The “they” in question here is a couple of barn swallow love birds. The young, starry-eyed couple fell deeply in love this spring (ok, I might be waxing poetic here) and decided to start a family. Barn swallows build nests very quickly. This one went up under the cover of my porch before I could blink. Shelter from the wind and rain. A sturdy foundation. Shade from the hot summer sun. Bird nursery paradise right?
This is my porch. My porch in my backyard. The yard that is my dog yard. Where lots of dogs run every single day. LOTS of carnivorous dogs.
Are we beginning to see the problem here? Yes, a lack of planning on their part does indeed constitute a bit of an emergency on my part.
I’ve scolded these birds. “What were you thinking?” I demand. “Just where do you think your little fledgling kids are going to land when they take that all important first hop out of the nest?”
We all know that baby birds NEVER wait until all systems are go to leave the damn nest. They always get cocky and leap before the net (and by net I mean wing and tail feathers) is actually in place. Then they spend a couple of crazy days hopping and flapping around on the ground while their frantic parents do their best to care for them.
It’s bad enough under normal circumstances, but in my dog yard? Well, I can promise you that my dogs are not staring at the tiny fledglings peering from the nest because they want to hug them, and pet them, and squeeze them and call them George.
Nope. They want to eat them. Despite all of the wonderful food and treats I dole out daily, they have their sights set on some tiny birdie snacks.
So, I could just turn my head and let nature take its course. It’s the prey/predator story that is as old as time.
Yeah. No. Not going to happen on my watch. (You already knew that, didn’t you?) I’m the woman who held up construction on my house to allow Huey, Dewey, and Louie time to mature and leave the nest. Yes. I really did.
That love-struck barn swallow couple built their mud and grass apartment in the rafters of my new home as it was being framed. I guarded those little guys and warned all of the contractors and workers to be cautious around the little family. I believe many eyes may have rolled behind my back…a few right in front of me…and I just didn’t care.
Then the day came when framing was done, walls were going up, and doors and windows were being placed. WAIT! H,D&L were still in residence! The back door and back window had to remain open. Period.
No, we would not carefully move the next outside. No we could not make them a new fancy nest on the back step. No. No, we would wait.
Yes wait. For three days, I believe. Construction folks LOVE it when the crazy client lady brings everything to a screeching halt so baby birds have time to find their wings. It goes over really well.
Thankfully Jim (that cool, equally dog-crazy guy that lives here too) was the builder on our new home and he gets me. Most of the time. He may have rolled his eyes, but we did wait for the birds to find their way outside. The house did get finished. Three days late. What’s three little days?
Back to our new state of emergency. Of all of our dogs, our young Dalmatian Brooke is the most avid “bird watcher.” The prey drive gene, strong in this one, it is (Yep…use your Yoda voice there). She is fixated on that darn nest. She stands and stares at it. She leaps up the wall to try to reach it. She bounds after the adult birds as they soar from the cover of the porch.
She is determined. I am determined. The barn swallow parents are also determined.
As their family matures, these two little aircrobats (don’t look it up…I made that up…it’s a valid and good word) are going on the offensive. They are darting and diving directly at Brooke every moment that she is outside. They are two, tiny, dark stunt pilots sailing just inches from her snout, risking everything to draw the spotted beast away from the nest that offers such a fragile and temporary barrier between their three babies and the dry land version of Jaws.
And that’s what families should do. They take care of each other; they put everything on the line for each other. I experienced this level of love as I grew up under the watchful eyes of my parents. I see this instinct in the way my sisters cared for their children; and now in the way my nieces race after their babies, guiding them, teaching them, keeping them safe from harm.
My sister Terry and I have been there at the other end of the life spectrum with my parents, with my sister. We were ferocious in our mission to care for those we held dear.
There just are times, regardless of who you are…or what you are, when that mother bear instinct wells up from your heart to give you strength you had no idea you had. Strength that makes a tiny slip of a bird believe it can conquer a mighty Dalmatian.
Well, if these two little birds were going to fight so heroically for their babies’ survival, I was going to be right there with them.
So far my good intentions have manifested in the form of a box nailed to the wall beneath the nest. At least now if the babies take a premature first leap, they will just fall into the well-padded cardboard nest. That will buy me “what next” time and will allow the parents to still care for the babies in the lower level of their new condo.
I have to believe we have also increased the property value of their home, should they decide to sell. Of course all of the upgrades in the world won’t change the fact that these birds have the nicest nest in a spotty neighborhood (I need a drum effect here…insert rim shot). Dang it birds, ask ANY real estate agent. Location, location, location!
My partners in parenting were not initially impressed with my handiwork, but they did accept my attempt at home improvement. I’d like to think that they understand the purpose of the box and applaud my efforts. Or it’s possible they just see it as another place to poop. Probably the latter. Oh, but my intentions are so good.
If all three little fledglings will cooperate by jumping into my box, I will carefully relocate them just outside the fence of the lion’s den…I mean dog yard. There they can reunite with their doting parents, learn to spread their wings against the lift of the wind, and soar far, far, far away from this porch.
New development…after seeing three growing fledglings still crammed into a too-small next last evening, this morning I ventured out to find an empty nest, and an empty box. I don’t see feathers on the ground. I don’t see smug dogs picking their teeth. I’m going to believe that my…ummmm…the babies made it. I’m going to watch the sky for more beautiful aircrobats.