When Bill and I returned from our trip south we discovered that someone or something had opened the bluebird house and torn out the nest of newly born swallows.
For the past two years this particular bird house has been the home to two batches of bluebirds each season. However, this year the bluebirds were not able to build their nest because of the aggressive house sparrows kept the bluebirds away.
Swallows tried to build a nest in that blue bird house only to battle the same house sparrows. As I wrote in an earlier blog posting, one day I came home from work and checked the bird house to see if the swallows had laid their eggs. As I began to open the front of the blue bird house a house sparrow quickly exited the hole of the bird house. I opened the front of the bird house only to find a bloodied and dead swallow.
To those of you who think house sparrows are cute consider this, in one of my other blue bird houses I found a nest of sparrow eggs. A dead swallow was also in the nest, pushed to the side. Yes, the sparrows were going to raise their young with a dead swallow in the bird box. This is the same bird box that swallows had raised two batches of baby swallows.
Bill set up a contraption and was able to trap the house sparrow that was killing the swallows. After disposing of that sparrow, we didn't have any more problems with sparrows keeping other birds away from that bird box.
The swallows built their neat nest and laid their eggs in the former blue bird house. Two days before we left for our vacation down south, I checked the nest and saw that the eggs had hatched. The little featherless and blind baby swallows were ready to grow. Thus it was with great anticipation that we were looking forward to seeing how much the baby swallows had grown.
Bill looked out the window and said "The box is open!" We rushed out and, sure enough, the front of the blue bird box was open and the nest on the grown. There was no sign of the baby swallows. Now this was a real mystery because the latch was still closed on the door of the bird house.
We couldn't figure out what happened. Could a cat have climbed the wooden pole? But what cat could have that kind of strength that it took to open the front of the bird house without removing the latch? It wasn't until the next day that we figured out what happened.
A few weeks ago our neighbor had some lawn service people in to take care of his lawn. Bill pointed out to me that the Hispanics who were doing the yard work had a hyper active little kid with them. Bill thought the kid and his antics were cute. Me, not so much. I'm not a fan of over active, bratty, little kids.
I didn't give this kid any more thought until this day.
Another thing we noticed when we came back from vacation was that our neighbor's back yard was completely trimmed. This was very unusual because our neighbor Tom rarely if ever trims his back yard. Alright, now I'm adding two and two together.
This Hispanic lawn service crew is working on my neighbor's back yard. My bird box is near the fence of the back yard. The swallows who built the nest hover over the bird box and sit on the perch at the top of the bird box. So picture this: a bored, hyper active, little kid sees the swallows around the bird box. He goes around the fence and sees the bird box. With me so far? Then he sees the adult swallow enter the bird box to feed its young. Okay, now the kid wants to see what's inside the bird box but he isn't tall enough to open the latch. So he puts his greasy, dirty little finger in the bird box hole and pulls down. Viola! Then he sees the nest and pulls it out, baby birds and all. Now he's no longer bored because he has destroyed the nest.
I go out to check my theory. Around the bird box I have a wild rose bush. At the base of the island I have ground cover of thyme. To the left of the bird box and away from the rose bush I see an indentation in the thyme. The indentation is the size of a child's foot. Ah yes. Theory proved.
Again, as has happened so often in my life of growing plants and trying to maintain a backyard habitat, it has been invaded and destroyed by kids, animals and insects. We had so many problems with the neighborhood kids when we lived in Philadelphia I finally gave up even planting flowers in front of the house on the tree lined street where we lived. I thought I had a safe place in our new home in Milton. Apparently not.
Well, long story short. This morning we had good news. Bill spotted a bluebird on the perch atop the bird house. That's wonderful news! Maybe the bluebirds will be able after all to raise a batch of young bluebirds this summer in that preferred bird house. After the deaths of two adult swallows, the deaths of four baby swallows and one murderous adult sparrow, this story will have a happy ending.