No, not Orson Welles’s aliens from outer space. The large purple swallows that swoop and dive and catch insects to feed nestlings housed in gourds. Those martins.
He has been waiting for them to come—for thirty-seven years. He hung hollowed gourds from tall poles. He constructed his own multi-tiered martin apartment building. He bought plastic gourds and a fancy manufactured martin housing project. Most years, in the spring, he cleaned house, discarding nest remnants from other species of birds that had taken up temporary residence. Occasionally, a few martins would drop by to inspect the property. But none ever moved in. Until this year.
Envy is one of the seven deadly sins. He never envied anyone else’s fancy car, or beach property, or fame and prestige. He did envy others’ martin houses—at Chatauqua, or on Sullivan’s Island, or in a field on a back road a couple of miles away. Why couldn’t a pair or two escape their crowded conditions and migrate over to our yard?
He was like Charlie Brown, hoping to kick that football, believing that –this time at last—Lucy wouldn’t jerk it away.
He knew that there were certain disadvantages to hosting a martin population. A man near Fayetteville, whose martins he envied, explained, “Well, you know, they’ll dookie on you.”
So. We now risk getting shitted on (or is it shat on?) while walking outside. But, on the other hand, martins eat mosquitoes—by the thousands. With all the dripper hoses, rain barrels, bird baths, and saucers under potted plants, mosquitoes breed here to the extent that when I want to get from the back door to the carport nearby, I have to either spray myself with deet, or run full-tilt (always unsuccessfully), to avoid being bitten by mosquitoes. What’s a little bird poop compared to that? The martins could alter the whole ecology of our acreage—for the better.
And now we have the pleasure of watching the martins circle and swoop and dive with amazing speed and precision straight to the hole in one of the plastic gourds to deposit a bug before taking off again in constant motion that may seem like ADD but is actually utterly purposeful. It is not the martins’ purpose to inspire wonder or gratitude for the fulfillment of a dream long deferred. Those are merely side effects unwittingly bestowed by the purple martins.