If I stand still and watch it come in on its flight plan it is almost impossible to not flinch and look away. This summer seems different. Perhaps you have experienced this before but we have not. It started about three weeks ago. Like Hitchcock’s The Birds, our barn swallows have become aggressive towards us.
Your first warning is the loud chirping in the distance swiftly coming towards you, a piercing cry near your ear and fading with an avian Doppler effect. Constant and covering a large area they patrol. Barn swallows fly with fascinating precision, swooping, stopping and attacking bugs…usually.
We now find ourselves sympathetic with the mockingbird who has engaged in a similar campaign of harassment to our cat. Now he finds himself on the other end. We have a mockingbird nesting in our Carolina jasmine. Each time he ventures out to bring food to the nest the swallows attack from all directions.
They have built a nest under the eaves of the house. Even as I sit in the backyard typing they dive on me every thirty seconds. But, it is when I’m walking they do their worst. A few line up in the middle distance, say 30 yards away. Taking a direct line on my path they fly directly at my face, squawking all the way. At the last moment when just a few feet away they veer away with a triumphant piercing cry as I flinch.
As a test stand still and watched the whole flight to your face. Honesty it took several tries before I could watch without flinching and looking away. I won. Won? What does it say about a grown man who feels the need to do battle with a barn swallow?
The farm kid and I, while working on a fence in the woods a few weeks back were slathering Off on to keep away the ticks. He mused, who is smarter, the humans spraying a toxin on themselves or the ticks who avoid it? Ticks, barn swallows or Brian, please don’t answer the question.