I know we have some time to go before the swallows, swifts and house martins get back (normally the end of the 2nd week of April up here) but I’m still inspired by the connections between being earth built and being swallow built (and ‘swallowbuilt’ would still be the name I’d opt for another earth building project).
The naturalist Gilbert White (1720-1793) was similarly fascinated by the nest building activities of house martins in his home in Selborne (Hampshire). This journal entry from June 5th 1782 details some of his interests in the speed with which nest building began:
“My Bror. Thomas White nailed-up several large ’scallop shells under the eaves of his house at South Lambeth, to see if the house-martins would build in them. These conveniences had not been fixed half an hour, before several pairs settled upon them; &, expressing great complacency, began to build immediately. The shells were nailed on horizontally with the hollow side upward; & should, I think, have a hole drilled in their bottoms to let off moisture from driving rains.”
Just as an earth house need a ‘good hat’ and a good ‘pair of boots’ to keep it dry it needs a good hat to allow the house martins to nest.
This link here through to the RSPB website allows you to listen to the sounds of house martins and swallows if you can’t wait for the next 2 months!