Friday, April 2, 2010

Swallow Nest

This swallow nest is from the underside of a bridge near Amisk, Alberta. There were dozens of the mud-daubed homes there. Most were out of reach but by climbing up and stretching out I could grab some of them. Seven or eight of the damned things broke off in my hands and I soon exhausted the easy possibilities. So I had to get serious about this nest collecting business. I went back to my truck and got a ratchet strap. I got myself strapped around one of the supports of the bridge, leaning precariously with hands free. I still failed to harvest a nest without breaking a few, showering myself with dirt and spider webs.
Then I felt a peculiar crawling feeling on my neck and face. I looked closer at the nearest intact nest. Parasites. Lots of them. Good God. And because I was stretched out over the Amisk Creek with just a looped ratchet strap giving me stability I couldn't do what instinct demanded I do; squirm around and flail my arms, try to brush the little vampires off me before they dug in for a blood meal. But I could whimper and curse, so I did.
I calmed down a little and decided that since I already had a bunch of filthy mites on me I might as well get what I came for. I managed to get two nests off, climb back down to ground. I set my fragile treasures down. Then I squirmed around, flailed my arms and tried to brush the little vampires off me before they dug in for a blood meal.
I called Wes on my way back to the truck. I left him a screaming message. "WES! I'VE GOT FUCKING PARASITES! AGAIN!"
He called me later. Yup, those are some swallow bugs you got there. Yup, they specialize on birds but will take a mammal if they can. Well, it's tough to say whether they'll stay with you and rear young. They kill a lot of young birds. Thanks, Wes.
The nest pictured above is a gift for my pal Darla. It is coated with plaster for strength and beauty. It is one of my favourite examples of animal architecture, along with the nests of the mud-dauber wasps which are fundamentally the same. I'm thinking about making casts of them so I can mass-produce replicas in plaster for home decoration.
Replicas I can produce in my home would be ideal, really. Because I don't want to get parasites again. It's getting old.

1 comment:

  1. You and your gifts. Now I have to get Darla TWO presents.