Aiding and abetting mother nature’s ‘bad guys’

A week or so ago, I decided that I wanted to attract more birds to the property. I wanted to enjoy the twitters and tweets of our feathered friends, just like I used to at grandma’s. I remember my time at grandma’s house with fondness.

Grandma Knutson would nail bacon fat to the window sill and the chubby little Chickadees would come and peck for hours. And I would watch, mere inches away, with nothing but a pane of glass between us. The wrens and the blue jays would perch precariously on the tobacco cans filled with seed that grandma lined along the fences. For our purposes, I found some manufactured options in the way of bird feeders at our local Home Harware store. A towering plastic structure for bird seed and a toast-sized metal webbed container for suet. At first, I wanted to put them on the deck. But Blair reminded me that not only would be attract the birds, we would also have to contend with their droppings. Point taken. So, I moved the feeders to the outside corner of the barn, closest to the house.
Imagine my joy when I discovered the barn swallows dipping to and fro across the sky. My first customers! I was also delighted to see that they had built a nest over the door of the barn. I saw one of the adults incubating what I assumed to be a bunch of 1/2 inch eggs. Baby birds! Wonderful! However, imagine my disgust when, a  few days later, I saw a large, clumsy magpie magnanimously chewing away at the suet. I ran out, arms waving, in a weak effort to chase the culprits away. It worked only for a short time.
The real disappointment came the next day. Heading to the barn to feed the horses, a plethora of feathers and hunks of mud were strewn across the ground before the door. I looked up at the barn swallow nest. Although still intact, it was in considerable disrepair.

Blair saw the confused look on my face. “It was the magpies. They feed on the eggs of other birds.”

 That was all that had to be said. Magpies are omnivorous. They are predators. And I brought them to this barn.


In dedication to this ‘barnyard massacre’, I attach the lyrics to “Barnswallow” written by performer Keith Secola, native folk and blues rocker.  Originally from Minnesota, Keith now lives in Arizona and is a member of the Anishinabe Nation of northern Minnesota and southern Ontario.

Barn swallow, my little Barn swallow
Roll over let the maid make your bed

 Barn swallow, my little Barn swallow
You always have your curtains drawn
You never ever let me down
Sticking mud in the cracks of a building
Making a home for you and your children
To be Free
To fly, fly away
Flying bird, my little flying bird
You got a pair of angel wings
You know the songs that everybody sings