It’s all my fault. I wasn’t paying attention. So when the weather finally warms up enough for me to step out into the yard without shivering or sinking in the mud, I am assaulted by outraged shrieks. On the clothesline sit a pair of barn swallows, the first I’ve seen this season, making as much din as they could. And glaring at me.
What? What? What did I do?
Then it struck me. They were homeless. They had flown all the way back from South America, only to find their chosen residence missing. No wonder they were in a fury.
“Sorry, sorry,” I told them. “I’ll get on it right away.”
Despite the huge old barn right beside them, full of fine places to nest, this pair of barn swallows is fixated on a ramshackle old birdhouse acquired at a yard sale and hung out on the clothesline pole. It is painted watery white and, due to someone’s sense of whimsy, built in the shape of a washing machine, front loading door, dials and all. In the fall, I clean out the nest debris and put the thing away in the shed. It wouldn’t survive the winter outside on its own.
I had slothfully neglected to put it out again before the pair arrived.
After checking that the bottom I nailed back on last year was still holding, I brought the washing machine birdhouse out, climbed up on the cement and hung it, by its bit of rusty wire, onto the equally rusty hook on the pole. Immediately, the shrieking ceased. The pair did a pleased pirouette in the air and flew straight to the entrance hole to check that all the modern conveniences were still there. Speedy possession is all important. I’m sure they can’t forget that disastrous time the house wrens beat them to it.
So now they’re flying happily back and forth, working out the decor, planning the nursery. There’ll be no more shrieking at me until there are eggs and babies. Then I become the hulking ogre that must be driven off and dive bombed every time I try to water my tomato plants. One day, there’ll be a row of little swallows teetering on the railing and struggling with crash landings while the anxious parents work on the flying lessons.
Then goodbye with firm instructions to make sure the beloved budget condo holds together to live another spring.
Sure thing, feathered ma’am and sir.