Cliff Swallows, Season 2

For the last year, I've been observing a suspicious hive-ish thing mounted in the corner of the entry to one of my client's homes. I never noticed any inhabitants, but I imagined them to be giant hornets that would someday stage a sneak-attack on me as I enter this family home. A few weeks ago, I noticed bird droppings beneath it, so I hoped the birds had made a meal of the deadly insects. But, then, I noticed more bird droppings on the opposite side of the entry way. With great fear and a horror film soundtrack playing in my head, I looked up and saw... Image

GASP! A mama bird peeking her head out of a new deadly-insect nest!

I had to reconsider. Could this be a bird nest?

I called my client to whose dwelling this mysterious deadly-insect-bird-habitat was attached. "Oh, yes, I know about it..." she said. Turns out it's a legit bird nest suddenly built next door to the one that's been vacant for a year, and there are baby birds (awwwwww), and she promised that she had no intention to remove or destroy the nests in the near future. Whew!

Over the past couple of weeks, I've been saying hello to the mama, who is always peeking out to say hello to me, quite socially. Sometimes she flies out and then back. And sometimes she just stays put and blinks at me.

I wondered what type of birds they could be. I'd never seen these kind of mud-nests before, so I did a bit of research. I now declare them Cliff Swallows, in my non-expert, expert opinion.

The Cliff Swallow does live in the desert (I got my information from It builds these nests against buildings and bridges, now, but, originally, they built them on the undersides of cliffs and outcroppings in the foothills of the mountains in the western U.S. As man has built, they have built upon our buildings. Good for them.


A male and female will become a pair, if only for a short while, and build these spectacular nests out of about a thousand mud daubs. Sometimes, in true HGTV-fashion, they will rebuild and refurbish a nest from a previous year, which is what I suspect our little Cliff Swallows have done, with a new house next door. These birds live a life akin to a soap opera, often falling out of their nests while copulating before the dwelling is complete. The passion doesn't last long, as the male is soon off to discover other "opportunities." In the meantime, the female switches eggs with the more desirable eggs in another nest and might have the same done to her. The happy couple will raise their small flock of two to five fledglings, almost always from different parentage. Scandalous! Did you set your DVR?

According to DesertUSA, the little ones should soon be embarking on their own (I saw the mama giving flying lessons today), and the nests abandoned. It seems that once the fledglings can fly, they become independent and move out for good. If only humans could attain such lofty goals.

I'll miss them when they go, but I'll look forward to Cliff Swallows, Season 3, next year. Perhaps there will be another apartment or two constructed. We'll have Melrose Place all over again.


tails on trails today: who's guiding whom?

When I began Well Minded, I envisioned it primarily as a pet sitting business, but I didn't want to close myself off. I'm an entrepreneur and an adventurer at heart, so I didn't want to discount the possibility of going into training or grooming, both of which I have come to learn are not my strengths. Although I like to try lots of things, I recognize my weaknesses and try to focus elsewhere. I'm good at caring for animals. I love to hike. It's an activity I took up only after moving to AZ. There are countless trails in Phoenix, and my favorite local spot is South Mountain. I recently decided to combine my love of hiking and my love of animals. I started "Tails on Trails," small-group hikes for dogs. Once a week, I pick up dogs, drive them to the trails, provide secure leashes, water, poop bags, and post-hike pictures to my clients so they can see our adventures.

Though we've had other dogs sometimes join the ranks, today it was just me and my two really regular regulars. They have been to every hike since the start, and we definitely have a multifaceted bond. When I arrive for pick-up, the brown one goes ape-shit. The black one is calm, yet welcoming. Both are SO excited that I'm there, and they know why I'm there. They enjoy the car ride to the trails. When we first hit the dirt, they go, then sniff. Mark. Walk. Trot. Sniff. Sniff. Sniff. Mark. And then I tell them "that's enough," and they seem to understand that though there will be countless animal smells, excrement aromas, and tiny fast-moving reptiles, birds, and small mammals to grasp their attentions and snap their necks in this direction and that, we're there to hike. And hiking means moving. So then about five minutes in, we get into our groove. And then they go poop. And then we get going, for reals.

Enjoying the spring wildflowers.


While they get over all of that, I'm making sure the leash isn't cutting my wrist in the wrong place, my phone (for camera access) is in the most strategic pocket, and that my underwear isn't riding in the wrong spot since we're in it for the long haul. When we hit our stride, and we're all in sync, I feel like something was meant to be. The dogs start to pick up the pace, and so do I. They navigate the trail beautifully, and I pick my footing as if I had instinct for the thing. We do this jog/walk/hike thing that feels good. Just as I notice a nice view, they slow down, as if they recognize something to be seen beyond the dusty trail their noses run along. And they show me details in the path.