Tuesday, May 01, 2007

My Peace Offering

A little over a week ago, there was a dramatic scene at my house when I removed the barn swallow nest for a cleaning and then unintentionally destroyed it. The female who raised a brood in that nest last June caught me in the act with her nest in my hands. The timing could not have been worse. I’m still heartsick over it. During the two days following that episode, two eggs were laid on the rock ledge where the nest once sat, rolled off, and splattered on the ground under the nesting area. Dear Julie Z was so kind to confirm my suspicion and also offered a suggestion that took me by surprise. The more I thought about it, the more I liked it! Why not build a swallow nest? It might attract her or another bird and will be a cool experiment. I Googled artificial swallow nests and learned they are quite successful.

Since the female started building that nest in May last year and the babies fledged around the end of June, I thought I’d better get cracking.


Her nest was built into a ninety degree angle in a corner under the porch ceiling. I used the corner of a sturdy shoebox to help form a nest with Sculpey. Since her nest was packed with North Carolina’s finest bright red clay, I chose terracotta.


It’s recommended that barn swallow nests should have no more than one and a half inches clearance from a ceiling. That’s very small, so I allowed two inches.


After more resizing and reshaping it was ready for the oven at 275 degrees. I'm not skilled at sculpting and it shows! Standing on the step ladder near the porch railing thirty feet above the sidewalk got a little easier on my nerves after a while.


While the nest was in the oven baking, I baked some mud on the driveway.


I’ll admit it, sometimes I go over the top with things but I couldn’t resist some paint! Now it looks like a distressed flower pot but, hey, who cares? My artistic side got the best of me.


For baking purposes I sculpted a hollow nest. To fill it, I accumulated washed stone, human hair from hairbrushes around the house, dried grasses, and some soft twigs from my hanging pots.


The nest is shallow and formed softly with mud. It’s all adjustable to suit a female’s fancy but I invite any comments on where it might fall short or need improvement.


Perfect fit. It’s not attached to anything but the gravel inside and weight of it will prove to be very stable.

Perhaps she won’t return this year. The nest might sit empty for a long time. It’s OK. More than likely, she’s probably working away at another nest somewhere but if she gets evicted, she can have an extended stay at my hotel. If she returns, my heart would swell!

Building this nest is the least I could do. She’s worth it, despite the poopy porch.


June 2006


Unknown said...

Mary, your kindness and generosity fill my heart with gladness! I am in awe of you!

Your swallow nest is gorgeous and I hope that she comes back and tries it out.

You are inspiring me to get my butt in gear and do something I've been meaning to do -- take pictures of the cliff swallows at my school. Their nests are amazing too! They don't even bother with ledges!

KGMom said...

Oh this is fun--Mary gets to play with clay and in the mud, then with paints.
And I love all the little swallow faces from last year. Here's hoping there will be some this year!

Annie in Austin said...

If you would do all this for a bird, Mary, what would you do for a human being? Your family and friends must be lucky people to have you in their lives! Compassionate creativity!!

Annie at the Transplantable Rose

LauraHinNJ said...


You've gone off your fr*&^in rocker and I love you for it!

kate said...

What a beautiful thing to do ... I think your nest will bring many birds. I loved the way you described making the nest ... lots of love put into it. You are a wonderful person!

Ruth said...

I hope you are well rewarded for your efforts! Your project was well researched and looks like fun too.

Larry said...

That was a nice gesture.-I could tell you a sad story about what happened when I tried to relocate squirrels out of my yard-Re-locating squirrels is not a good idea-better to just use baffles on your feeders.

Lynne at Hasty Brook said...

Ditto what LauraH said!!
You ar simply amazing!!

dmmgmfm said...

Mary, you give me hope for mankind. You are such a dear, wonderful person. You never cease to amaze me.

Beth said...

Ditto on my part, too.

You build nests all around you, don't you, girl? For your friends and family...for your fellow bloggers, whom you bless with encouraging words...

God has gifted you in a precious way, and it's a joy to see you exercising that gift in your world.

Good job, caring for the least of these....

Anonymous said...

O my, this is such a great idea and will keep this in mind anytime ask me about barn swallow nest! It also looks like you had fun doing!

Susan said...

I hope they like it!

Cuppa said...

Heartwarming and wonderful!!!!

LauraHinNJ said...

I'm not really such a smart-alec, Mary! This is such a nice thing to do for the barn swallows - hope they will appreciate your efforts - have you seen them around still?

I wonder where you ever got the idea to make them a nest! They'll have to know they have the nicest, most lovingly-wrought abode in town.

Susan Gets Native said...

I echo Laura, too!

I didn't think I could like you any more than I do, but your stock just went through the roof with me!

Q said...

Dear Mary,
Building a nest for the Swallow was so kind of you. I know your heart was breaking. If I could I would send the Swallow right back to you...okay I will try. I will think very loudly how there is a lady who loves the birds so very much that she made them a beautiful nest so they once again could share a home with her.
The Swallow will return.

You are a Dear Heart.
You fashioned a nest.
You have done your part.
Mother Nature will do the rest.

I am glad to call you friend.
I am happy you are here.

Mary said...

All of your comments are so sweet - thanks! To answer Laura's questions, Julie Z threw me the ball and I ran with it. She's brilliant.

And, no, I haven't seen swallows in a week. If not this year, maybe next year... I'll stay hopeful and be patient :o)

BirdingMom said...

How amazing of you to do that!

dguzman said...

Good luck, Mary! That last swallow photo is wonderful!

Oh man, this morning on my way to work I saw a hawk perched on a fencepost--my 65-to-zero crazy-ass pull-off the highway would've made you proud!

Then I realized I'd forgotten my camera....

Mary said...

Delia, isn't it great that we can laugh at our silly selves???

Susie said...

I am amazed at all the work you put into making that nest!
What a kind and gentle heart you have....

Dorothy said...

Gosh Mary, You get a gold star for compassion and creativity! You are such a good soul and dear heart to those birds!
May your beautiful new little nest be blessed very soon with little baby swallows! And that last picture from last year gets first prize in my book!

Jayne said...

Oh Mary, I had a huge smile on my face the entire time I was reading this post. What a labor of love dear heart! I think your nest is just smashing, and I can't imagine she won't just love it! Can't wait to hear how it's received. You are such a blessing to us and to your birds.

Melsie14 said...

You are such a caring and loving person!! I can't think of anyone I know who would actually take the time to do something like this for a bird. But it's a wonderful gesture and nice of you to try and right a wrong! I really hope they come back to visit and stay in your beautiful hotel.

Chrissie said...

What a really wonderful thing to do :-) I hope your swallows return soon and move into their new des res!

entoto said...

Oh Mary! You ROCK! What a great thing to do and it is ALWAYS fun to play with clay. Hmmm....cottage industry?

Anonymous said...

Mary you really have a gift at giving. Not only to the birds that you made the nest for but for all of us as well. Thank you for the smile!

Julie Zickefoose said...

Dear Mary,

Sorry to be so late in commenting. Your nest looks totally fab, and a whole lot safer than the precarious mud construction, stuffed with adorable babies, from 2006. I wish you joy and happiness, but mostly I wish you barn swallows. Now that you've baked a bird nest: Try baking and crumbling some egg shells and strewing them on your roof--that's what I do and the swallows just can't resist them. We have 14 who come from nearby barns just to eat eggshells off our garage roof. They come four or five times a day, and they fly by the kitchen window, begging, if there aren't any out. Apparently flying insects are deficient in calcium so swallows and martins crave it. And besides, it'll give the neighbors something else to talk about--watching you throw fistfuls of eggshells onto your roof. Tee hee!

Cathy said...

Mary! My heart is singing and like yours will wait patiently for the other little feathered heart to find her way back to that sweet labor of love.

You are wonderful. No more penance, just celebration of caring and joyful expectations.