Awhile back, say – oh – three years ago? I had a housemate who built a birdhouse, just from his imagination, so it was kind of sloppy and the hole was too small. He nailed it up onto a tree and it was promptly ignored by all birds. It is cute, and unconventional, and I never expected a bird to take a second glance anyway, so I left it where it was. Housemate moved on long ago.
This spring, suddenly, birds are checking it out! Maybe it just needed to get all the fresh cut wood and human smell off it? Maybe it needed a couple of tattered spiderwebs on the outside? Whatever magic it needed, this spring it was pumped full of that magic.
About three weeks ago, these cute, dark-winged, white-bellied, zippy birds perched on the birdhouse and began checking it out. I fretted about the too-small hole. It had always looked too small to me, but I really had no idea. The male and female pair seriously checked it out. For possibly ten minutes, they flew away and back, took turns looking inside the hole, perched on top, perched on the hummingbird feeder nearby, perched on the roof and branches. Then they flew away and I didn’t see any more activity for 10 days.
Last week, another pair came by! They spent another 10 minutes checking out the house. The female went inside! So maybe it’s not too small? But it looked very small. They flew away. This time I got photos and looked them up. They’re Violet-green swallows. And well named too. Look at those gorgeous iridescent hues. And the male’s bright white face really sets off the colours.
The next morning, same exact time of day, two birds came back – same routine. Checked it out seriously for a good long while, then left for good. I resolved to fix the darn hole. At least if the hole was larger, I would stop blaming myself for the poor suitability of the home. I went online and researched the ideal hole size for a swallow. It’s 1 1/2 inches. I measured the current hole, and found it was 1 3/4 inches wide, and 1 inch tall. I was right: too small.
I bought a gun. Well, not really, but it sure looks like some kind of weapon! I went down to the local hardware store, explained what I needed, and was shown the perfect bit for my drill. When I attached it, it looked like some kind of super-hero weapon. Now I can really be Xena Warrior Princess like I always wanted!!
The next morning, at the usual time, I waited. They were late. It was a full twenty minutes past time and I thought I’d lost my chance, but sure enough, a pair of Violet-green swallows came to check it out. They spent about 2 minutes, then left. And never came back.
And that was the last time any Violet-green swallows came to check it out. Darn. Well, I did get my human smell all over it again, by trying to clear cobwebs. I just can’t help myself but clean things. Also, there is fresh cut wood smell too. Maybe next year.
As if it was a cue to the others, suddenly all the other birds in the garden noticed the birdhouse for the first time. It’s remarkable not because a bird was perched on a thing – that happens all the time. But birds are in this garden constantly and in three years I have never seen one on this birdhouse. Until that day.
I have lived here for five years and this is the first Wood Duck I have ever seen on this property. I was purely tickled to see her there. There are good Wood Duck boxes on trees down by the pond, so I hope she takes a look at them.
Well… that was apparently the end of the story. No more fly-bys, and no more crazy visitors to the birdhouse. I’m hoping that next spring, with a nice big hole and no more human smell, it will seem like just the right place to a pair of swallows.