Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Swallow House Construction

Today was supposed to be the last raptor run of the year, but the weather was drippy and so was I, so I postponed it. Instead, between chores and naps, I created seven new gourd nests to replace the ones that have fallen apart over the years. As I was almost finished, it occurred to me that I should have taken photos of the steps along the way to remember what tools to use next time, since I tend to forget. So I took pictures belatedly.

First step is acquire the gourds. Ebay is a good source, but I'm lucky in that friend Velta bought about a zillion gourds some years ago and shares them with me. Next, cut a 1 1/2" diameter hole for swallows, preferably in such a way that rain doesn't fall into the hole. For this I use a drill with a hole saw attachment. Alas, my drill's battery was dead and refused to charge. So Johnny let me use his. The moral of the story is always buy the same model drill as your tool-savvy partner has so you can use his batteries (or hers as the case may be) when yours won't work.

Clean out the seeds and other riff raff inside the gourd with a cheap barbecue fork that you've bent the tines on (Velta taught me this trick.) Then make drainage holes in the bottom (if you can figure out where the bottom will be when the gourd is hanging) with a dremel tool. At least, that's what I use. I bought it to use on my horses' feet after reading that grinding off their hoof wall with a dremel was easier than horse nippers. Did not work for me. But works great for drilling little holes in the bottom of gourds.

Also drill holes in the neck of the gourd to put wire through to fasten the gourd to a bamboo pole. The trickiest part for me is pushing the wire through one hole and out the other. Sometimes it goes easily; sometimes it just can't seem to find the hole on the other side. Wrap the wire around the bamboo pole above nodes with stiff branch stubs that you cleverly left on when you pruned the other branches off.

Now you get to put your gourd nest up. I weave the bamboo pole through the woven wire mesh next to a fence post. If you have a different type fence, obviously you'll have to improvise. The woven wire holds the bamboo in place, although I also shove the pole into the ground a little ways (as far as I can get it which isn't far.)

Voila! A swallow house! One of twenty I now have up. It's most fun to do this when the swallows are in the area as they swarm around your head waiting impatiently for you to finish. However, the nesting swallows are not back yet so I just have llamas watching my every move.

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