The season ends late July, when all the fledglings have left, and the fields get quiet. This is the first year we haven't had a grand kid here to help keep records of the findings as we open the boxes.

The way we look at the success of the boxes is what we find inside: lots of poop means a healthy nest with offspring, unhatched eggs means something kept the parents from seeing the nest through hatching (cold weather, death of the adult, etc.), mummies (the saddest to me) means the eggs hatched successfully but something kept the parents from feeding and sending the young out into the world.

Last week Mike took the houses down and I kept a photographic record of the nests, rather than the hand-made spreadsheets the grandchildren would do. Read the captions to understand my little photo essay.
This is the last house we still have that
was hand-decorated by my mother.

This has indications it was a very successful nest.
No unhatched eggs, no mummies, and lots of poop!

A successful nest except for one little unhatched egg.

I've never seen this before.
The nest was covered by a swallow with her wings spread.
When flipped over she looked alive.

Here are 5 or 6 little mummified swallows
What happened?

This nest never made it to hatching.

Sometimes a next has cohabitation: swallows and wasps. Was this poor little swallow stung to death?

This nest had a colorful surprise.
This nest-maker robbed someone's fall decorations to find a
colorful cloth leaf. An artistic touch! 

Now the houses are loaded up to be hauled to the barn,  hosed out, repaired and put away until next spring.


Anonymous said...

WAY COOL!! We love housing and feeding our birds. I think this may be one of the reasons I love to paint birds. You "birdbrained" Godfreys are doing good things for the swallows.

Anonymous said...

Let me tell you a funny story about your swallows. The first Sat. in July, I was cleaning the church next door and had opened the meeting room doors to get in some cross ventilation when a pair of swallows flew into the room and perched upon the rafter & would not leave. Try as I might to persuade them to fly backout, they just circled the room and reperched themselves. Finally, out of desperation, I said, "Dear Lord, PLEASE make them leave!" I turned around, and they were gone! Talk about the power of prayer!!