The arrival of swallows to our yard is an annual event that we look forward to every spring. Tree swallows are always the first to arrive, followed by barn swallows, and cliff swallows come last. This year I made note that the tree swallows arrived on April 28th, with the barn swallows on May 6th. Bank swallows nest down by the river and up Cache Creek a little way, but they don’t hang around our yard so I have never noticed the timing of their arrival.
Maybe it is my imagination, but these gifted flyers always seem cheerful and playful among themselves. I like to think that their dive-bombing antics when one is near their nesting sites is somewhat good-hearted bluffing and not very serious, but perhaps they see it differently. I have caught myself telling them to “knock it off for Pete’s sake! Do you seriously think I am a threat?”, but they don’t seem to listen.
The tree swallows nest in boxes I have built for them, while barn and cliff swallows make their own nest attached to our building structures. They can truly make a mess with droppings below their nesting sites, but we like having them around and they do a good job of mosquito control, so we put up with it. I tried hanging a plastic falcon decoy in a spot where I did not want swallows nesting, but as the photograph shows, it did not work. The barn swallows built a nest right above the falcon and made a mess all over him.
That reminds me of a joke: There were statues of a long-ago famous man and women side by side in a city park. One day a genie came along and granted them both a wish. The two statues winked at each other and disappeared into the bushes. A short while later the genie overheard one saying to the other; “Ok, now you hold the pigeon while I s##t on his head!” I think those swallows nesting right above a fake falcon was akin to what those two statues did.
While doing finishing work on a log house, I once showed up at the jobsite with a pile of fresh swallow droppings on the hood of my work truck. The home owner was a friend that enjoyed joking around, but he was quite disturbed that I would allow birds to do that to my truck. I remember explaining that the swallows had just built a nest right above where I normally parked my truck, but hey, it’s just a truck, right? He did not see it that way. I think he thought it was sacrilegious to desecrate a truck that way. So, to bug him, I made sure I always parked in the same spot every night at home and would show up at his place every day with that mess on my hood getting bigger and bigger. It drove him nuts!
This year the tree and cliff swallows left our place to head south in mid-August, which seems really early. We thought perhaps that was because it was so dry with a lack of bugs to eat. However, the barn swallows proceeded to rear a healthy second batch of young, and the last ones left on September 9th, which seems later than I ever remember.
Now those tiny feathered friends are all heading south on an incredible migration as far south as Central or even South America. With the likely flooding of Site C this winter, they will show up next spring at a Bear Flat that is very different from the one they just left.