The barn swallows in Silk’s stall have some new neighbors. Chickadees have moved in next door with Siete. It’s almost that “baby bird” time of year again. For two years, barn swallows have built a nest in the protected rafters over Silk’s feeder. It’s an ideal spot since it’s like a trough so the little ones can’t fall out on the ground if they try to fly too soon. Last year, there were two hatchings using the same nest. Now, there’s a second nest over Silk’s front door.
The chickadees copied the barn swallows, and their nest is over the entrance to Siete’s stall. They are so sweet, with their beautiful white chests and lovely voices. They talk to me while I muck in there every day. The barn swallows aren’t so welcoming. When I go into Silk’s stall, they dive bomb me. I noticed when the babies were in the nest that they would peep like crazy if they heard me, but when it was just the horses in there it was completely quiet. I guess I’ll never be anything more than a smelly predator to them.
My farrier suggested that I hang cd’s from strings on the beams of the ceiling. The spinning and the shiny reflections will keep the barn swallows away. It’s a good tip, but I don’t know if I want to do it. I love them, even if they don’t love me so I’m hoping that they will just listen to the chickadees and mind their manners.
What is it with birds and horses? In the first barn where I boarded Silk, they also raised chickens. At night, some of the horses would actually let the chickens roost on their backs and fall asleep. It was so funny to see a horse with a chicken sitting on its butt. The next stable where Silk and Siete lived had barn owls in the rafters. It was a male and female, a married couple, who had been living there for over 15 years. When I groomed the horses in the cross-ties, owl feathers would float down on us. I still have some of them for good luck. There was one boarder who was really irritating. The barn owls used to drop gooey white bird “bombs” on her while she brushed her horse. Eventually, to all of our delight, they drove her away to another boarding facility.
Last summer, I found a baby barn swallow floundering in Siete’s stall. The little bird couldn’t fly well enough and got stuck in the shavings on the floor. I managed to steer Siete into the corral and keep her out so we could save the baby. My 93 -year old mother and my 12 year old daughter took over the rescue operation. Nana pulled out a pair of fancy white gloves from her drawer because she insisted that you need very soft hands to pick up a bird. She gently cradled the baby, and they found a broad flat branch on the big pine tree where the bird could easily sit without falling. A moment after they safely placed the little creature on the pine bough, its mother flew over to join her wayward child.
As I cover my head with my arms and duck while the barn swallows zoom down towards me, I remind them that I’m the one who chased away the cats and kept them safe while they were growing up. It reminds me of when my stepson was little and you told him not to do something. “I don’t listen to that,” he replied. I guess I’m just going to have to go next door and hang out with the chickadees.