Matte’s Blog

They’re Back

I wrote last spring about my delight in watching a couple of barn swallows (Hirundo rustica) build a nest and raise a family on the eaves of my patio.  Well, they’re back.

And when i say “they” i don’t mean just any barn swallow couple but rather the couple who were here last spring.  So how do i know it’s the same ones?

Well, last spring when they arrived and started building their nest, they were quite shy.  The male provided some help in building the nest, but mainly he just perched on the light fixture right outside my door and supervised.  He’d fly away when i moved up close to the door.

So i started trying to get him accustomed to me by moving to a point ten feet inside my door and standing there uttering a melodious little warble while he sat and watched.  Then i started moving from side to side while i warbled.  And then gradually moved closer to the door as he got accustomed to seeing me inside it.  Finally i was able to get right up to the door without scaring him off.

The next step was to gradually slide the door open while singing my reassuring song.  Then i stood there photographing him, all the while warbling away.  Next, one foot at a time, i stepped outside.  This one was harder because at that point he was barely more than an arm’s length away.

By that time, she was focused on sitting on her eggs, and finally both of them could tolerate my walking slowly out onto the patio and tending my plants, she on the nest and him perched on the light fixture.

Then the eggs hatched, and they were both way too occupied feeding the babies to even care what i was doing.

This year i’ve begun wondering.  Is it possible that with a brain the size of a green pea they could remember me?  Sure seems like it because at first last year they’d fly as soon as i approached the door from inside, and it was quite a while before i got them accustomed to me.

The second question is whether uttering my melodious little two-note call does any good in reassuring them.  The only thing i know for sure is that it entertains my human visitors who hear me singing it.  I just tell ’em they’re jealous of my ability to speak barn swallow.

So why do i think that the ones who are on my patio now are the same couple? Because from their very first appearance this year they just perched there when i walked out onto the patio.  The other bit of evidence is that swallows have also started  hanging out on my second patio off my bedroom, and they fly away as soon as i put one foot out the door.  Obviously a different couple, ones who are unaccustomed to me.

I’m thinking of giving the ones who know me names.  Should it be the trendy Noah and Emma or the totally traditional Adam and Eve?  Or better yet, let my readers make the choices.  Click on Contact Me and submit your candidates now.

Meanwhile, it’s not just the birds but also the bees.





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  1. ckm3
    Posted 7 December 2013 at 09:18 | Permalink

    For most people, what stays in Las Vegas is the money.

    Most excellent turning of the phrase

    • Matte Gray
      Posted 7 December 2013 at 14:26 | Permalink

      Many thanks.

  2. Chimpus_Dorkus
    Posted 21 December 2013 at 19:59 | Permalink

    Ouch. Poor bb, here’s hoping you have some good holidays etc to cheer you up and a speedy recovery.
    Be careful, will ya?!?

    • Matte Gray
      Posted 21 December 2013 at 20:50 | Permalink

      The holidays are most definitely cheerful, the recovery is progressing apace, and the caution level has been dramatically increased.

  3. Posted 24 January 2014 at 12:08 | Permalink

    Thank you for remembering Barry. And for loving him, as I did. I am glad he got to see a loving face before he died. You are right, he wanted to go out on his terms and it was never going to be pretty. Barry, even though he’d be cleaned up, was always disappointed after falling or having a heart attack, being picked up by ambulance, treated and then dumped right back onto the streets… He gave up hope for a place indoors after realizing that even that level of frailty was not enough to deserve housing in this city. he did admit to me he would have preferred to live inside. As you said, he was not crazy. 🙂 Again, thanks for the love and kindness you and others showed him. I know he appreciated it.

    • Matte Gray
      Posted 24 January 2014 at 12:26 | Permalink

      Since i wrote that account i’ve been back to the makeshift shrine several times and have talked with folks who knew him longer than i, people who were also there the afternoon before he died and to whom he also expressed very clearly that he did not want to go to the hospital. Some of the people who knew him better are organizing a little wake for him on the 1st of February, and i’ll post more details here as i learn them. Meanwhile, a useful resource is, with an article on 22 Jan that has extensive comments.

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