Tuesday, June 12, 2018

El Casa de las Golondrinas

When the swallows started clinging to our front door screen and looking longingly into the house we became a little concerned.  We have after all, like most of you, seen Alfred Hitchcock’s movie “The Birds” – or at least some of the scarier, more ominous scenes from it.
We had already figured that a pair of the fork-tailed, fast-flying, insect-eating birds were looking to set up some form of joint residency with us during their summer stay in the Santa Fe area.  One of the recent conversations on “Nextdoor”, the private Internet social network for our neighborhood centered around how to “cure” the birds from “building mud nests near ceiling of entry.”  Suggestions included hanging glittery tape and/or CDs, “bird netting laced through 2 thin drapery tension rods”, red Christmas wrapping ribbon, incense sticks, and “Amazon Bird Blind tape, hung around the porch.”  On the other side – there always is at least one other side on the Nextdoor app – many folks cited the bird’s mosquito-eating benefit, said the nest would only be there a few weeks, and to let it be and “just clean up the poop on [your] front step.”
Our instinct was to go with the latter “live and let live” approach – especially since we are volunteers at an historic rancho and living history museum named El Rancho de las Golondrinas – “The Swallows Ranch.”  Not to put too much faith into what could be a simple punctuation error, but we noticed it did not say “swallow’s” with an apostrophe, which would have implied avian ownership.   So we figured the little golondrinas, which also have nests in various populated places around the ranch, were the type of co-residents who wouldn’t be too demanding.
Before the whole screen scene we were noticing the pair of them hanging out atop a two foot tall plastic owl that came with the house and dangles from the ceiling in the outermost corner of the portal entry – about six feet from our house’s front door.  The purpose of the statue as we understand it is to scare pigeons and other birds away from our garden or property.  It sure isn’t decorative.  Obviously however “other birds” do not include golondrinas.  We couldn’t see up high enough to tell what the little guys were doing up there – but they we there, and we were here – and that all seemed just fine.
Suddenly we noticed them clinging to our screen – which incidentally is not a swinging door but instead a sliding barrier that curls up into one side of the doorway when not in use, and is held in place by magnet when fully unfurled.  Then, looking more carefully, Marsha realized they seemed to be coveting the dried flower and straw wreath that hung on the outside of the wooden front door itself – and, when opened, stood at a right angle to the mesh insect excluder – clearly visible and teasingly close.  Perhaps that was the source of their building materials we mused.  But when we ourselves looked closely at the apparent object of their affection we could see the concave beginnings of what would ultimately become a tiny mud and straw nest on the main entry to our house.
This potential situation brought to mind a similar story about an aunt and uncle of Marsha’s who retired to Green Valley, Arizona that resulted in them bypassing that means of entry for the duration of the bird’s building, birthing, and ultimate empty-nesting.
Not to be cruel and since the nest was far enough along to recognize its possibility but not so complete as to be yet usable, we took down the wreath.  And to our relief the little house-builders seem to have simply transferred their nesting spot to the top of the head of the decoy owl – previously their on deck area – and from which they now look down less wistfully at the activities in our front entryway, and no longer need to cling like predatory home invaders eagerly waiting for their next chance.
So for this summer at least, welcome to El Casa de las Golondrinas – without the apostrophe, we hope.

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