Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Watching nature at work

This is the inside of one of my nest boxes. You can see that it has been well used by the limey white deposits on the side. It, like five others of the 13 boxes on this property, is filled with dried grass and in this case and the case of four others, feathers. (Blue birds build their nests only of grass and they are much taller, almost filling the box - there was one successful bluebird nesting right next to the box with the three eggs below.)

You can barely see or make out the tail of the female tree swallow that is busy laying eggs or sitting - I'm not sure which. It's the blackish more solid piece sticking up on the left side of the photograph, partially covered by a lovely soft looking beige feather.

I was unable to count the number of eggs in this nest box that day. She wouldn't leave.

I understand that swallows and bluebirds lay one egg a day until all are laid, and then begin sitting for about 14 days, I think. To learn about how tree swallows incubate their eggs and about this miraculous process I went to - you might enjoy it as well.

Here is the start of a successful nest - I know it was successful, and there were about five eggs in it because these were taken more than a month ago and since, the babies have fledged and one took exception to my passing by the nest box. It dive bombed me and the dogs repeatedly until we moved out of what it must have considered the danger zone.

What amazes me is the intricate weaving of bits of grass, pine needles feathers and what have you that you can see so clearly here in this photograph. That was a lucky shot for me. These eggs in the photograph are much larger than actual size... which is about half the size pictured here.

Here are five more, taken the same day - you can see the progression as some swallows have moved along in the family-making process more quickly. Five seems to be the average number this year.

Here too there are more feathers to help keep the eggs warm when mother sits down to brood.

And this one with a slightly discoloured egg... I wonder if it hatched or was laid and then it turned cold and froze - we certainly had some very cold nights that month.

In any case about two weeks ago while walking, I saw eleven swallows on a telephone wire where before there had been only two or three... the youngsters tails weren't completely developed and the slight v shape wasn't visible. They weren't quite as big as the adults, but what a treat to watch them as they whirled away, swooping and diving, then quickly returning to the wire. It strikes me as so amazing that these little creatures can fly so quickly, are so adept, and develop such strength and endurance for their long flight south. That will come all too soon.

In the meantime I enjoy the aerial demonstrations every day as they learn and grow. A simply amazing gift - all from nature.

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