Has it really been more than two years since I told you about the birds and the bees? Have we learned nothing in that time?
Well, yes, we have. We’ve learned what it’s like to live in a Hitchcock movie.
Not this one.
That’s me in the gray flannel suit, being chased by the barn swallows.
You see, unlike what you see in “The Birds,” not all the species are out to get us. At least, not here. Maybe that’s because we feed them. But the swallows like flying insects, which are not on the menu at our feeder. Maybe that’s why they’re so aggressive. They don’t like flying second class.
Or perhaps it’s because of the accidental demolition of a vacated nest over the door to what we still know as the Poop Deck. It came down when I was hosing down the wall and deck after the third brood had finally moved out last summer. When the swallows came back to Crapistrano this year, it was no more.
More than we can swallow
Oh, the swallows are back, all right, just not on the Poop Deck. They’re over our main entrance, which no one uses anyway, and in the rafters under the deck, where two nests of swallows have joined one of robins in a peaceful little neighborhood.
That’s nothing compared to the relatively diverse population of the portico over my office door, not 10 feet from where I’m sitting. There, families of swallows, robins and mourning doves dwell together in peace all spring.
More robins nested in the gutter behind the barn. Grackles settled into the gutter in front of the screened-in porch. Fortunately it hasn’t rained much this season. As far as I know there haven’t been any emergency evacuations.
And don’t sit under the apple tree. With anyone, including me. There’s another nest up there, although I can’t quite make out whose it is. It could be robins, but I doubt it. The occupants are too skittish.
Robins, you see, will let you know that you’re persona non grata, but from a safe distance. They’ll perch in a tree on the other side of you from the nest, and scold loudly to make you look toward them instead of the little ones.
Whatever it is in the apple tree abandons the nest if it sees you within 20 feet or so. The mourning dove, on the other hand, sits quietly and watches you, unmoving. You’d think it was a surreptitious surveillance camera, and perhaps you’d be right. I’m waiting to see my comings and goings show up on Twitter.
Swallow Air Command
The swallows, though, generations back, must have studied combat techniques at the old Strategic Air Command base across the lake.
Once again there is a nest over our bathroom, even though the old one had to come down last year when we replaced the window. Undeterred, Mr. and Mrs. Swallow have returned, unabashed and apparently oblivious to the delicate needs of privacy in the privy. We learned to draw the shade.
Every once in a while, though, I have to walk around to the south side of the house, to water the plants, perhaps. And that’s when the crop duster comes flying over the corn field.
First there will be a screech from overhead as the parent on duty summons other members of the flock. Then they start buzzing me, closer and closer. Four or five will dive at me in succession, from behind, and screech loudly only inches from my ear.
Not wanting to damage my gray flannel suit like Cary Grant in the cornfield, I plod on slowly, looking neither right nor left and certainly not in the direction of the nest. Eventually they give up when I turn the corner of the house.
The mourning doves hide. The robins scold. The unidentified flying object in the apple tree flees. Only the swallows bring in the SAC fighters.
As long as it’s not the bombers, I guess I’m OK with that.