I have an inordinate affection for barn swallows. These tiny birds, weighing less than 1 OUNCE (~28 grams), fly thousands of miles from the northern to the southern hemispheres in early autumn and back again in Spring. They eat only insects, usually in mid-air, and their amazing aerodynamics is a sight to behold. I love to watch them dart, bank, and flit at high speed over freshly mown pasture, snapping up unseen flies and mosquitoes. Of God’s innumerable creations, they are one of my favorites.
When I was blessed enough to find and purchase this 13 acre place in the country, it had a very old barn with half the roof collapsed. There were nearly a dozen barn swallows nests in the barn, most likely built by 1900 (the year the house was built), and about 3 dozen darting about the little farm. Before I closed on the property, insurance companies required that the barn be demolished within 30 days. The barn was dangerous, with its collapsed and still-collapsing roof, but I hated to destroy the swallow colony’s home.
To replace the barn, a carpenter friend and I built this “swallow hotel” by modifying an otherwise useless pergola, adding a second 1/2 story to it, leaving openings for the swallows to use. I also sawed openings on both ends of a storage shed. I hoped to lure the swallows back to the original home the following Spring after their over-wintering flight to Mexico or South America.
I was delighted when 2 pair of swallows returned the following May (2021), despite the destruction of their barn home and built-to-last mud nests. They didn’t build new nests in the upper portion of the storage shed or their luxurious hotel. Instead, they built two mud nests beneath their 2nd-floor intended lodgings and on top of the front porch light.
By the beginning of October 2021, no more swallows. They had set out to their unknown destination, possibly as far south as central Argentina, ~5600 (~9100 km) away! The second week of May, 2022, 8-10 swallows appeared, a joyful sign of proper Spring in southern Wisconsin. They didn’t all settle in. There seemed to be some competition for nesting spaces, but at least 2 pair, probably 3, claimed the territory, and used the same nests built the previous year.
This year was a particularly good year for swallow reproduction. At least 2 broods of three were born and parents are nesting on at least 2 more broods of eggs this year. Given today’s explosion of the number of swallows on the wire and flying about, it’s been a banner year for barn swallows! I couldn’t be happier.
I had plans to make a small profit eventually from this small calm far. I’ve spectacularly failed to grow ginseng in the woods and, thus far, failed to grow and establish lavender from seed. I’ve also failed to market my very successful, organically grown, delicious garlic and Icelandic Sheep wool, but the wild birds are obviously thriving happy with their habitat. That’ll be fine. I bought this place to escape the city, to find peace in the country, first and foremost, and the numerous species of birds observed on my first exploratory visit convinced me this was the right place to be. Profit is so much than mere money.