Sunday, August 2, 2009

Barn Life -- The Wild Side

Sure, there are chickens and ducks in the barn, but let's not forget the freeloading Barn Swallows! Every summer a beautiful pair of swallows muds up its nest and raises at least two rounds of these colorful babies.

When they first hatch, it's only the peeping that alerts me to their presence. Then as a week or so goes by, little beaks peek over the edge of the nest, always open to await an insect deposit from mom or dad. The traffic in and out of the barn during this time rivals I-94, zooming up and down the twilight highway to snatch up mosquitos and other bugs. (Would that I had 100 times as many swallows, they might possibly make a dent in the biting population!)

The most magical moment with swallows is fledge day. After observing them for a few years I can notice the morning when it seems all the neighborhood swallows are swooping around my yard. It's a natural demonstration of the idea that it takes a village to raise a child -- they all gather around to show the babies what to do, and to keep them safe while they learn. Each baby steps up to the edge of the nest, clearly concerned about what happens next, then with the urging of the adults takes the first plunge out into the world. First they fly low circles close to the barn, getting the feel of the wind in the wings. Gradually they swoop lower and soar higher, diving and racing and I expect getting luscious beaksful of squishy bugs.

Swallow flight school lasts for a few days, and then one day I'll enter the barn to silence. I don't know where they go when they leave the nest, but as summer winds down I have the promise that they'll return in the spring and do it all again!

Ed. note: I'd hoped to have a couple shots of the family flight, but they are not cooperating this morning. If I get one I'll addend it!


The JR said...

We use to have them in our old barn. But, after making that a car shed and building a house next to it, they moved away.

With the house came outdoor cats and I guess that sealed the deal in looking for a new place to safely raise their babies.


MaryEllen Schneider said...

I'd hardly call those mosquito-eating darlings "freeloading".

We get a lot of swallows on the field in the evening but I don't know where they nest. Hope you get a photo of flight school.

Anonymous said...

We get to see nesting Carolina wrens for they build on our deck and are quite tolerant to humans.